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In depth

Steve Sanderson; DreamWorks, Animation & Malaysia’s MAPS Theme Park

Steve A. Sanderson is the founder and CEO of the Sanderson Group, an Australian based multi-national company delivering high quality themed attractions throughout Asia, Middle East, and Australia.

steve a sanderson ceo sanderson groupAs Sanderson Group is celebrating its 25th anniversary, Steve talked to us about the company’s development and growth and its recently announced investment in MAPS Theme Park in Perak, Malaysia.

Can you tell us more about the Sanderson Group and the company’s milestones?

As a group we provide design and build solutions for the tourism and leisure markets throughout Asia, the Sub Continent and Middle East.

We have 10 offices within the region with 4 main design and project management offices in Macau, Mumbai, Kuala Lumpur, and Shanghai.

Milestones? It’s a difficult question to answer.  Over 25 years there has been so many. I would have to say the Warner Bros Movie World Park (Gold Coast, Australia) back in 1991 was a very special project for me personally. Another would of course be the opening of our 1st overseas office in India back in 2000.

Then Macau, our 2nd overseas office in 2001; working with the Disney team on Tokyo Disney Sea back in 2002; the Macau Fisherman’s Wharf project in 2004/5; the opening of our Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai offices in 2006. How much time do you have!?

Why have you chosen Malaysia for your headquarters?

Simple economics. We wanted to be where the action is; and Malaysia has all of the prerequisites for any company wishing to expand in Asia: affordability; an English speaking country (I’m a bit too old to learn another language!); stable government and laws that I can understand and that protect me and our business interests; location, location, location (I can jump on a flight at KLIA and be in my Shanghai or Mumbai office in a few hours); last but not least, Malaysia is a well educated, happy, social, and ‘service with a smile’ society.

kuala lumpur mandarin hotel at night

What are your views on the future of the leisure and attractions industry in Malaysia?

There are so many other Asian countries presenting different levels of development. We need to focus on those offering what I call the basics: international standards, tourism safety and a ‘service with a smile’ attitude. Some countries, including Malaysia, already provide these pre-requisites, but not all.

I truly believe the growth of the Malaysian tourism industry has no limit and Malaysia is destined to be a must-see destination on the global tourism map. The Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board does an outstanding job in promoting Malaysia and the, “Malaysia, Truly Asia” is a great catch phrase.

As for the Minister of Tourism’s projections of 36 Million inbound tourists by 2020, in my personal opinion this will possibly be achieved earlier than this 6-year window.

You have just announced a significant investment in a join venture with the Perak State Government for the MAPS Theme Park. Can you tell us more about this project?

animation square at maps perak theme park malaysia

The Perak Corp was our client; they had engaged Sanderson Group to do a master plan, followed up by a preliminary concept design. Our company Executive Director, Darren McLean, was the lead on this project and during a meeting with the client – who mentioned that they wanted a co-developer – Darren brought the project to my attention and the rest is history, whereby Sanderson has taken the majority shareholding of the MAPS project.

Can you give us more detail on the license agreement with DreamWorks Animation?Mr. Peabody & Sherman

We are very excited about this agreement with DreamWorks Animation. For Singapore and Malaysia this includes the I.P of the just released Peabody and Sherman, the popular family movie Croods, the Evil Genius of Megamind and long time family favorite Casper the Friendly Ghost. Each and all of the DreamWorks Animation I.P will have their own unique and distinctive units of entertainment within MAPS, designed for the young and the young-at-heart.

How will MAPS compare with other theme parks in Malaysia?

Good question. Both Legoland Malaysia and the future Twentieth Century Fox World at Resorts World Genting are or will be of international standards, and so will MAPS. The primary difference is that approximately 60% of MAPS will be either air-conditioned or under cover, making it a very comfortable family environment under the harsh Malaysian sun. Also, MAPS is focused more on the live show and group family entertainment. This is why we call ourselves a “Live Park”.

But let me add, MAPS is in no way in direct competition with any other park within Malaysia. MAPS is a world’s 1st and is therefore complementary to the long term strategy of the Malaysian inbound tourism industry and all other forms of tourism entertainment within Malaysia.

MAPS Perak starship animation theme park

What should future visitors expect?

We have been in Asia for a long time and we pride ourselves on knowing and understanding our local market and catering to the needs of that market.

Because MAPS is a Live Park, we will provide a number of industry firsts, and a rich 52-week entertainment calendar that we will reveal later.

Why did you decide to invest? the croods movie poster

Sanderson Group has had many offers over the years to actively participate in projects as investor. But for us to do so, we must first ask ourselves 3 very important questions:

•    Is this the right Time?
•    Is this the right Location?
•    And finally, is this the right Partner?

In asking these 3 simple questions we must be 100% convinced without any reservations whatsoever. This project in Perak, Malaysia was the first time that each question had a resounding “Yes-Yes-Yes”.

Do you plan to invest in other projects in Asia?

Other countries? If the right opportunity presented itself, yes. Other projects in Malaysia? Yes, but subject to our 3 questions. Actually we are currently in talks to develop our second park in Malaysia with an opening sometime in the 4th quarter of 2016.

Images: Steve A Sanderson and concept art kind courtesy Sanderson Group, The Croods and Mr. Peabody & Sherman kind courtesy DreamWorks Animation.

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