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Theme Park Development in Malaysia: What’s Happening?

In 40 years since the birth of Genting Highlands, Malaysia has developed a solid family entertainment industry following the integrated resort model, mostly built around water parks.  

Thibault Paquin from Celebrating Life AsiaBy Thibault Paquin of Celebrating Life Asia.

In an effort to develop further the tourism industry and to attract more families Khazanah Nasional – Malaysia’s government strategic fund – set up Themed Attractions & Resorts (TAR) in 2009, which is the developer of branded themed attractions in Johor (Legoland Resort, Puteri Harbour), Kuala Lumpur (KidZania) and Desaru (Ocean Quest, Ocean Splash).

The opening of TAR’s first few projects triggered a wave of other developments including Movie Animation Park Studios in Perak and the redevelopment of Genting Highland’s theme park into 20th Century Fox World, both scheduled to open end of 2015.

A number of other parks are reported to be under development. We’ve heard rumors of a Seaworld park by Village Roadshow in Johor with Sunway and a cultural theme park on reclaimed land in Melaka. This adds up to the renovation project of Melaka zoo and water parks in Port Dickson, Kuantan and Langkawi.

It is interesting to see the use of renown IP’s to help position new attractions internationally and increase their drawing power. TAR went for Lego, Hello Kitty, Thomas & Friends and KidZania. Genting chose 20th Century Fox, Sunway Seaworld in Johor and Nickelodeon at Sunway Lagoon (Nickelodeon Explorers’ Oasis) and Movie Animation Park Studios is building the world’s first DreamWorks-dedicated zone in a theme park.

Dreamworks Animation Square at MAPS theme park

This might sound like a lot of projects but including Legoland that's only a total of over 10 million visitors annually, just the size of one single Disney park! Added to the existing 20 million plus visitors to integrated resorts and amusement parks in Malaysia that’s a total of over 30 million visitors. Not that crazy if we compare to Singapore, which claims over 50 million attractions visits for just under 15 million tourists… Don’t forget Malaysia is going for 36 million tourists by 2020!

The positioning of Malaysia as Asia’s preferred family holiday destination with the development of quality family attractions is already paying off. Malaysia was recently voted Top International Family Destination in Lonely Planet Magazine India’s Travel Awards 2014. In the long term, theme parks will help Malaysia further leverage its tourism impact by increasing length of stay and generating repeat visitors. 

Now this doesn't go without any challenges. And the biggest one is probably the integration of all these family attractions into one wholesome Malaysia family experience; not that easy when Johor is within more than 6 hours drive from Penang. How do you recreate the ‘Orlando’ experience, assuming this is the best-in-kind for family holidays? Do you have enough family-friendly hotels? How do you move people around smoothly? Maybe this is something for our friends at Tune Group (Air Asia, Tune Hotels, etc) to look into?

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