Attractions fight to stay attractive

11 July 2013

Straits Times



(c) 2013 Singapore Press Holdings Limited  

Tourist draws go for big revamps to claw back falling visitor numbers

EMBATTLED attractions here are reinventing themselves in the face of dwindling visitors and a changing tourism landscape.

At least three – Sentosa 4D AdventureLand, Skyline Luge Sentosa and the Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom – have either undergone or will embark on massive revamps. One has set aside $6 million to do so.

A team has also been formed at Singapore Tourism Board to look at revitalising its Chinatown Heritage Centre, and the Singapore Philatelic Museum will discuss an overhaul this year.

Each attraction tells a similar story of why change is needed: fewer visitors, tour agencies no longer herding customers their way, competition with new attractions and the need to appeal to locals and repeat visitors.

The Association of Singapore Attractions (ASA) said that half of its 50 members – mostly owners of older and smaller attractions – are embarking on or considering a similar path.

“Pain is a good motivator,” ASA chairman Kevin Cheong told The Straits Times at an industry seminar.

“They are all wondering if they should ship out, reinvest or change themes. Many are finally putting in the money to upgrade and are thinking out of the box.”

Singapore’s tourism industry is at a crossroads. Growth is expected to slow by about half over the next decade after years of breaking records on the back of major projects such as the two integrated resorts and the Singapore Grand Prix.

In April, the Government urged the industry to create more unique content. It also launched a series of seminars and masterclasses to nudge rejuvenation along.

Attractions are now going back to the drawing board, said Mr Cheong, who runs 4D AdventureLand – the former 4D Magix – which completed a $1 million revamp two months ago. Visitor numbers have fallen by 35 per cent in the last year.

“Tour agencies used to bring visitors to us. Now, many travel free-and-easy and must actively choose us,” said Mr Cheong.

“In the past, there was no regional competition. Now countries like the Philippines and Cambodia are all fighting for a slice of the pie.”

The Butterfly Park & Insect Kingdom is aiming to take on new nature attractions – like Gardens by the Bay and Marine Life Park – after a $6 million overhaul.

The park’s largest upgrade since it opened in 1984 is set to be completed in 2015. Visitor numbers have been declining steadily since 2010, the year Resorts World Sentosa opened, said its business development director Chiang Zhan Xiang.

He added: “The new mega-nature attractions are competition. We hope the hype will be gone in two or three years. We want to be ready to present our new product then.”

Skyline Luge Sentosa will erect four new buildings and two more tracks by 2015.

The number of rides sold from April to June this year fell 7 per cent from the same period last year – the first drop since it opened in 2005, said its general manager Danny Luke.

Mr Stephen Greenberg, who was invited by the STB to speak at the industry seminar on Tuesday, urged the industry here to find “the story you want to tell the world”.

The creative director of Metaphor, a London-based company specialising in planning attractions, added: “Everybody is in search of a bigger audience.

“Part of getting more visitors is knowing what you want to say to them and calling them to the experience.”

Jessica Lim

Sectors: Creative & Media, Events & Attractions, and Leisure & Tourism
Countries: Asia Pacific and Singapore
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