Whittaker: Reinvent theme parks to remain relevant

New and upgraded theme parks and attractions are important to help support and sustain the leisure industry


Theme park operators should reinvent themselves according to time, to sustain the leisure and tourism industry in Malaysia.

Investments must be made to introduce new and upgraded theme park attractions, Themed Attractions Resorts & Hotels Sdn Bhd (TAR&H) chief commercial officer Philip Whittaker said.

“The introduction of new and upgraded theme parks and attractions is important to help support and sustain the overall (leisure) industry in Malaysia as a whole,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

He noted that upgrading of theme park attractions would require substantial capital expenditure and the payback period could vary depending on the type and scale of the initial expenditure.

“Depending on their scale, they will require ongoing capital investment usually every one to two years, to maintain their appeal to both existing and new target audiences,” he said.

One of the largest theme park operator in the country, Genting Malaysia Bhd, has reached a dead end in the development of its state-of-the-art outdoor theme park in Genting Highlands, which was supposed to be open in the first half of 2019.

In November last year, Genting initiated a legal suit against The Walt Disney Co and 21st Century Fox Inc’s for declining to proceed with the theme park venture.

Although its outdoor theme park opening has been delayed, Genting has launched Skytropolis Funland, renovated from its First World Indoor Theme Park, which saw a preview opening in Dec 8, 2018.

Whittaker said TAR&H will continue to keep track of market trends and demographics in order to be able to maintain its attractions’ appeal.

“We also try to remain agile and nimble in responding to the changing destinations’ dynamics, demographics and market trends, considering we aim to attract strong visitation from both local and international visitors,” he said.

TAR&H’s theme parks in Iskandar Puteri, namely Legoland, Sanrio Hello Kitty Town and Thomas Town, have received visitors from Malaysia and Singapore. Meanwhile, the operator is striving to grow its international markets particularly in North Asia, including China, South Korea and Taiwan.

Legoland and the recently launched Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark are currently the main attractions under TAR&H’s stable.

Legoland is expected to open its new offerings to the public in stages from the first quarter (1Q) this year, among which are a new Lego City 4D movie theatre and Sea Life Malaysia, which is slated for opening in the 2Q.

Among the major theme parks in Malaysia is Movie Animation Park Studio of Perak, the first fully animation-based theme park in Asia, which is owned and operated by Animation Theme Park Sdn Bhd.

Sunway Bhd is operating both Lost World of Tambun in Perak and Sunway Lagoon in the Klang Valley, which recorded 1.1 million visitors and 1.6 million visitors respectively in 2017.

There is also Bukit Gambang Water Park, under the resort city managed by Sentoria Themeparks and Resorts Sdn Bhd.