MAPS: Putting Perak on the tourism ‘map’ with world-class animation theme park

MEDIA RELEASE

Ipoh, Perak 30 March 2014 – Malaysia is set to have its first animation theme park with the construction of the Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS) – a RM450 million partnership project between Sanderson Group and Perak Corporation Berhad – in the ground-breaking ceremony here today.

With the Menteri Besar, Dato Seri Diraja Dr. Zambry Abdul Kadir in attendance, the ceremony also sees MAPS as being the state’s key project and having both official endorsement by the Perak State Government and Malaysia’s Tourism Ministry.

It also marks the inaugural investment in Malaysia by the Sanderson Group, Australia’s first integrated thematic construction company specializing in designing and constructing theme parks and entertainment destinations.

Aptly coincided with the Visit Malaysia Year 2014, and in addition to the goals set by Tourism Malaysia to achieve 36 million visitors by 2020, Perak – with its strategic location at the heart of Peninsular Malaysia, and on the highway linking Kuala Lumpur to Penang – is indeed the favourable place for the MAPS project.

“Although Perak, with its offerings of countless adventures in the rainforest, heritage and food, magnificent limestone hills and caves and relaxation at island resorts is notably the most visited state in Malaysia by domestic tourists (with up to 5.85 million visitors last year), most tourists tend to visit the state only for a brief while without spending the night,” says Datuk Aminuddin Md Desa, Chairman of ATP and Chief Executive of Perak State Development Corporation.

“Thus, the development of MAPS will then seek in boosting Perak to realise its full potential as one of Malaysia’s top tourist destinations, where tourists can also experience a world-class theme park adventure, which includes over 40 rides and attractions as well as a variety of themed food & beverage and retail outlets throughout a 52-acre site,” he adds.

MAPS Perak is targeted to be opened at the end of next year, and will be featuring 6 different zones forming together an animation-based fantasy environment, which include Animation Square, Fantasy Forest, Live Action, Space Zone, DreamWorks and the Lakeside Zone.

MAPS will offer a dedicated zone in the theme park bringing to life famous DreamWorks Classic properties such as Mr Peabody & Sherman, Casper the Friendly Ghost along with others including The Croods and Megamind.

Additional zones will be inhabited by other animation characters created specifically for the park by some of the best creative talents from Australia and Asia.

MAPS will also be home to Asia’s first car stunt show and is poised to be the only ‘live broadcast’ theme park in Malaysia with real-time broadcast throughout the park and on the internet of its live shows, immersive rides and dynamic attractions.

“For visitors’ comfort and convenience, the majority of the theme park will be indoor, air-conditioned or undercover, shielding guests away from Malaysia’s hot, wet and humid weather,” says Mr. Steve A. Sanderson, Director of ATP and CEO of the Sanderson Group.

Future plans – for Phase 2 of MAPS – include hotels, serviced apartments, waterpark and street mall.

With the aim of receiving 1.4 million visitors (80% domestic, 20% international) in the first year of operation, MAPS is set to provide a friendly and caring Malaysian hospitality experience for tourists around the world.

Keep tab with all the latest info on the project at www.mapsperak.com and catch some glimpses on the construction progress. Without a doubt, MAPS – being Malaysia’s first animation theme park – will create fond memories and allow visitors to ‘live their dreams’.

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REVIEW: Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, Hengqin Island

A milestone event for our industry was the recent opening of Chimelong Ocean Kingdom on Hengqin Island near Macau, which features the 1,888-room Hengqin Bay Hotel, Ocean Kingdom theme park and Chimelong International Circus. It drew some 500,000 visitors during its first 10 days in business over Chinese New Year.

When fully completed the $5billion resort complex developed by Chimelong will feature 12 theme parks and 10 hotels. The Government is keen to turn Hengqin Island into a leisure hub similar to Orlando; Genting is reported to be looking at a site for a future Resorts World project and Galaxy Entertainment is considering investing in sports stadiums, golf courses and a marina.

This could be the world’s biggest leisure hub in the making! It is certainly a fascinating time for our industry and so, being based in Hong Kong, I decided to go for a site visit.

I came in from Macau and it was very quick and easy: I walked from The Venetian to the Cotai Border Gate (10min) and took a taxi from the Chinese side; I reached the Hengqin Bay Hotel in less than 10 minutes and it cost me US$5!

Hengqin Bay Hotel

The hotel is very impressive. Although inspired by Atlantis Dubai it is very well executed and the rooms are very tastefully done.

Hengqin Bay Hotel

Guests have a choice of sea view or park view. The general feeling is very much that of an integrated resort with giant pools, dolphin enclosure (not finished yet) and an artificial river going from the hotel to the circus and onto the theme park with shuttle boats running back and forth.

Hengqin Bay Hotel

The meeting space is absolutely massive and clearly meant to host large international conferences. PATA just announced their 2014 AGM at the hotel in May.

As I was waiting in the hotel lobby before going to the theme park I bumped into The Theme Park Guy – I am sure all of you know him – and so we decided to go together. And there was only us – theme park buffs – to visit on a cold weekday this brand new park! Here is a short video I posted on this blog earlier and below a quick review of the park.

My overall impression was rather good. The theming was of high quality and in harmony with the overall surroundings made of lush green hills. I enjoyed the effort made with the music, which I found unusual for a theme park, more on the classic side, but very pleasant and uplifting.

I was not too impressed with the F&B offering in general as the restaurants felt they were lacking in theming and originality in the menus. Though I would have to give them a few points for the grilled squid kiosks; we enjoyed that snack option!

On the ride side, the massive wooden roller coaster I read about in the press releases was nowhere to be found; they have only one rollercoaster open, which The Theme Park Guy and I rode together and found very smooth. There’s also a water coaster (by Mack Ride), which we were the first ever visitors to ride as we’re casually informed by the staff surprised to see two enthusiastic foreigners.

Surprisingly there was no indoor or 4D ride and the rest of the attractions were all animal-based: bears (including a polar bear), otters, penguins, beluga whales and big aquarium (very similar to S.E.A. Aquarium in Sentosa).

Before leaving the park I went for the A Lo Ha! dolphin show, which was nothing too special but still pretty well executed.

The most impressive feature of the park – and certainly the signature attraction – is the giant ceiling LED screen above the main street showing captivating images of underwater world. Complemented by quality retail and F&B outlets on its sides the main street is a real success!

My final verdict: the park is of better quality than I expected; it is clearly designed for very big crowds with large alleys, walk-through attractions and big capacity shows. It is a bit light on the ride side but that probably gives them room for expansion. And that’s only one of the 12 theme parks planned by Chimelong… Hong Kong Ocean Park and Disneyland should better watch out!

Macau Update: Ritz Carlton, Playboy Mansion, Eiffel Tower, and more

On my way to Hengqin Island I took a few pictures of the construction sites on the Cotai Strip in Macau. I thought you would be interested in the progress. There’s a lot of new hotel rooms and entertainment coming up in 2015!

Galaxy Macau – Phase 2

Ritz Carlton (256 rooms)

JW Marriott (968 rooms)

Highlight: the world’s largest skytop wave pool with lush tropical gardens

Galaxy Macau - Phase 2

Galaxy Macau – Phase 2

The Parisian

3,000 room Paris-themed hotel

The Shoppes @ The Parisian will reproduce Paris famous shopping streets

Highlight: half-size reproduction of Eiffel Tower

The Parisian

The Parisian

Wynn Palace

2,000 room hotel reminiscent of the Bellagio, with a lake at the front entrance lined with restaurants

Highlight: flower gardens in various shapes and themes, such as hot-air balloons, rising to various heights on elevated pedestals

Wynn Palace

Wynn Palace

Macau Studio City

A cinematically-themed entertainment, retail, and gaming resort by Melco Crown Entertainment

2,000 room hotel

2,300 seat theatre

Taubman shopping mall (1.4 million sft)

Highlights: Playboy Mansion, Film Production Studio

Macau Studio City

Macau Studio City

Eataly theme park: when food meets entertainment

Recently a venture involving Eataly and the city of Bologna announced the opening in 2015 of Fico Eataly World, the ‘Disneyland’ of food in Bologna, Italy. The theme park will have restaurants, grocery stores, food labs and an aquarium spread over 20 acres of unused warehouses.

Picture courtesy of Caab Spa

Picture courtesy of Caab Spa

I have always been a fan of the Eataly concept: gathering all things Italian under one roof with a unique lifestyle experience. So here is my take on why it makes sense for them to venture into the visitor attractions industry?

  • Our industry keeps trying to provide an experience that is more ‘lifestyle’ by integrating further retail and food elements, and this is what Eataly already does very successfully in 26 shops around the world;
  • The Eataly concept is about generating revenue from every sqm of a large area with multiple business lines, and this is what theme parks are all about;
  • Eataly is about culture, food and retail, which are among the main tourist interests (especially for the growing Chinese tourist market); no wonder Bologna wants its Eataly theme park to attract more visitors;
  • Compared to developing countries, Italy and other European countries have prime real estate available for redevelopment and not that many alternate uses (office, residential) so why not turn them into tourism assets?

I look forward to more details on this development as I have a feeling it will have a great impact on our industry… if they do the whole ‘food’ thing right!