The view of Desaru Coast.

THERE are many challenges in operating theme parks and attractions, some of which include providing safe, efficient and profitable operations while delivering a high level of guest experience.

“All these require specialist skills and operational expertise, and significant and continued capital investment to keep the product fresh and appealing to drive repeat visitation and grow in-park spend,” said Themed Attractions Resorts & Hotels Sdn Bhd (TAR&H) group chief executive officer Amir Hamzah Azizan.

With growing middle class and tourism in Asia Pacific, particularly Asean, Malaysia is well-placed to take advantage of the trend.

But Malaysian tourism industry players need to align their strategies and collaborate on marketing initiatives, as well as share data and insights in order to better understand tourist arrival patterns, preferences and spending, Amir told NST Property.

“The tourism industry can achieve more when all stakeholders come together to align their efforts to position Malaysia uniquely.”

Amir said Marina Walk Puteri Harbour, one of key investments by TAR&H, continues to enjoy strong response from guests who visit its SANRIO HELLO KITTY TOWN and Thomas Town attractions Various themed activities organised at Marina Walk have resulted in a steady increase of visitor arrivals, he said.

“Nightlife at Marina Walk continues to thrive with lifestyle and dining offerings at the lower ground level, attracting both locals and travellers. We are encouraged by the response and continuously looking at adding new offerings at Marina Walk Puteri Harbour,” he said.

Amir said TAR&H takes a long-term view about its catalytic investments and is committed to contributing economically in the markets it operates.

Its leisure and tourism investments act as catalysts for further growth in the areas and their surrounding developments comprising a variety of sectors that help service and support the evolving needs there, he said.

“Our projects aim to shape new destinations to deliver sustainable economic value to the communities by creating jobs and quality tourism content. For example, if you look at Desaru, apart from what we have put up, there are also other attractions around Desaru Coast which will benefit from our development.

“The natural landscape around Desaru Coast has potential for specially-curated tour offerings, such as mangrove tours, the Panti Forest for bird watching and several locations for hiking.

By putting in nature into play, I think you create offerings that you cannot replicate only by building brick and mortar hubs.”

INVESTMENTS THAT BRING MONEY

Amir said for now, TAR&H’s primary focuses are Desaru Coast and The Datai Langkawi.

He said the company was happy with the recent soft opening of The Datai Langkawi.

“The response was encouraging as all available rooms were fully booked. Our refurbishment effort has come out well and we look forward to the full opening of The Datai Langkawi in the first quarter of 2019. At the same time, we are focused on increasing the standard of the services provided by our team to ensure our guests enjoy their stay and continue to return.

“At Iskandar Puteri, LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort has done very well for us. We brought the brand to Malaysia in 2012 and it has attracted visitors... We’ve been able to put a global wellknown theme park brand on the (Malaysian) map.

At the same time, we’ve also brought SANRIO HELLO KITTY TOWN and Thomas Town to Puteri Harbour.

“We are further developing LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort by adding a new LEGO CITY 4D Movie, which is scheduled for launch in the first quarter of 2019, and a third attraction with the addition of Sea Life Malaysia, which is expected to open from the second quarter. We are also expanding the number of new Ninjago-themed rooms for LEGOLAND Hotel from December onwards.

“This will give the integrated resort quite a good offering, you’ve got a dry park, which is Legoland itself, you have a waterpark and now a Sea Life, which is more educational. So, there are a lot of things for families to do. We’re quite happy with the returns, and the new attractions that are being introduced will definitely give the resort a significant boost next year,” Amir said.

LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort remains popular with Malaysians and Singaporeans while growingly attracting other international visitors, particularly from North Asia including China, South Korea and Taiwan.

Amir said TAR&H’s focus is on selling the destination and all of its component that make up the whole holiday experience.

“People don’t just buy a hotel room, they choose a destination and the range of experiences it offers them. The key for us is to develop and curate our destinations in a way that offers consumers a unique and attractive holiday experience. We recognise Rome was not built in a day, we are laying the pieces together to integrate and entice travellers to experience the local delights as well as the rich bio-diversity assets within Johor.”

DESARU COAST DEVELOPMENT

Amir said Desaru Coast is now in Phase One development which involves just about 809ha of land.

“In the first part of Phase One, most of the bills were for primary infrastructure, roads and connections. Then we have the Els Club Desaru Coast, which features two golf courses - a 27-hole golf course designed by Ernie Els called the Ocean Course and an 18-hole Valley Course designed in collaboration with Vijay Singh (Indo-Fijian professional golfer).

“The second part is where we build a series of hotels. We have the Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast, The Westin Desaru Coast Resort, the Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villa and One&Only Desaru Coast that will be completed in Phase One. In order to ensure there are other things for our visitors to do, we also put in the Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark and the Desaru Coast Riverside retail village,” he said.

Other developments in the pipeline within Phase One include the Desaru Coast Ferry Terminal.

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