Legoland owner to develop KidZania Singapore

SINGAPORE - Malaysia's Themed Attractions and Resorts - owner of Legoland and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town in the country - is launching its first overseas theme park, KidZania Singapore, to tap rising travel demand in the region.

It has partnered Maybank, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, Yakult, Canon and The Soup Spoon to set up five establishments in KidZania - an indoor theme park where children can pretend to be surgeons, pilots, runway models, journalists, chefs, firemen and many other professions.

"This is our first overseas venture. It will probably be the only one for some time," managing director Tunku Ahmad Burhanuddin told BT in an interview. The company, a subsidiary of Malaysia's state investment company Khazanah Nasional, owns the KidZania franchise in Kuala Lumpur.

Expanding into Singapore is a "logical choice" given the cooperation between the two countries in Iskandar Malaysia, as well as Singapore's central location in ASEAN, making it a tourism hub.

Unlike other theme parks, KidZania will not have any rides. Instead, it will partner companies in different industries to create miniature cities where children "work" in some 60 "pretend" businesses, from hospitals to fire stations and bottling plants to courier services. The $90 million Singapore theme park franchise will span 7,600 square metres at Palawan Beach on Sentosa.

Two-thirds of the visitors are expected to be Singaporeans, one-third foreigners.

Themed Attractions plans to secure 30 more partners from a mix of local and international brands before the park's opening in early 2015. There can be only one partner representing each industry. "Industry partners are a cornerstone of KidZania. They bring a sense of realism and local flavour to the theme park," Mr Burhanuddin said.

KidZania has a presence in about 13 markets globally. Each KidZania location offers experiences customised to a particular region and culture in food, entertainment and professions.

Mr Burhanuddin is not concerned about the potential rivalry between Singapore and KL as each theme park targets visitors from the respective markets by teaming up with local partners.

For instance, Singapore will feature local brands like The Soup Spoon and traditional coffeehouse Killiney. Malaysia's partners include AirAsia and fast- food chain Marrybrown.

"We actually see (the two parks) as complementary . . . The more attractions we have in this area, the better - because there will be a lot more people coming into this region. We complement and supplement each other in one way or another," he said.

South-east Asia is becoming home to a growing number of major theme parks as the region's wealth and leisure time grow. Last year alone, Themed Attractions opened four theme parks.

Legoland Malaysia was the most successful launch of the six Legoland parks dotted across the world, with more than one million visitors in the first month.

The amusement park will add a series of new attractions this year amid rising competition in Asia. Planned additions include a hotel and the world's largest Legoland waterpark spanning over three million square feet, Mr Burhanuddin said.

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