Mandai could be nature tourism hub

Ng Kai Ling Straits Times 29 Nov 12;

THE Government is looking at adding hotels and more restaurants to the Mandai area to turn it into a complete tourist destination.

Mr S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said at the opening of the giant panda exhibit yesterday that the area's rich biodiversity makes it an ideal location for other nature-related developments.

The plan is to leverage Singapore's award-winning attractions, such as the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari as well as the upcoming River Safari, and develop a "green lung" for tourists and Singaporeans alike.

Mr Iswaran, who is also the Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry, said the River Safari's opening next year will be an important step in Mandai's development.

Yesterday's opening of the 1,500 sq m panda enclosure also marked another milestone in the strong bilateral ties between Singapore and China, he added.

The Giant Panda Forest is the first attraction to be launched at the River Safari, and it opens to the public today. Visitors can buy zoo admission tickets ($20 for adults, $13 for children) and pay an extra $5 (adult) or $3 (child) to see the pandas.

The rest of the 12ha river-themed park will open next year, tentatively in February.

Last year, Singapore welcomed a record 13.2 million visitors - 14 per cent more than the 11.6 million who came in 2010. In the first half of this year, tourist arrivals grew by 11 per cent compared with the figure in the same period last year.

With a strong suite of nature-themed attractions already in Mandai, Mr Iswaran said the area has potential for developments such as accommodation, dining and other leisure facilities.

"We want developments that are sensitive and complementary to what we already have... we don't want something that jars that," he added.

The tourism industry and observers welcomed the idea.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic's senior tourism lecturer Michael Chiam said that to stand out, the hotels should not be just rooms in a forest. They should blend into the greenery and give people the experience of living in a jungle.

Mr Robert Khoo, chief executive of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, agrees and said the hotels should be like the five-star lodges in Kenya and South Africa.

Hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng said there is definitely potential in developing the area.

"Any time there is a new attraction, there would be business opportunities," he said.

River Safari helping Mandai become 'nature cluster': Iswaran
Area also has potential for accommodation, dining and other leisure facilities
by Vimita Mohandas Today Online 29 Nov 12;

SINGAPORE - The River Safari, where panda couple Kai Kai and Jia Jia will make their public debut today, marks an important step for the development of Mandai as a "nature cluster", as Singapore continues to rejuvenate its tourism offerings, Second Minister for Home Affairs, and Trade and Industry S Iswaran said yesterday.

Speaking at the grand opening of the Giant Panda Forest, the first of the River Safari attractions to open to the public, Mr Iswaran said visitor arrivals to Singapore grew a "robust" 11 per cent year-on-year in the first half of this year.

"The River Safari joins Singapore's stable of award-winning attractions that have impressed many visitors, many of whom do not expect such a rich and diverse array of nature-based attractions in a small, highly urbanised city like Singapore," he said.

Mr Iswaran noted that Mandai's rich biodiversity makes it an ideal location for a nature cluster, with potential for accommodation, dining and other leisure facilities.

"As the developments in this area continue, I am confident that the Mandai Nature Cluster will continue to build on its own unique identity as a top nature-based destination, with quality attractions and lifestyle activities," he said.

Those present yesterday included China's Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Wei Wei, and representatives from the State Forestry Administration of China, China Wildlife Conservation Association, presenting sponsor and conservation donor CapitaLand, and airline sponsor Singapore Airlines.

Members of the public will be able to meet these gentle giants from today, with a Giant Panda Preview add-on ticket when they visit the Singapore Zoo. Visitors will get to see many creature comforts around the enclosure, including a man-made waterfall, dipping pools and bamboo gardens that simulate the pandas' natural habitat.

Next month, they will get to learn about the importance of conservation through a special exhibition at the Singapore Zoo featuring the life of giant pandas in China.

The grand opening of the River Safari is slated for next year.

Related links
Earlier media articles about plans to develop mandai

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