Mandai to be turned into Asia's top nature spot

Channel NewsAsia 20 Nov 07

SINGAPORE : A luxurious spa retreat in Mandai could soon be a reality with new plans for the area.

Two new nature-themed attractions in Mandai, to complement the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, were announced on Tuesday.

The Singapore Zoo's five cheetahs just got a bigger home, as part of a S$70 million masterplan by Wildlife Reserves Singapore to improve the facilities of the Zoo and Night Safari.

Meanwhile, even bigger things are being planned for the whole Mandai region.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) wants to turn the area into Asia's next top nature spot, with two new attractions on the way.

A 30-hectare site in the area may soon become the next luxurious topical spa retreat, and another idea being considered is an exotic river-themed development, where visitors can learn about freshwater habitat.

S Iswaran, Minister of State, Trade and Industry, said, "Certainly if you want to go into a large national park, Singapore may not be able to compete with some of what's being offered in the region. If you're looking for an immersive experience, tropical rainforest in a natural setting, I think we can do quite a bit. Obviously we can't compete on size, so we have to compete on the quality of the experience, the nature of the experience.

"And when you go to an urban centre, you don't really go to a city expecting a back-to-nature experience in this total sense. You want an immersive experience and that's where the Zoo and the Night Safari can play a part, and I think the Mandai nature park kind of nature destination can play a part."

There is something very relaxing about being immersed in nature, and the government believes that if done well, visitors to Mandai can forget that they are actually only minutes away from the city centre.

STB is confident that with the new attractions, the number of visitors to Mandai could double to 5 million by 2015. - CNA/ms

Northern Exposure
30-ha site in Mandai to be nature retreat
Tan Hui Leng, Today Online 21 Nov 07;

IMAGINE spending a night or two in a nature retreat in Mandai, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. There, you can enjoy a spa under the rainforest canopy while relaxing to the chirping of birds.

This may come true as the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) wants to develop a 30-hectare site — the equivalent of about 42 football fields — into a nature cluster that would attract 5 million visitors by 2015, which is double the number now.

"If you look at the overall tourism positioning in Singapore, we have some very city-type products in the Marina Bay area with the IRs (integrated resorts), we have a bit more of a family-activity-type product in Sentosa.

"What we're trying to do here now is to create and build on what we have in terms of the nature-themed attraction," said Minister of State for Trade and Industry S Iswaran after launching the Cheetah enclosure at the Singapore Zoo yesterday.

The revamped home offers the zoo's five cheetahs more running space and a new glass-fronted observation hut for visitors to see the cats up close.

He described Mandai as a "natural choice" for the new nature retreat since the zoo and the Night Safari are located there.

"Obviously, we can't compete (with other countries) on size, so we have to compete on the quality of the experience, the nature of the experience," said Mr Iswaran.

In addition to the nature cluster, a third animal attraction would be developed to complement the zoo and the Night Safari.

The themed attraction would create exotic river environments and allow visitors to learn about endangered freshwater flora and fauna in natural habitats.

The Wildlife Reserves Singapore has also drawn up a $70-million master plan to build new facilities, such as upgraded amphitheatres and new trams, into the zoo and the Night Safari.

The STB will invite investors to propose suitable tourism products for the Mandai nature cluster in the middle of next year.

"Singapore has, over the years, been branded as quite a stereotypical city that is lacking in resort-style atmosphere, so the new developments will complement what we already have here," said National Association of Travel Agents chief executive Robert Khoo.

But Ms Judy Lum, vice-president for sales and marketing of Tour East, said: "Usually, tourists who are into nature want it as natural as possible and they are usually on a budget … If you want to make it exclusive and price it in the higher-end range, it really has to be different."

Since some tourists can find nature easily in their countries or travel to places with natural reserves, the Mandai nature cluster may well attract locals instead of international tourists, said Associate Professor Chang Tou Chuang, deputy head at the National University of Singapore's geography department.

Unlike in a safari where a tourist crosses from place to place to see wildlife, Assoc Prof Chang said he doubts that one will see a huge variety of wildlife staying in Mandai for one or two nights. "So, it's really for people who want to get away from it all."

Mandai to get new nature attraction on 30-hectare site
Lim Wei Chean, Straits Times 21 Nov 07;

The aim: A cluster of green-themed offerings in the area that will help to draw more tourists

AT LEAST one more nature-themed attraction will spring up in Mandai by 2015.

The Government will, in the middle of next year, release a 30ha site - roughly three times the size of VivoCity mall - for developing such an attraction.

The site can house a back-to-nature resort, a wildlife-themed restaurant, or anything with a nature theme that a developer can dream up.

Such a move will widen the range of tourism offerings by creating a cluster of nature-based attractions in Mandai, which is already home to the Zoo, the Night Safari and the Mandai Orchid Garden.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran, who opened a new cheetah habitat in the Zoo yesterday, said: 'An increasing number of tourists are keen to commune with nature, visit natural habitats and see wildlife - perhaps as a counterpoint to the modern urban lifestyle.'

These nature-themed attractions, together with the integrated resorts, the Formula One race, the Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Flyer, are meant to get Singapore closer to snagging 17 million visitors who will spend $30 billion here by 2015.

Meanwhile, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, which manages the Zoo and Night Safari, is developing a freshwater-themed animal attraction within its 89-ha compound.

To be ready by 2015, this will be the third attraction in Wildlife Reserves' stable.

The company will also put $70 million over the next five years into improving the Zoo and Night Safari, by adding more trams, building new wildlife zones and creating more restaurants, for example.

The Zoo and Night Safari now pull in 2.5 million visitors a year, but with the new attractions in place, the Singapore Tourism Board expects Mandai's visitor numbers to double by 2015.

Former Zoo chief Bernard Harrison said Mandai was due for a shot in the arm, as it has been more than a decade since the Night Safari opened there.

Ms Ng Lee Li, a section head for the Tourism Academy @ Sentosa, said the cluster will mean that the attractions there can tap each other's spillover visitors.

She added that making the 30ha plot a 'lifestyle' kind of attraction with accommodation, food and beverage and retail outlets will bring in nature lovers and non-nature lovers alike.

CTC Holidays' senior manager of outbound tours Jocelyn Su noted that more Singaporeans, too, have been flocking to countries like Australia and Malaysia in search of a connection with nature.

She said she has seen up to 40 per cent more bookings in the last two years for holidays to places like Taiwan and Hokkaido, where a stay in a forest lodge or trekking in a mangrove swamp is on the itinerary.

To her comment that Singapore's nature-themed attractions will go up against these countries' offerings, Mr Iswaran said that while Singapore could not compete in terms of size, it could do so in the quality department.

He added: 'If you come to the zoo here, you wouldn't think that five minutes away are Housing Board flats and 20 minutes away is the Central Business District.'

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