GEORGE TOWN: After 20 years of designing, building and managing theme parks around the world, Penang-based Sim Leisure Group is poised to unveil a new genre of theme park, 'Escape'.
In preparation for the eagerly-awaited opening next month, its founder and chief executive, Sim Choo Kheng, is shifting the company's core business activities towards creating and exporting a Malaysian-created theme park brand.
Besides running the first Escape at Teluk Bahang, Penang, Sim Leisure is focusing on exporting the concept to the Middle East, Europe and emerging markets, amid growing demand for environmentally centred theme park.
The company is already in talks with Arab investors for the first Escape outside Malaysia, and the location is most likely to be on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia, Sim told Bernama in an interview today.
Additionally, negotiations are in place with overseas investors to franchise Escape, he added.
"Demand for healthy outdoor family leisure facility is growing.
"After two decades of creating fun for our clients, we want to redefine the concept of the theme park, and create something more socially responsible and sustainable," he said.
Sim said the company wants to construct a new genre of park which reflects both the fun people can have in nature and as well as some of the key themes of our age - such as the need to protect the environment.
"Life is real at Escape, it's fun but it's not a piece of sugar-coated fantasy. What we have created is a product on par with some of the big names in the industry and our company will grow along with the Escape brand," he said.
He said while the Middle East remained the key growth area for the last 10 years, Sim Leisure also sees Europe as a region that would appreciate the philosophy and values of Escape.
Sim Leisure has been providing turnkey services for the waterpark and theme park industry and major projects have been successfully designed, themed, executed and managed in international markets.
Among its clients are the Lost Paradise of Dilmun in Bahrain, Snow Penguins at Ski Dubai, Yas Island Waterpark in Abu Dhabi (one of the world's leading waterparks), Universal Studios in Singapore, Legoland Denmark, Legoland in Malaysia, Yerevan Waterworld in Armenia and Aquapolis in Bulgaria.
Sim believed the Escape concept will be well accepted given the growing demand for healthier activities, especially for children who today live a more sedentary lifestyles.
He said most of us are concerned about global warming, climate change and urbanisation and the park aimed to open peoples' minds to different ways of living and thinking about the environment.
The first Escape theme park in Teluk Bahang will open its doors early next month and set to become a world-class tourism destination providing Penang's tourism industry with a new and exciting product to promote.
Sim said the first phase of Escape was AdventurePlay, targeting over 350,000 visitors annually, adding that children will be educated on the benefits of recycling and promoting the usage of low carbon footprint materials.
"The entire 17.6-hectare Escape Penang, which was scheduled to be completed by 2017, will bring in over a million tourists annually to Teluk Bahang," he said.
Escape comprises three main components namely AdventurePlay, WaterPlay and a Treetop Hotel which will showcase sustainable development adopting the approach used by forefathers such as rainwater harvesting, recycling, vegetation roof and biodiversity.
Sim said the company has taken the lead in corporate social responsibility within the Teluk Bahang community by creating a lush green environment by rehabilitating a brownfield site.
The land Escape sits on was the former construction site of the Teluk Bahang Reservoir.
Sim said besides creating a green area for the community, the theme park when completed, would generate more than 600 jobs and thus promised tremendous economic spin-offs.
Escape Penang with an investment of RM180 milllion combines various activities from childhood past with activities from the modern era such as tree climbing, splashing around in rivers and treetop adventures.
One of its major attractions is Atan's Leap, a freefall adventure from elevated platform while other fun activities include a three-level rope course (ranging from 13 to 30 metres), Zoom Bug, a fun human-powered cart, a set of Gecko Tower climbing towers and many others.