As the first Legoland park in Asia opens near the Malaysia/Singapore border, Park World catches up with general manager Siegfreid Boerst.
Set to open on September 15, Legoland Malaysia is the sixth Legoland park worldwide. Located in Nusajaya, the 76-acre park has been realised in partnership with Merlin Entertainments as an integral part of Themed Attractions and Resorts’ plans for the Iskandar region in Johor. Featured across seven themed areas will be more than 40 interactive rides, shows and attractions, which will complemented in the next two years by a themed waterpark and Legoland Hotel. Owen Ralph talks to Legoland Malaysia general manager Siegfried Boerst (pictured below).
Why did you choose Malaysia, and in particular Nusajaya, for the first Legoland Malaysia in Asia?
Merlin’s strategy was to expand into Asia given its growing affluence and strong tourism market. The market here is less saturated when it comes to quality branded entertainment and this was a good entry point for us. The right opportunity knocked on our door with the Nusajaya development and Merlin signed the management agreement with Iskandar Investments Berhad (IIB).
The proximity to Singapore was essential as it’s a major tourist destination for both international and regional travellers – this helps us tap into South East Asia market overall. The strong backing from the government also ensured good infrastructure was in place and this is a crucial element to a large scale project such as this.
How does this park compare to other Legolands around the world?
Legoland Malaysia has a strong resemblance to Legoland Deutschland. During the conceptual stages of the this park, Legoland Deutschland was the newest park, so naturally we did most of our learning here. As with all our new projects, we always incorporate best practises from all our previous projects so once Legoland Malaysia is open, you can expect for us to be among the best in terms of layout, rides, facilities and attractions.
A good example is Miniland [pictured below] – this heart of all Legoland parks around the world. As the first in Asia, we recreated 17 clusters, cities and areas unique to this part of the world on a scale of 1:20. The structures are built entirely from Lego bricks and we have set a record for the tallest building in a Legoland park – the Petronas twin towers stands at 10m tall and use approximately half a million bricks.
What special considerations have you had to make at this park?
We had to take into consideration the weather conditions. As Malaysia has a tropical climate, we made sure the environment is comfortable for families to spend their day here. We planted almost 4,000 large trees to provide natural shade. Although we are an outdoor park, we have taken care to cover specific areas such waiting lines and play areas for young children to ensure the park experience is a comfortable one.
We will also be the first park to be completely operational at night, this is to ensure our visitors enjoy a full day without worrying about sunset. We made good investments for the lighting, so you can expect a beautiful theme park when we open to the public on September 15.
What were the challenges of construction?
We signed the management agreement in December 2008, with ground breaking exactly one year later. We are already opening ahead of schedule and this is an achievement for us given the challenges that are typical to large scale construction. Our earlier projected date for opening was closer to end of the year.
How did the staff training go?
Our staff training is going well and currently we have hired up to 560 staff. We expect to have 1,000 staff in our full year of operation and this includes our Water park that opens in 2013. We expect this number to increase with our hotel opening scheduled for 2014.
How did you determine the right pricing for the local market?
We undertook a number of researches to determine the purchase power of the local market as well as average salaries for in and around the region prior to deciding the pricing. The main consideration was that our primary target is families with children between the ages of 2 to 12. We wanted to give them an international theme park experience and at the same time be value for money.
What is your projected annual attendance?
We expect to attract over one million visitors in the first year of operation. To date, we have sold almost 50,000 annual passes. At Merlin, we invest in a new attraction every year so we expect the investment to stimulate visitor growth.
How far do you expect guests will travel?
Our current target evens out between resident market (Johor and Singapore), domestic tourist (the rest of Malaysia) and regional and international tourists. We hope to chart good growth especially in the last segment once we complete the Legoland Water Park and Hotel. Our aim is to become a destination resort and position ourselves as a short holiday getaway.
What can we expect at the Legoland Hotel?
Legoland Hotels are renowned for their colourful, fun and interactive design and have themed bedrooms, restaurants and corridors. Legoland Hotels also have a host of child-friendly features, like low counters in the restaurant and treasure chests full of Lego in the bedrooms. The facilities and services are all high-quality, making it a wholesome experience for the whole family. We will have 249 rooms when we open. For a taste of how the hotel will look, you can for now refer to our Legoland Hotel in Windsor.
How do you think Legoland Malaysia will complement the other attractions currently being developed in Iskandar?
Legoland Malaysia is a catalytic development. Being an international brand name, we believe that we will draw attention and visitors to the area. This will help the surrounding developments.
Merlin has a record of “clustering” attractions in the same location. Can we expect the company to develop any other attractions in Nusajaya?
We will be opening our Legoland Water park in 2013 and the Hotel is scheduled for 2014. Apart from two developments, we are also actively looking to expand in the Asia-Pacific region. We have earmarked some sites in Korea and Japan, and will update as soon as we have some concrete details to share.
Anything else we should know?
Legoland’s unique selling point globally is that we are a park specialising for families with 2 to 12 years old. This is the only park in the world where parents are encouraged to be involved in the play process which we believe is crucial to every child’s development. One of our core values is incorporating play as an essential tool for learning. Imagination, fun and learning go hand in hand at our park.
Legoland Malaysia is targeted at families with children between the ages of two to 12. Highlights include the Dragon, Dragon’s Apprentice and Project X rollercoasters, Dino Island water ride, Lost Kingdom interactive dark ride, Legoland Express, Driving School, Boating School, Aquazone Wave Racers and an Intamin observation tower. At the heart of it all is Miniland, featuring Lego replicas of local landmarks including Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur International Airport and the Putrajaya Mosque, plus buildings from Singapore, China and India. As at all Legoland parks, families will be encouraged to bond, learn and push the boundaries of their imaginations through their Lego experiences.