SINGAPORE: On Jun 29, international travel website TripAdvisor ranked Universal Studios Singapore (USS) the top amusement park in Asia - the fourth consecutive year it emerged first in Asia. It also ranked 17th globally in TripAdvisor’s 2017 Travellers’ Choice awards for amusement parks.
The fact that it beat out popular regional competitors such as Hong Kong Disneyland (2nd), Universal Studios Japan (4th), Tokyo Disneyland (fifth), Tokyo DisneySea (7th) and Legoland Malaysia (10th) surprised some people who question if USS is truly deserving of its top spot.
So why do people continually enjoy USS?
For 33-year-old Singaporean Jeremy Tan, it’s because “it’s a happy place” with a couple of “world-class rides”.
“Being on my third annual USS pass, I'm definitely a fan of the amusement park,” he told Channel NewsAsia. “I go there to soak in the atmosphere and the excitement of the people there. I've sat on all the rides multiple times (although) I don't feel a need to sit on rides every time I go. The only rides I would go for again and again would be Transformers and Battlestar Galactica, which are definitely world-class rides.”
He admitted he was “a little surprised” about the rankings, especially when compared to the other bigger parks in the region.
“In terms of 'revisit-ability', just due to the size of the park, it gets repetitive quite soon. In fact, you can finish all the rides before lunch if you go early on a weekday," he said.
“Therefore, as an amusement park, I don't think it can really compare to some other parks like Tokyo Disneyland ... But in Singapore, where you might need a place to just get away for a while, USS is a great place to spend an afternoon.”
Mr Tan also feels that USS is “more accessible”, seeing as Singapore receives a lot of tourists from both North and South Asia.
“Other parks in Hong Kong or Japan mainly cater to North Asia, and also tend to not have English as a first language,” he reasoned.
Dr Ang Swee Hoon, who is an associate professor at the National University of Singapore Business School’s Department of Marketing, agrees.
“USS is the only one in Asia that is English speaking. This "only one" status (makes it a notable) tourist attraction,” she told Channel NewsAsia. “Being English speaking means accessibility and comprehension for English-speaking tourists.”
She went on to explain that since USS is modelled after the American version, the Singapore park follows “a strict guideline of how the park is run professionally”.
"Its park attractions are quite similar to those in the United States, which means its branding and offerings are on a par with those in the United States. Hence for tourists who can’t go as far as the United States, USS is a suitable alternative.”
Dr Michael Chiam, senior lecturer in tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Business and Accountancy, told Channel NewsAsia that the poll is “representative” as it takes into account the reviews of both Singapore and foreign visitors.
“TripAdvisor uses some form of algorithm in their computation of ranking which takes into account the quality of the reviews, the number of reviews, as well as the recency of the reviews.
“As to the weightage of each of the components, it is only known to TripAdvisor. Consistent good reviews given by the visitors, both Singaporeans as well as tourists, over the years could have helped put USS on top of the ranking list.”
Dr Chiam believes USS has its work cut out because “competition in the theme park industry is very intense, especially with more and more theme parks scheduled to open in the regional countries over the next few years”.
“Shanghai Disneyland Park, which opened its doors in June last year, attracted more than 11 million visitors within the first year of its operation. More theme parks are coming on stream in the next few years, for example 20th Century Fox World Malaysia (scheduled to open in 2018), Universal Studio Beijing (2020), Universal Studio South Korea (2020),” he said.
“Given the intense competitive environment, it is a great challenge for USS to remain as the No 1 theme park in Asia.”
He suggested one possible way for USS to maintain its current ranking: To continue to renew its offerings such as having new rides and creating new and memorable experiences. He cited USS' new additions such as the Puss in Boots ride and the Despicable Me Breakout Party as examples.
Father-of-one Timothy Wong, who has only visited the park thrice since it opened in 2011, agrees.
“They need to refresh their rides and experiences,” he said. “Invest in new programming, in terms of new shows and new rides.”
Mr Wong, however, is not surprised USS topped the list and believes that the TripAdvisor poll is representative of the views of most tourists that come to Singapore. “Because Singapore is a family friendly destination,” he said.