SINGAPORE: Seven years after it opened its doors, Universal Studios Singapore (USS) ushered in its 25 millionth visitor on Tuesday (Jan 24) in the face of growing competition from other attractions in the region.
The milestone affirms the viability of the theme park model as a means of drawing visitors to Singapore, said Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), which manages the attraction. It added that the theme park has set its sights on welcoming its 30 millionth visitor next.
But with the attractive exchange rate of the Malaysian ringgit compared to the Singapore dollar, theme parks across the Causeway, such as Hello Kitty Town and Legoland, could pose serious competition with their lower prices.
RWS’ senior vice president of attractions, Jason Horkin said: “What it really means is that we'll work harder to get the best offerings so people will want to come here. Whether it's exchange rate issues or other parks, we're going to want to be the park of choice.”
He added that USS is rolling out promotional packages covering entry tickets and retail vouchers to hook visitors.
Tourism lecturer Michael Chiam noted that USS has done well to draw in an average of over three million visitors per year. Other theme parks in Southeast Asia typically see around two million or more visitors annually, he said.
All the same, USS should look at introducing new rides or features every three to five years to refresh itself, said Dr Chiam, who is deputy director of marketing communications at Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Business and Accountancy. He added that if the theme park did not do so, it would run the risk of appearing stale to its visitors.
"People travel quite often to our neighbouring countries and there are new theme parks coming on board. And when people try new theme parks, they gain new experience, and they always compare with what we have,” he said.
Another lecturer, Associate Professor Ang Swee Hoon, noted that USS may not be in direct competition with theme parks in Malaysia, as Hello Kitty Town and Legoland may target younger children, while USS reaches out to a more varied crowd.
However, she pointed to the need for USS to keep a consistent brand image, which is why its rides are virtually the same across its various theme parks internationally.
It also is not viable to introduce new rides each year, as the capital investment is enormous, said Dr Ang, who is with NUS Business School’s Department of Marketing.
While introducing new rides every two to three years is sufficient, what USS needs to do to stay contemporary is to offer a variety, she said. “A ride change is a massive change, but in between massive changes, you want minor changes such as those made to street entertainment, having new parades, variations in food or even through cameo appearances from different characters.”
Ultimately, even if all the attractions remained unchanged, Dr Ang said that repeat visitors, especially locals, would still frequent the park if the experience has been good.
“It’s like when you go to a restaurant for a meal and it’s a good experience. You go back there again and it won’t surprise me if you go back for the same food because it’s the experience that counts. So it’s the same for USS. To stay current or stay interesting, it must make sure what it offers is an experience you can’t find elsewhere,” she said.