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The Recipe for Success
Mr Thibault Paquin is an experienced hospitality, leisure and tourism business development professional. He is also the founder and CEO of Celebrating Life, an independent consultant and development company for the leisure & entertainment industry in Asia. He has 9 years of experience as a manager in a multinational and 7 years as a consultant and entrepreneur. Educated in France and the United States, he holds a Master from the prestigious Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC), France. Read on about his views on the theme park sector in the region.
Celebrating Life Ltd.
1) Malaysia has proven to be a huge success as a theme parks destination in the region, what according to you are the factors for it's success?
It is probably the result of a strong push from the Malaysian government to develop tourism in all parts of the country combined with a growing middle class looking for property to buy, which has fuelled various property-based leisure projects, mostly water and safari parks. The recent wave of IP-based theme parks (LEGOLAND, MAPS, 20th Century Fox World) is building on expertise acquired in the past 40 years and capitalizing on the strong 'family tourism' growth in the country.
2) According to you what are the factors important for theme parks to be profitable & relevant in the long run?
Taking the example of Sunway Lagoon, which is more successful now than ever despite having celebrated its 25th anniversary, the key to success is in exceeding expectations (both in terms of product and staff) and continuously bringing new attractions and events. Other keys to success for Malaysian theme parks include good supporting facilities (hotels, shopping mall, convention centre), a product attractive for tourists (islam-friendly, resort on site, etc) and loyalty programs for locals (annual pass, discount cards).
3) What are the challenges that this sector should brace itself for in the future so as to grow consistently?
Maintenance and staff training are the main areas of concern, especially in Malaysia where access to and retention of quality staff is hard and where maintenance has traditionally been a weak point in infrastructure, hotels, etc.
4) How helpful have government policies and initiatives been with regards to developing theme parks as an economic stimulus for Malaysia?
LEGOLAND Malaysia and MAPS are examples of a new model a new model of theme park development through partnerships between experienced private investors and/or operators and state-owned companies to develop world-class theme parks in better locations and in more integrated ways. These partnerships will have a long term impact on destination building (Nusajaya and Ipoh) and tourism at large.
5) What is the one key trend that the theme parks & leisure industry look out for in the coming year?
With the retail environment changing fast due to the rise of online retail and oversupply of malls, developers are increasingly looking at themed attractions as new anchors for a more lifestyle offering. This is probably the biggest growth opportunity for our industry in the region in the next few years.
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