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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Coming to Mandai

Nov 20, 2007
Coming to Mandai - a new nature tourism cluster
By Lim Wei Chean

A NEW nature-themed attraction will be coming to Singapore by 2015.
Minister of State for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran on Tuesday announced that the Government will be releasing a 30-hectare site in Mandai for tourism development.

The new site will be close to the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and the Mandai Orchid Garden. Together, they will form a new tourism cluster for those who want to experience nature and get away from the urbanised environment.

Mr Iswaran said at the official opening of the new cheetah habitat at the zoo: 'Beyond shopping, fine dining and spa treatments, an increasing number of tourists are keen to commune with nature, visit natural habitats and see wildlife. Singapore Tourism Board, therefore, plans to develop a cluster of attractions at Mandai to make it one of Asia's top nature destinations.'

Investors and developers will be invited to submit their tender proposals for the new cluster, which is about half the size of the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, in the middle of 2008.

The tender will be awarded by the end of the year.
At the same time, the Zoo and Night Safari will be spending $70 million over the next five years to improve their facilities, upgrade animal habitats and improve prove visitors' experience by adding more trams and eateries.

Wildlife Reserve Singapore, which owns the Zoo and Night Safari, is also in the midst of planning a third attraction to complement its current facilities.

Zoo executive director Fanny Lai said that the new cluster will probably be about 10 ha in size and will focus on freshwater flora and fauna.

Currently, the Zoo and Night Safari attract 2.5 million visitors annually. With the addition of the third attraction by Wildlife Reserves Singapore and the development on the new site, STB aims to double visitorship to five million annually.

This will help to help Singapore to achieve its tourism targets of 17 million visitors spending $30 billion here.

News of the new Mandai attractions did not go down well with nature lovers like the Nature Society, which is concerned that any development there may upset the fragile ecosystem of the neighbouring nature reserves.

The Nature Society is preparing to send a report to the STB within the coming week.

Nov 25, 2007
Mandai at risk?
MANDAI to Singaporeans is the zoo. It's also the home of the Night Safari, one of the most creative tourism products offered in years. For those who haven't swung by this neck of the woods in the north, be advised that Mandai is special. The forest canopy of a deep green, the body of water that hugs its contours and the hush of the place altogether make for an alcove happily at odds with urban Singapore. The air is sweet. Even the light has a clarity that is a delight to photography enthusiasts. The Singapore Tourism Board is intending to have interested parties bid for a large slice of this arbour to develop into a sort of showcase for eco-tourism. Ideas will be solicited from the trade. The probability is that country lodges, hiking trails, health spas, kayaking and of course chomp-chomp places will be proposed. The Nature Society is aghast. It is sure the eco-balance will be upset. The Government will have a fight on its hands as the green lobby is tenacious and has growing public support.
The economic argument usually holds sway in Singapore. But respect for nature and the environment, which goes hand in hand with a nation's affluence, is also gaining ground. It has to come down to this: If the eventual proposals turn out to be humdrum, leave Mandai well alone. It's not worth cutting up the place (30ha, say the project papers) to accommodate businesses that will flop. Once the flora and fauna are disturbed, it is hard to regenerate them. The advance publicity does not sound terribly persuasive. It would make commercial sense to think up instead more new attractions and displays at the zoo and the Night Safari. These are known brands to international travellers. Those who plump for eco-tourism in the region will think of the Philippines and Malaysia, perhaps Thailand too. Singapore? It should play to its strengths in designing urban attractions.

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