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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Mandai could be nature tourism hub

More hotels and restaurants to be added to Mandai area for a complete tourist destination.
The Straits Times - November 29, 2012
By: Ng Kai Ling
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Mandai could be nature tourism hub Mr Iswaran (second from left) and Mr Zhao Shucong (left), from China's State Forestry Administration, looking at Jia Jia yesterday. The Giant Panda Forest opens to the public today. -- ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

THE Government is looking at adding hotels and more restaurants to the Mandai area to turn it into a complete tourist destination.

Mr S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said at the opening of the giant panda exhibit yesterday that the area's rich biodiversity makes it an ideal location for other nature-related developments.

The plan is to leverage Singapore's award-winning attractions, such as the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari as well as the upcoming River Safari, and develop a "green lung" for tourists and Singaporeans alike.

Mr Iswaran, who is also the Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry, said the River Safari's opening next year will be an important step in Mandai's development.

Yesterday's opening of the 1,500 sq m panda enclosure also marked another milestone in the strong bilateral ties between Singapore and China, he added.

The Giant Panda Forest is the first attraction to be launched at the River Safari, and it opens to the public today. Visitors can buy zoo admission tickets ($20 for adults, $13 for children) and pay an extra $5 (adult) or $3 (child) to see the pandas.

The rest of the 12ha river-themed park will open next year, tentatively in February.

Last year, Singapore welcomed a record 13.2 million visitors - 14 per cent more than the 11.6 million who came in 2010. In the first half of this year, tourist arrivals grew by 11 per cent compared with the figure in the same period last year.

With a strong suite of nature-themed attractions already in Mandai, Mr Iswaran said the area has potential for developments such as accommodation, dining and other leisure facilities.

"We want developments that are sensitive and complementary to what we already have... we don't want something that jars that," he added.

The tourism industry and observers welcomed the idea.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic's senior tourism lecturer Michael Chiam said that to stand out, the hotels should not be just rooms in a forest. They should blend into the greenery and give people the experience of living in a jungle.

Mr Robert Khoo, chief executive of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, agrees and said the hotels should be like the five-star lodges in Kenya and South Africa.

Hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng said there is definitely potential in developing the area.

"Any time there is a new attraction, there would be business opportunities," he said.

kailing@sph.com.sg

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