International travel may have slowed down, but certainly not destination developments. Fun attractions are bubbling up across major tourism destinations in Asia, ready for the return of travellers, discover TTG Asia reporters.
Sharper culture and heritage draws
Hong Kong’s tourism appeal continues to evolve, with a slew of new and iconic cultural attractions set to rise in the next six to eight months.
The long-awaited M+ in West Kowloon Cultural District is expected to steal the limelight. Scheduled to open in late-2021, this 60,000m2 world-class large-scale contemporary art museum will be the largest of all recent museum openings in the region.
In unison with the museum’s opening, the Hong Kong Tourism Board will extend its Hong Kong Neighbouhoods promotional campaigns to the West Kowloon Cultural District, which includes Yaumatei, Jordan and Tsimshatsui, to provide an all-encompassing art, cultural and historic experience.
On the other side of the harbour, the 82-year-old Bauhaus-style Central Market has been given a new lease on life as a new-age marketplace, set to open in 3Q2021. The 134-year Pokfulam Farm (Old Dairy Farm Senior Staff Quarters) is expected to reopen in July as a heritage hub bringing together the 60-plus historical spots around the Pokfulam neighbourhood.
That’s not all for culture vultures and history buffs – Tai Hang Fire Dragon Heritage Centre will launch in 4Q2021, tantalising visitors with exhibits that harness augmented and virtual reality technologies. It will also host workshops, seminars and talks.
Fun-seekers can also look out for the new Water World attraction within the Ocean Park water theme park this summer.
Discova’s country manager, Sandy Ho, said Hong Kong’s new attractions would inspire greater interest from longhaul markets and even encourage longer stays.
Gunther Homerlein, Destination China’s general manager/owner, is particularly excited about the M+ museum and the developments within the West Kowloon Cultural District. He said: “It will always be beneficial (for Hong Kong) to have a museum of international standard. Hopefully, it will have some signature pieces that can put it on the map.”
He added that the West Kowloon Cultural District has strong potential for events. – Prudence Lui
Post-pandemic travellers to Japan can look forward to more adventurous attractions and regional offerings than ever before as tourism development continues through 2021 and 2022.
A series of new launches will allow visitors to enjoy the outdoors, local experiences and unique accommodation, powering up Japan’s existing wellness and cultural appeal.
In Hokkaido, the National Ainu Museum and Park Upopoy, which are dedicated to Japan’s indigenous people, the Ainu, opened in July 2020.
Over in Kyushu, there is a spike in activities, resorts and glamping options. Simon Metcalfe, representative of Kyushu Tourism Promotion Organization, attributed these developments to Kyushu’s “steady preparations” for tourists pre-pandemic as well as its “lush nature, surrounding oceans and many islands.” He also noted the region’s “connection to and co-existence of nature and the locals”.
Many new cycling tours have been launched in Kyushu, including Hassenba in Hitoyoshi and Kumagawa. The three-hour, 4.5 km route takes in key sightseeing spots such as Hitoyshi Castle ruins.
Cycling tours are also poised for growth in other regions once inbound visitors return, thanks to an uptick in interest among domestic travellers during the pandemic.
Japan’s unique accommodation inventory is set for expansion, with several interesting openings to come.
Sea Cruise Glamping Kumamoto Amakusa, which offers ocean views from all rooms and dolphin-spotting, will open in July 2021.
Hoshino Resorts KAI Poroto will open its doors in January 2022. Located near Hokkaido’s Upopoy, the resort is designed to provide a place for guests to experience Ainu culture and “understand what co-living with different ethnic groups is,” according to the hotel company.
Treeful Treehouse, a sustainable resort powered by solar energy in the north of mainland Okinawa, is slated to open in the 12 months. The luxury riverside treehouses will boast panoramic views, beautiful interiors as well as modern comforts including air-conditioning.
Major theme parks are also joining Japan’s tourism portfolio. They include the newly opened Super Nintendo World in Osaka and Studio Ghibli Theme Park in Nagoya, which is expected to welcome visitors in 2022.
Popular local theme park Fuji-Q Highland has added another fun element – the 55m Fujiyama Tower, comprising a Sky Deck with sky walks and a Slider tube-type ride to the bottom. There is also an observatory offering views of Mount Fuji. – Kathryn Wortley
Bright lights, family delights
The glittery city of Macau is expanding its family fun repertoire, with unique museums, theme parks and adventure games to charm travellers of all ages.
Studio City Water Park debuted in May this year, showing off a variety of spectacular aquatic rides and adventures. The attraction is the result of a major revamp that Studio City Macau integrated resort undertook.
The rejuvenated Macao Grand Prix Museum followed next, with an opening on June 1. Now occupying a larger space, the museum showcases the history and thrill of the Macau Grand Prix in an innovative way, with several interactive games and entertainment for everyone.
Coming up next, Lisboeta Macau will launch ZipCity, a zipline experience, and GoAirborne, an indoor skydiving facility.
Destination specialists are certain that Macau’s latest attractions will appeal to travellers from a younger age bracket as well as mainland Chinese travellers, who tend to gravitate towards novel offerings. – Prudence Lui
Next play hub for young and young-at-heart
Singapore’s garden city reputation may have to make space on the pedestal for a new label, judging by the attractions that have opened this year as well as those coming up in 2022.
Fresh fun picks that have emerged this year, such as the COMO Adventure Grove nature playground at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Coastal PlayGrove at East Coast Park and ForestPlay SG adventure park on Sentosa, are boosting Singapore’s family travel appeal. Their outdoor play approach also speaks to the growing preference for activities in open spaces that allow for good ventilation and safe distancing.
Adding to Singapore’s growing play hub status is US-based experiential attraction Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC), which will open its first international outpost in Singapore this August.
Located in Dempsey, MOIC will feature 14 never-before-seen installations dedicated to the celebration and experience of enjoying ice cream. These include a fully functional, Singapore-inspired Dragon Playground; a pink and yellow jungle with 10,000 bananas; and the largest MOIC sprinkle pool ever created.
Later this year, Slingshot thrill ride will debut at Clarke Quay. It is said to be the tallest ride of its kind in Asia, with the ability to catapult riders almost 70m into the air at high speed.
Singapore’s attraction inventory will continue to grow in 2022, with Sentosa launching SkyHelix, the city-state’s first open-air panoramic attraction to offer scenic views of the resort island and Southern Waterfront. Guests can enjoy a drink as the rotating gondola gently ascends 35m above ground.
In revealing some of the new tourism developments back in April 2021, Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) chief executive Keith Tan emphasised that Singapore was not in “hibernation mode” despite the pandemic, and the new products would “help us get ready for recovery” and the eventual return of international tourists.
In addition to new draws, work is also underway to update existing attractions and tourism precincts. A new event space is set to emerge on the Orchard Road shopping belt in 2022, while a vacant site in the same prime district has been earmarked for a new attraction concept.
To further strengthen the lifestyle appeal of the Orchard Road district, STB is working with the Orchard Road Business Association to scale up the programming of the annual Christmas on a Great Street and Orchard Road Black Friday events later this year.
Tan described these projects as “a welcome breath of fresh air among the Covid-19 negativity in the past year”. – Karen Yue
Fresh destinations to explore
The pandemic has failed to halt tourism development across Vietnam, as new destinations have sprung to life.
Secondary destinations such as Pu Luong, Mai Chau, Phu Yen and Yen Bai have become shining stars during the pandemic, as domestic travellers seek new spots to explore.
Pham Ha, CEO of Lux Travel DMC, said: “New destinations and resorts have become trendy with local travellers looking for authentic and unique experiences. This will provide new experiences for international visitors once they can travel.”
Exclusive Avana Retreat Mai Chau opened its doors in April, and is already proving popular.
In Mui Ne, the new Centara Mirage Resort, owned by Novaland, will appeal to families with its multiple pools, child-friendly zones, and gaming and technology-based entertainment for teenagers and young adults.
Linh Le, founding partner of Luxperia DMC, said ‘tween-agers’ are particularly drawn to indoor entertainment, and Vietnam’s destination operators will do well to offer such activities.
Sungroup has also rolled out multiple projects on Phu Quoc island. Most notable is Sun Premier Village Primavera, a destination built to resemble the Italian Amalfi coast – complete with shophouses, restaurants, residential properties and hotels.
Also on Phu Quoc, VinGroup officially launched its US$2.8 billion Phu Quoc United Center in April. It takes in VinWonders Phu Quoc, said to be Vietnam’s largest theme park; an animal conservation park; an 18-hole golf course; a shopping and entertainment precinct; business events facilities; multimedia shows; 24-hour street markets; and even a hospital.
With cruising gaining fans among the local crowd, Ha noted that Lan Ha Bay and Cat Ba archipelago now offer even more cruising options that will also benefit international visitors. – Marissa Carruthers