PETALING JAYA: While the Sim Leisure Group may not be a familiar name to many, the home-grown company is one of the leading players in the development and operation of theme parks in the region.
It has set its sights on stamping its presence not only in the local market but internationally.
Innovation and having a good grasp on the future trends of the global leisure industry have facilitated its expansion plans.
Locally, the group is recognised for conceptualising and developing the Escape brand of parks.
It employs an innovative, low operating and capital expenditure business model that has been a disruptor of the usual model used by conventional theme parks.
The company is focusing on the rediscovery of childhood experiences and reconnection with nature.
With Escape branded parks in Penang (established in 2012) and Petaling Jaya (2020), plans are underway to open more Escape facilities both domestically and abroad.
The group has also made several key acquisitions including that of the edutainment facility called KidZania KL in 2020.
The group is founded by visionary industry veteran Datuk Sim Choo Kheng who has devoted more than three decades of his life to the leisure industry.
According to Sim, the Escape brand is one of the pioneer developers of theme parks.
The brand strives to revive the childhood outdoor experience while preserving nature in its developments.
“To do well in this business, we need to be able to foresee upcoming trends and where the industry is heading.
“The future of the attractions business will no longer be focused on theme parks with mechanical rides. They have been around for far too long; since the days of the telegrams and fax machines. They have outlived their relevance.
“Spurred by the digital evolution, the attractions will be replaced by two very distinct trends – the first being virtual reality (VR) and the second, nature-based parks like Escape, both for differing reasons.
“The former is driven by the immediate disruption of VR within the coaster ride space, with much greater potential and richer content at a fraction of the investment.
“Meanwhile, nature-based parks such as Escape will allow us to reconnect with the environment through fun activity while offering respite from our devices, bringing us back to the original path of leisure and recreation,” he told StarBiz.
The company recently made history by becoming the first Asian attraction brand to be exported internationally with ongoing projects in Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and China, lending further credibility to the group’s quest of becoming one of the most successful leisure companies globally.
“With its disproportionately high number of malls per capita due to its desert climate and most people preferring to spend their leisure time indoors, Saudi Arabia is the perfect market for the Escape Challenge which brings in the outdoors like the theme park in Paradigm mall, Petaling Jaya.
“We expect to establish an Escape Challenge in every corner of Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The Sim Leisure Group has seen a strong rebound in its net profit and revenue in the first half of the year, thanks to a significant increase in visitors following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.
For the first half of 2022, revenue and net profits stood at RM26.6mil and RM10.2mil respectively, marking a threefold increase in revenue and 10fold increase in net profits, compared with 2019.
Meanwhile, the group’s CEO Phil Whittaker. said: “We are currently focusing on the expansion of the Escape portfolio locally and internationally, while ramping up our marketing efforts which is expected to push our revenue even higher in the second half of the year.
“We have already completed the design of Escape Cameron Highlands while Escape Ipoh will see its first phase open by the end of this year.
“Meanwhile, our Guinness World Record-winning attractions in Escape Penang – the longest tube water slide and zip coaster in the world – have helped to drive traffic and attendance at the park.”
Amid its growth and expansion efforts, Sim Leisure Group emphasises on sustainability, which has been paramount since the group’s inception.
For instance, with the development of Escape Penang, which is built amidst lush natural foliage, the construction of the park involved the preservation of its environment, which also saw the planting and replanting of more than 3,500 trees within the park.
The group is also working to develope a renewable energy partnership, to collaborate on a solar energy initiative to power all existing and future Escape parks. — By Daljit Dhesi