The Online Citizen

Singapore Flyer’s uncertain future ahead

Singapore Flyer’s uncertain future ahead
May 16
07:30 2014

By Yasmeen Banu

It was an event of merriment and joy as the symbolic beat of the drum sparked a dazzling laser and fireworks display across Marina Bay. It marked the official opening of the Singapore Flyer on the 15th of April 2008 by Guest of Honour and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The $240 million project had an optimistic future, and a go-getting vision. During its opening, the Flyer’s Chairman, Mr. Florian Bollen said, “As the world’s largest Giant Observation Wheel, Singapore Flyer stands for Singapore’s vision to progress into the future on the highest levels”.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also expressed his keenness with the completion of the project. “We have a beautiful city and this is a remarkable view of it,” he said. “The Singapore skyline is constantly growing and changing. The Flyer is an addition to that skyline, as well as to view the city around us.”

“I’m very happy with the project… We are optimistic it will do very well (with regard to) passengers, and become one of the busiest flyers in the world,” Mr Lee added.

However, Prime Minister Lee’s happiness and Mr. Bollen’s vision was to be short-lived as the Flyer ran into a financial storm last year, just five years after it opened.

Although one of the Flyer’s milestones was surpassing 1 million ticket sales mark in 2008, that probably did not continue for subsequent years.

The Flyer, towering 165 metres above the city, was envisioned after studying similar attractions such as the London Eye in Britain, and the Empire State Building in New York.

Boldly described as “Asia’s most visible iconic visitor attraction”, the Flyer was not warmly welcomed by some, as it did not seem to have any originality to it, often being compared to Britain’s London Eye.

Mr. Clement Wong, a Managing Director from SocialMetric, said on Singapore Business Review, a magazine that covers an array of the Singapore business landscape said,

I believe Singapore Flyer struggled because its entire position was to compete with the London Eye. Singapore must come out with their own unique and iconic attractions that capture the imagination of tourists and its citizens. The mindshare of “Giant Ferris Wheel” is given to the London and competing with that mindshare could be possibly perceived as a lack of originality.

Besides lack of originality, reasons as to building an iconic observatory attraction for both countries are worlds apart. The London Eye was built to welcome the millennium. The idea of an observation wheel was submitted by architectural duo David Marks and Julia Barfield- sent in as part of a competition to design a landmark for the new millennium.

Singapore Flyer, on the other hand, was built for it to be a tourist attraction, and a landmark that will put Singapore above its Asian counterparts with regards to iconic attractions.

More recently, the Flyer has been under scrutiny over the series of glitches it has experienced over the course of five years.

In December 2008, two separate occasions of bad weather and a short circuit trapped about 70 and 170 passengers respectively. When the episode of short circuit happened in late December, the passengers were trapped in the capsules for nearly six hours, before being rescued. The flyer closed indefinitely until it received the safety certification report from the Conformity Assessment Board, after which, $3 million additional back-up systems was installed to the Flyer.

On July 18 2009, the Flyer was shut down again, after one of its electrical cables was struck by lightning. Around 200 passengers had to be evacuated. Two days later, the Flyer reopened after repair works were completed.

The series of hiccups only led to the public questioning the adequacy of the Flyer’s emergency contingency plans and the appeal this would have for the rest who haven’t experienced the tourist attraction.

Since the Flyer’s financial woes came to light in May last year, and the flyer being placed under receivership, it has since brought up alternative theories from the public on why the Flyer became a flop, which ultimately led it to its bankruptcy.

While some cite the challenging business environment, others said it is neither at a convenient location, nor is it within the vicinity of other major attractions.

Perhaps it is also due to bad timing that led to its flop. Two years after the opening of the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands opened its doors to the public, enticing and keeping more customers coming back, especially with its casinos.

According to TODAY, a spokesperson for the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said that they “had been closely engaging the various parties involved to ensure the best possible outcome that enhances the tourism sector”.

Merlin Entertainments, the British firm behind the London Eye and LegoLand theme parks has recently abandoned talks to acquire the $240 million attraction. Merlin had initially considered buying the Flyer to expand its presence in Asia, but that soon changed.

In May 2005, Mr Lim Neo Chian, Singapore Tourism Board Chief responded to scepticism of the idea of the Flyer by saying that while domestic demand is only one part of the puzzle, he had no doubt, whatsoever, that the domestic market will be very interested.

People will have the opportunity to see their city. Not everybody has a wonderful view in Singapore.

What the Singapore flyer is today is probably an example of how the leaders don’t always place the right bet.

*Photo Credits: Home Team NS

  • Mastermind

    these guys never learnt from the failures of the doomed Tang Dynasty city and the Haw Par Villa. the “Not everyone can get to view the city” comment is hilarious. Ever heard of Mount Faber dude?

    • GUSSIE91

      Singapore Flyer can be used to escape during Singapore flood…………..unfortunately, you will be dead standing during the severe haze season.

      • nelsonmandala

        remembered this 1?

        the topless French cabaret, Crazy Horse Paris

        is the brainchild of the ole FART
        who onced said…
        in the morin after breakfast from botanical gardens, he will take a stroll thru lucky plaza where he will waved with the pinnoys on independences day and join them for a FREE lunch..
        after lunch he will continued to stroll past the istana garden where he take the standar afternoon nap with a warm beer by his garden settee and then proceed to cathay bras basar to hav a peek @ the national library and hav dinner..after dinner he will go to crazy horse paris to see frencie women dancin on bartop topless and if the mole FART heart still survived the BEAT..he will endup in the ircasino marina bays to hav a game of 21
        ole yeah the ole FART was thinkin of havin satay for dinner in the twin big DURIANs

    • Soupen

      To be fair, Haw Par Villa was never meant to attract tourist. It was built to teach about the chinese values by the two brothers. And it can be consider as a cultural importance that is being protected now.

      On the other hand, Tang Dynasty city was built to attract tourist. It had extreme high entrance fees, and practically nothing inside at all to justify the cost. I think it has great potential if its still around now to be redeveloped, and scrapping that entrance fees. There can be shops and eateries, and they can brand it as a traditional chinese-chinatown.

      • Mastermind

        Haw par Villa never meant to attract tourists? are you sure? In 1988, the Singapore Tourism Board took over the running of the Tiger Balm Gardens. Re-named Haw Par Villa Dragon World, it became a popular tourist spot. However, the exorbitant entrance fees discouraged the public and after 10 years of operations, the management incurred a loss of S$31.5 million.

  • Samson

    More like World’s best copycat.

    • PikuChoo

      Well, since we are “emulating” the City of London (PM Lee was given the keys to the city recently and he celebrated Singapore Day there), it was not surprising that they decided to copy the London Eye as well.

      I’m willing to bet it was the same genius who spent $400k to rename Marina Bay to Marina Bay who came up with the idea. Only this idea cost us $240million….

    • Soupen

      You should look at the new biggest wheel, High Roller. It is like a hybrid between Singapore Flyer and London Eye.

  • james ng

    Views just like any other city, weather hot and humid, anyone will feel bored, rotating too slowly….. where is the Wow factor? As usual, any thing with boy boy as guest of honor is bad luck