Universal Studios Singapore opens

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 March, 2010, 12:00am

Universal Studios Singapore will open its doors today, but travel agents in Hong Kong are wary of selling tours to the new park because of 'technical and creative adjustments' which may cause some rides to be temporarily unavailable.

At least five, or 25 per cent of the rides, were stopped for technical reasons during a five-hour media preview of the park on Tuesday, in which the South China Morning Post reporter was the only Hong Kong media company granted admission.

For example, the indoor roller coaster - The Revenge of the Mummy - was not available until about 31/2 hours after the preview started to ensure that mummies popped up and blasts of fire occurred at the correct time.

Other signature rides including the world's tallest pair of duelling roller coasters - Battlestar Galactica - the Shrek 4-D Adventure and Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure were also closed briefly during the review.

'We've been testing attractions for months,' John Hallenbeck, the director of operations at the Hollywood movie theme park, said. 'There are times when attractions will have technical difficulties. That's just the nature of theme parks - Universal Studios Singapore won't be an exception on that ... Every ride is 100 per cent safe.'

Robin Goh Wee Khian, an assistant director of communications at Resorts World Sentosa, said rides might have to be closed 'for half an hour, one hour, [or] as long as it takes to retweak' if a 'creative adjustment' was needed, especially when the park drew more visitors after the opening. To compensate guests, the park would give out shopping and dining vouchers during the 'soft opening' period (no time frame for the soft opening was given).

There was also a power blackout in one of the cafes during the preview, but Goh said 'it's just one of the power tricks which happens like at home'. Despite the glitches, the management said the soft opening would begin today at 8.28am. Admission tickets for today and tomorrow were all sold out although ticket numbers were not revealed.

Singaporean Christina Yap, 54, who went to the pre-opening, said the park should have tested all the rides before opening. A Singapore-based British tour guide, who refused to give her name, agreed and said 'it would be a nightmare' when the park opened. But Peggy Ang Fay-koon, an operations manager of a Malaysian travel agency, said safety was more important and visitors could go shopping or try other rides first.

Michael Wu Siu-ieng, the chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong who also runs a travel company, said local travel agents had yet to actively promote the new theme park to avoid disappointment and complaints in case rides were not initially available.

'It's difficult to manage expectations if there are technical problems, so Hong Kong tour agents will bring tourists there later,' Wu said. 'It's a big deal if consumers take the rides after buying tickets and we receive loads of complaints.'

Hong Thai Travel's deputy general manager Daniel Chan Kin-pang said itineraries to Singapore already included the park because 'some people still want to be the first to try' and there were different shows and rides to keep visitors entertained.

The world's fourth Universal Studios theme park, and the first in Southeast Asia, will open 19 of its 24 attractions today. The park, which cost more than US$1 billion to build, has seven themed zones. It is the cheapest and smallest Universal Studios in the world on a 20-hectare site - slightly smaller than Hong Kong Disneyland - located at Resorts World on Sentosa island, a Genting Singapore development.

A one-day pass for all rides ranges from S$66 (HK$368) to S$72 for adults, and S$48 to S$52 for children.