Murder mysteries and dragon boats help companies rally employees in Singapore

Escape rooms in which participants play Sherlock to the various mysteries waylaying them is the new team-building activity to experience in Singapore

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2016, 5:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2016, 5:25pm

I’m standing face to face with a severed human hand in a plastic jar.

To my left is a convincing human foot, resting uncomfortably and covered in blood. In the jar to my right is somebody’s ear.

The dismembered body, arranged meticulously in several containers on a shelf, is fake. But for a brief moment, it’s dark enough to make me believe otherwise.

I have to escape.

A new corporate experience

I’m inside “Escape Hunt” Singapore, one of the many “Escape the Room” experiences that have popped up across Asia in recent years.

This was my first experience inside an Escape Room and owner Benjamin Tan is explaining how it works.

“It’s a wide variety of puzzles,” he says.

“It ranges from physical puzzles to intellectual puzzles, colour combinations, numbers, and all sorts of interesting mechanisms!”

He’s not wrong.

When you come to Escape Hunt, you’re locked inside a series of connecting rooms for 60 minutes. You role play as a Sherlock Holmes character to solve various mysteries and puzzles.

It’s a strange and very unique way for a business to entertain staff and clients. But it works.

Abigail Kua, 17, and her friends are repeat customers. She says she made it through the first door before she had to ask for help.

“I felt very tight for time, you really don’t know what’s happening inside - it’s very random,” she laughs.

“It’s really fun though, it’s really challenging to find the clues. It’s great, people have to communicate with each other to work together.”

Tan was inspired by the Escape Room concept during a trip to Bangkok in 2013 and decided to bring the idea back to Singapore.

Since then, he’s tailored the experience for large companies and government agencies, and insists business is booming.

He says the demand for corporate experiences in Singapore is so strong, his business has been profitable from day one.

Tan tells me the competition for Escape Rooms is healthy in Singapore, so he’s considering ways to future-proof his business in the experience economy.

He’s right, I think to myself. You can’t bank on repeat customers if the experience inside the room stays the same.

“Whatever we do in the rooms is still in the typical space. What we are looking at is virtual reality in the room or augmented reality in the room, that would take it one step further,”

How close are you to that? I ask.

“Pretty close,” he says with a smile.

Real Estate Professional Manita Bidaud also recognised a gap in the experience economy and decided to launch SingExperience in 2011.

The web-business partners with various providers across Singapore to curate experiences for individuals, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and large companies.

Today, her client is a multinational software company, which has organised a race experience for around 20 of its staff members on the track. The company also organises dragon boat races and indoor baseball competitions.

“They have a lot of happy faces, that’s for sure!” she says, watching the staff zoom around the circuit.

Bidaud says in today’s climate, big companies need to bring staff together to guarantee productivity gains.

“How do you get all of them to communicate? It’s through a team building experience when they’re outdoors, when they’re getting to know each other and when they’re getting closer to each other,” she says.

“Team building is no more the conventional like before. Doing an experience gives them an opportunity to get out of the routine.”


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