Cover Story: Building an entertainment ecosystem in Genting Highlands

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on June 13, 2022 - June 19, 2022.
Tropicana Corp will build a three-lane dual carriageway to Tropicana Paradise, with visitors passing through the LED Moongate (Photo by Tropicana Corp)

Tropicana Corp will build a three-lane dual carriageway to Tropicana Paradise, with visitors passing through the LED Moongate (Photo by Tropicana Corp)

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Genting Highlands’ proximity to Kuala Lumpur and weather make it an easy draw for those looking for a quick get­away from the humid and hot lowlands. In fact, more than 30 million visitors annually can attest to its cool attraction. 

This popular highland has also attracted property developers such as Tropicana Corp Bhd, which will launch its mega master plan — Tropicana WindCity — on June 16. 

Tropicana WindCity, which was first introduced in the Nov 29, 2021 issue of City & Country, will cover 596 acres in Genting Highlands, making Tropicana Corp the second-largest landowner there.

“Tropicana WindCity is the brainchild of our founder, Tan Sri Danny Tan Chee Sing. Building an integrated township is always our go-to move, but Genting Highlands is a popular tourist hotspot. So, we conducted an in-depth study and feasibility analyses, consulted experts and consultants, and finally decided to carve our land bank into three main townships — Tropicana Grandhill, Tropicana Paradise and Tropicana Avalon,” says the company’s deputy chairman - property development division Lee Han Ming.

“The 112-acre Tropicana Grandhill will provide cultural and holistic offerings such as an education hub, wellness centre, medical centre, silver hair village and residences. The 308-acre Tropicana Paradise will provide vibrant offerings such as entertainment and retail hubs, five-star international branded hotels and residences as well as a transportation hub. Finally, the 176-acre Tropicana Avalon will provide intimate and luxurious offerings such as a rejuvenation haven, a retail boulevard, villa resorts and high-end residences.”

As previously reported, Tropicana Grandhill was unveiled at the end of last year with its first product for sale — TwinPines Serviced Suites. Sitting on 3.57 acres, the project will offer 1,443 units within two towers. The built-ups range from 379 to 1,330 sq ft and the units are priced from RM397,000 or RM1,050 psf. Meanwhile, Tropicana Avalon will be introduced at a later date. 

Tropicana Corp and Powerchina International Group Ltd signed a memorandum of agreement for the development of Tropicana Paradise on Feb 11 this year. The first phase of Tropicana Paradise will also be launched on June 16, in conjunction with the Tropicana WindCity master plan.

The group’s managing director of marketing and sales Joanne Lee says, “To build a complete township, we must have a pull factor, an important catalyst to spur development, uplift the Tropicana community, draw local and international crowds for our hotels and residences and, more importantly, provide maximum convenience to our property owners. Tropicana Paradise is our catalyst and serves as the heart of Tropicana WindCity.” 

Tropicana Paradise will be developed in three phases. Phase 1, which covers 38 acres and is scheduled for completion by 2026 or 2027, will comprise two sub-phases — one being a 28-acre entertainment hub and the other, just under 10 acres, for future expansion. Phases 2 and 3 will be residential-centric but the details are still being planned.

Entertainment on several levels 

The proposal is for the entertainment hub at Tropicana Paradise to have 2.5 million sq ft of space, of which an estimated one million sq ft will be used for retail, and the remaining for a multi-level glass tower, a convention centre, gardens and dining facilities, an indoor water theme park, indoor dry theme park, indoor snow and ski park, aquarium, underwater restaurant, children play areas, music and entertainment spaces, a roller-skating park and rock climbing park. 

There will also be six towers of five-star hotels and branded residences in the entertainment hub. 

“We are actively looking for branded hotel and residence operators. We also welcome strategic partners to collaborate with us to build world-class residential developments,” says Joanne. 

According to her, the branded residences are estimated to cost more than RM2,000 psf, with built-ups of between 750 and 1,500 sq ft.

In addition to the internal spaces, there will be outdoor green areas that will include glamping facilities, an obstacle-and-rope course, canopy walks, jungle treks and hotel accommodation.

According to Han Ming and Joanne, Tropicana Paradise will have sustainable transportation and infrastructure such as a cable car system, an electric tram system and elevated skywalks. 

Joanne says the 8km elevated skywalk will be 22ft wide, where 10ft will be for pedestrians and the disabled and the remaining 12ft will be for bicycles and wheel usage (such as skateboards and scooters).

A bird’s-eye view of Tropicana Paradise (Photo by Tropicana Corp)

A cable car service will not only carry people to stations in the entertainment hub but also connect to the wider area of Phases 2 and 3 of Tropicana Paradise as well as Tropicana Grandhill.

The unique aspect of the entertainment hub is that it will have an aesthetically pleasing glass canopy structure, allowing in plenty of natural light. The sides of the building will open to the outdoors and allow fresh air to flow through. When the heavens open, rain-sensing curtains will be activated to prevent the interior from getting wet. 

Key components of the entertainment hub include a main atrium with a waterfall and jumbo LED screens. There are also plans for a three-storey-high glass walkway, parts of which will be transparent and other parts covered with LED screens.

The retail component is expected to do well, as retail offerings in Genting Highlands have been enjoying a 90% occupancy rate. Moreover, research has shown that not every visitor to Genting Highlands is there to gamble at the casino, but most come for its natural environment and cooler temperatures. Therefore, Joanne says, the retail component will complement the other components in the entertainment hub.

The indoor theme park will offer rides with a virtual reality component, so it will be a hybrid between a thrill ride and a VR experience. 

The water theme park, where water is warmed by solar means, will have an artificial beach. The aquarium will feature Malaysia’s first underwater restaurant.

Alongside the entertainment hub, there will be a convention centre with a capacity of about 10,000 people. According to Han Ming, the developer is working with consultants to cater for international meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE). In addition, a planned helipad will shorten travel time for VIPs considerably.

An estimated 12,000 parking bays will encourage the park-and-ride concept, and space for tour buses has also been provided for. 

As Tropicana Paradise’s entertainment hub is located on the main thoroughfare to the peak of Genting Highlands, it will have good visibility. Tropicana plans to develop a three-lane 

dual carriageway to and from Tropicana Paradise that will take cars through the LED Moongate, a lit entrance gateway. 

An artist’s impression of the main atrium (Photo by Tropicana Corp)

Filling a gap

Han Ming and Joanne believe Tropicana WindCity and Tropicana Paradise’s entertainment hub will offer visitors to Genting Highlands an ample choice of activities, as the company foresees a growth in the number of visitors, owing to high vaccination rates and the low severity of Covid-19 cases. 

Moreover, market research shows that there are two distinct categories of visitors to Genting Highlands. 

The first comprises families who are mainly day trippers who come to the highlands to enjoy the cool climate and facilities. The developer hopes the new hotels and branded residences, as well as the entertainment offerings, will entice them to stay longer. 

The other category comprises tour or team-building groups. As such, there will be outdoor activities to complement the mainstream entertainment options. 

Han Ming says, “There is no well-planned and full-fledged self-sustaining township in Genting Highlands. Soon, visitors and investors will have more reason to come to Genting Highlands and continue to enjoy its gaming and entertainment centre or pop by Tropicana WindCity. With the number of visitors expected to surpass 100,000 daily, Tropicana Paradise is positioned to serve the surplus in visitors as well as the huge non-gamer and family market.”

In addition to providing quality entertainment, Tropicana will do it sustainably. Han Ming and Joanne says the area’s fauna and flora will be preserved for those who enjoy outdoor activities. In addition, the infrastructure will promote walking or the use of electric vehicles to get around the entertainment hub and beyond; sustainable elements such as solar panels will also be in place.

Han Ming and Joanne are conservative in their views about how the reopening of the economy will affect Tropicana WindCity.

“We are cautiously optimistic about the economic rebound in 2022. The Malaysian property market is showing stronger signs of recovery, as almost all sectors of the economy have opened up and people have adjusted to the new normal of adhering to the SOPs. The high vaccination rates achieved by our government will improve overall confidence and boost domestic as well as international travel,” says Joanne.

As for the outlook for the Malaysian market, Han Ming says, “We continue to believe there is always pent-up demand for the right mixed-use developments in strategic locations. People are also looking for premium properties with quality finishing, and the rental yield will be promising, with Genting Highlands being a high-traffic destination.”

With cool temperatures of between 18°C and 25°C and an abundance of lush and verdant plant life, Tropicana Paradise Phase 1 and the larger Tropicana WindCity aim to fulfil people’s desire to live and play well, while doing it sustainably.