After building the world’s longest water slide, Malaysia’s Escape theme park founder set to create local indoor theme parks, expand brand overseas

·4-min read
Malaysians can look forward to having a good time in Escape theme parks built in malls once the pandemic heals. ¬— Picture via Escape PJ
Malaysians can look forward to having a good time in Escape theme parks built in malls once the pandemic heals. ¬— Picture via Escape PJ

PETALING JAYA, Aug 2 — The theme parks may be closed due to Covid-19 movement restrictions but the team behind them are still hard at work

Case in point is the Escape theme park employees who are busy sprucing up the parks’ facilities to welcome visitors once they’re allowed to reopen amid Covid-19 pandemic.

Its founder Sim Choo Kheng, is also developing new games and new partnerships.

Escape also owns KidZania Kuala Lumpur, an indoor themed family edutainment park.

Sim believes that even with amusement parks being closed down, he couldn’t just sit and wait for the pandemic to be over to only be actively working on his new plans or revamping current facilities and equipment.

Asked how Escape was keeping afloat, Sim told Malay Mail that while Covid-19 has ravaged the theme park and attractions industry, it was able to weather through the lockdowns due to its ‘low-tech’ business model.

“You will not find any roller coasters or drop towers in our parks.

“Mechanical rides like roller coasters present in most theme parks require burdensome operation and high maintenance costs are underutilised amidst the pandemic.”

“In Escape, we were able to operate at a mere fraction as compared to the cost of many amusement parks worldwide.”

Building more indoor theme parks

Sim admitted that he was taken off guard when he was approached by many malls in Klang Valley this year to build indoor theme parks.

“I never expected that malls would be keen on Escape’s model and honestly, the partnerships forged were quite fast.

“Malaysians have experienced the toll of the pandemic and a vital part to maintain our well-being is to pursue recreational activities and to have a good time.

“What’s a better way to give a new lease of life to shopping malls by building indoor theme parks so that consumers can have fun and do their shopping errands in the future?”

He added that malls were also keen to have Escape’s style after its slide entered Guinness World Records in 2019 for its longest water slide.

The future of shopping malls, according to Sim, would not just be focused on retail or food and beverages but also a huge portion of the entertainment sector once lockdowns are lifted.

Malaysians can look forward to having a good time in Escape theme parks built in malls once the pandemic heals. — Picture via Escape PJ
Malaysians can look forward to having a good time in Escape theme parks built in malls once the pandemic heals. — Picture via Escape PJ

Expanding Escape overseas

The Penangite built Escape after seeing children play in a village in HoChin Minh City and that made him reflect on his childhood.

One that had fond memories of him climbing coconut trees, playing in streams and spinning tops.

Sim whose childhood was built on climbing coconut trees built Escape to relive his yesteryears. — Picture via Escape PJ
Sim whose childhood was built on climbing coconut trees built Escape to relive his yesteryears. — Picture via Escape PJ

And that led him to create Escape with rides and attractions to connect people to nature by overcoming their fear, handling problem solving activities and having strong team bonding.

However, he had his bitter share of disappointments when investors were initially not keen on his idea that a theme park without roller coasters would sell.

His perseverance and grit, however, paid off with the creation of two Escape theme parks in Penang and the recent PJ indoor park.

This year, his brainchild is expanding to China and Sri Lanka.

“China’s leisure industry has fully recovered from the pandemic and many of its theme parks are enjoying a 30per cent surge in visitor numbers as compared to in 2019.

“I estimate that the opportunity China has offered is at least double of what the rest of the world combined.

“We will be building a theme park that resembles Penang’s outdoor park and something similar to the Paradigm Mall’s indoor theme park.”

Sri Lanka, another tourist destination has a domestic market of 10 million but does not have any international theme park brands which is why Escape would be the first-of-its-kind.

As a proud Malaysian, Sim has always wanted to launch Escape as an international theme park brand by upholding to its highest standards.

“Why can’t a Malaysian brand go overseas?

“I’ve always wanted Escape to be Malaysian-born international theme park brand and am proud to bring our name overseas,” he said.

Currently, Escape’s projects in both countries are delayed due to the pandemic but the team are working on innovating its designs and rides.

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