It has been more than a year since the Singapore Flyer was placed under receivership. But tenants may soon have some clarity about their future; Channel NewsAsia understands that a new owner of the giant observation wheel may be announced soon.
News reports say that local tourism investor and operator Straco Corporation could acquire the Flyer soon. The company suspended trading of its shares on Wednesday (Aug 27).
Many tenants say business has been hit by flagging tourist numbers, but some are holding on to hope that the situation will improve, especially with the possibility of a new buyer coming on board.
Some, like SSP Singapore, which runs popular outlets Popeyes and O’Learys Sports Bar and Grill, have had to cut manpower and adjust their business models. Popeyes has reduced its staff from 13 to just five, and SSP Singapore says sales there have dropped by “more than 50 per cent” since mid-2011. Meanwhile, O’Learys Sports Bar & Grill has tweaked its business model – it now seeks to attract corporate clients to hold events.
Said Mr Parmod Kumar Verma, regional general manager of SSP Singapore: “We were the anchor tenants when we moved here, and business was better then because it was a new location, so there was a lot of hype about Singapore Flyer. We used to get a lot of people here. Our core business is at the airport and we are used to getting good business. (Moving here) was testing the waters, and I would say it has not quite been up to expectations.”
The Flyer’s changes in management and lack of support for tenants also contributed to this, he added.
Other operators like the Singapore Food Trail are turning to promotions and offers to boost their business. Non-F&B retailers are also struggling. At its peak, motion simulation ride XD Theater thrilled about 80 customers every day, but the numbers have slowed.
Said XD Theater manager Bernard Rio: “Initially, when we started in 2012, business was quite good. But over the last year, business has dropped a little bit, I think maybe like 10 to 15 per cent. There are fewer tourists coming here.”
However, the doom and gloom is not universal. Some outlets say they have been unaffected by the Flyer’s downturn in fortunes, while others have even seen improvements in their business, thanks to tie-ups with travel agents.
Mr Bhandari Rajender Kumar, managing director of Singapore Hospitality Group, for example, says the group’s Royal Palm restaurant has seen a 30 per cent increase in business every year since it opened, due to its good relationships with travel agents.
But this may not last, as travel agents say the Flyer is facing stiff competition from newer attractions in Singapore. More tourists are choosing to go the “free and easy” route instead of joining group tours, and showing a preference for attractions that are more centrally located and that offer a more diverse range of activities. There are also more options for those who want to view the Singapore skyline.