Launch - Regional Updates - January 2018



Villas at a Banyan Tree resort in Indonesia. (Credit: Banyan Tree Holdings)

Banyan Tree to Operate Eco-Friendly Singapore Resort

Singapore’s Mandai precinct—home to the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, and River Safari—will become an eco-friendly destination resort in 2023 with the construction of a Banyan Tree hotel. The resort may have up to 400 rooms, spread out over 4.6 hectares (about the size of nine American football fields).

Singapore’s Banyan Tree, which reports a triple bottom line and has an environmentally friendly reputation, has developed more than 40 hotels and resorts in 25 nations. Aside from a spa that it operates at Marina Bay Sands, this will be the company’s first footprint in its home country. 

“With Mandai Park Holdings’ mission and expertise in wildlife conservation and education, this partnership is in line with Banyan Tree’s ethos and experience in developing sustainable resorts that fit into the natural settings—to create an original and authentic accommodation experience like none other,” says Banyan Tree Executive Chairman Ho Kwon Ping.,


Hong Kong Disneyland Kicks Off 6-Year Expansion

Samuel Lau, managing director of Hong Kong Disneyland, and Howard Brown, general manager and regional executive of Walt Disney Imagineering Asia, joined Mickey Mouse to kick off a six-year HK$11 billion expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland. One of the highlights: an experience featuring Ant-Man, The Wasp, and S.H.I.E.L.D. This builds on the “Iron Man Experience,” which has quickly become the park’s most popular attraction since launching a year ago. Disney officials say the Hong Kong resort is becoming “Asia’s Marvel epicenter.”


Heavy Machinery Park Opens in New Zealand

Visitors to Dig This Invercargill, near the southernmost tip of New Zealand’s South Island, take control of heavy machinery and are challenged to a series of games—like picking up and dunking a basketball with a 15-ton Digger. Prices range from NZ$20 for a 10-minute mini-dig to nearly NZ$400 for a 2.5-hour experience with both a bulldozer and excavator. The New Zealand attraction is the world’s third Dig This, following similar parks in Las Vegas and Dallas. It also completes a motoring trifecta in Invercargill, alongside two classic vehicle museums, Bill Richardson Transport World and Classic Motorcycle Mecca.




The House that Lego Built 

For decades, little hands have built houses from Lego bricks. Now comes a life-size house made of Lego bricks at the birthplace of the toy.

Lego House launched in Billund, Denmark, birthplace of the iconic Lego brick and home to Legoland Billund Resort. Lego owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen says the new Lego House will “give our visitors the ultimate Lego experience.”

Architectural and design firms BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) and COWI brought Lego bricks to life on a grand scale, creating the 12,000-square-meter structure that resembles a Mayan temple from 21 overlapping white blocks. Inside, guests find four color-coded experience zones: red for creative skills, blue for cognitive skills, green for social skills, and yellow for emotional skills. Exhibits include a giant Lego “Tree of Creativity” and Lego masterpieces built by fans. 

“Play runs through the Lego Group’s DNA, and all activities in the house are related to our Lego philosophy that learning through play promotes innovation and creativity,” says Jesper Vilstrup, Lego House CEO. 

Four years in the making, Lego House also offers three restaurants (one starring robotic Mini Chefs), a Lego Store, a conference room, and a public square. Lego House aims to welcome 250,000 paying guests annually and is part of Billund’s goal to become the Capital for Children.


Dive into Aquatis

The importance of freshwater environments and the need for their protection have led to one of the biggest aquariums in the world. Aquatis, Europe’s largest freshwater aquarium-vivarium, opened in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Oct. 21, 2017. “Dedicated to aquatic ecosystems and living things, Aquatis belongs to a new generation of destinations where visitors can enjoy leisure activities, go on a voyage of discovery, and be immersed in their surroundings,” says developer and manager of the project, Bernard Russi, CEO of the BOAS Group.  

Architects Richter Dahl Rocha & Associates created the circular facade using 100,000 aluminum discs that shimmer like silver scales. Freshwater is the theme of the attraction, which takes visitors to five continents. Exhibits make clever use of scenography, mirrors, and digital projections, transporting guests from the Rhône Glacier that feeds Lake Geneva to African rivers, the Sunda Islands, and the Great Barrier Reef. 

Aquatis features more than 2 million liters of freshwater, 20 different ecosystems, 46 exhibits, 100 reptiles, and 10,000 fish. 

Aquatis took 15 years to come to fruition. The project, located at a park-and-ride and metro-line stop, also contains a hotel and conference center, two restaurants, and a souvenir shop.

latinamericaMUSEO DE LOS NINOS

Museo de los Niños Opens New Educational Exhibit

Costa Rica’s Museo de los Niños recently opened its newest exhibit, which is focused on the science and history of energy, electricity, and telecommunications. Composed of 23 modules, the 160-square-meter space leverages key learnings from children’s technology museums around the world and teaches visitors through hands-on games and experiments. Children can learn about the origin and production of energy, today’s electricity models based on renewable resources, Morse code, and the types of phones that eventually evolved into today’s mobile phones. The new exhibit is made possible by a partnership between the ICE Group and the Ayúdenos Para Ayudar Foundation (FAPA), which is run by the Costa Rican Center for Science and Culture, where Museo de los Niños is located.


‘Elmo Bikes’ Take Flight at Parque Plaza Sésamo 

Parque Plaza Sésamo, the theme park in Monterrey, Mexico, based on the Latin American production of “Sesame Street” called “Plaza Sésamo,” recently unveiled its newest attraction, “Elmo Bikes” from Zamperla. The interactive ride features six pods that look like hang gliders and are equipped with bike pedals. Up to two riders fit in each pod, and as soon as the ride begins, it’s up to the riders to pedal as fast as they can to elevate their pod. The more they pedal, the higher they will go, gaining a full view of the “Plaza Sésamo” park. 


Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk a Popular Filming Location, Including New ‘Transformers’ Movie

Last fall, a Hollywood movie crew from Paramount Pictures descended on Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in California to film scenes for an upcoming “Transformers” motion picture called “Bumblebee.” Actress, singer, and Academy Award nominee Hailee Steinfeld was on hand to play Charlie Watson, the movie’s lead character. The character works at the Boardwalk during the 1980s, when the movie is set. Around 200 people also came to the park to appear as extras in the film. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been featured in some 10 movies, including “The Lost Boys,” “Sudden Impact,” “Chasing Mavericks,” and “Dangerous Minds.”


Walt Disney World Offers Peek at Forthcoming NBA Experience

Through the Disney Parks Blog, Walt Disney World Resort provided the first glimpse of The NBA Experience attraction that will open in summer 2019 at Disney Springs. The new attraction will replace DisneyQuest, the interactive indoor gaming venue that closed July 2, 2017. Disney said The NBA Experience will be inspired by the modern architecture of NBA arenas around North America and will include interactive games and competitions, immersive experiences, a retail store, and a restaurant. 

Renderings provided in the blog post show a large venue with huge outdoor video screens displaying games, scores, and other sports information.

The NBA also launched a free augmented reality app for iPhones called “NBA AR” that allows fans to play a virtual pop-a-shot game from any place in the world. Using an iPhone camera and ARKit technology, the app captures the shooter’s surroundings, pins an authentic NBA backboard and court into that real-world setting, and then uses the accelerometer in the phone to allow the shooter to take shots at the hoop before a 30-second shot clock expires. Fans can share their shooting sessions with friends through iMessage, e-mail, or social media, or see where their session results place them on a global leaderboard.