Grounding the SingaporeFlyer
When the concept of the Singapore Flyer was first announced, I wondered what sort of attraction one could see 160metres high above Marina Bay. Look south, and all we will see are various oceangoing-ships at anchor. We look east, and we just might be able to see planes leaving Changi Airport. Look West, and we'll see signs of Singapore's economic muscle in the container business, and the huge CO2 emitter that is our Petro-chemical plant called Jurong Island. Look north, and we'll get a nice view of the Skyscrapers, and possibly a view into the heart of Singapore. Apparently, according to a Wikipedia entry, a 'flight' on the Singapore flyer is expected to cost around S$27.50.
The London Eye, on the other hand, cost me £13 (S$40) back in 2003. What the flight gave one the opportunity to see was London, and all 800 years of its development into the capital of the United Kingdom. In a sense, it was boring - all around, you could see were lots of typical english housing roofs, stretching for as far as the eye can see, a testament to London's long history of civilization.
It was fun to see the various railway lines snaking into the huge train stations, and watching trains come and go. And to look at the various statements of each generation, in examples such as London's Gherkin, and the Millennium Dome. The flight was over too quickly, and I longed to watch the trains go all day from literally a 'bird's eye view' of London.
Insulted by many, and initially only given a 5 year planning approval, The LondonEye is now one of London's top attractions, and if you want a overview of London, a trip up the London Eye has no substitute. (except a Helicopter flight over London maybe.)
Unfortunately, for Singapore, our inability to really create complementary planning has enabled us to score an own goal for the SingaporeFlyer even before it boards its first passenger. That is the Marina Bay Sands. With the Singapore Government accepting the Las Vegas Sands bid, it seems, a perfect substitute for the SingaporeFlyer has shown itself.
The planning proposal indicates that "A 1-hectare Sky Park at 50th storey (above the three hotel towers ) offering panoramic views " is part of the offering from the Marina Bay Sands. Now, I could be wrong, and "Location, Location, Location" holds true that the real estate the Singapore flyer sits on will never be the same as the one Marina Bay Sands sits on, but looking at this particular picture, and imagining where the Singapore flyer will be, most economists and real estate professionals will be hard pressed to say that the experience offered by the SingaporeFlyer's has NO substitute.
According to Yawningbread, he says that the Sky Park will be a 'public park', which means no entrance fees(?!). I cannot conclude that it will be a public park from either STB, and the LasVegasSands website fails to load (on both IE and Firefox) , so the question remains open, but I do doubt that it will cost S$27.50 to enter the Sky Park, unless the operators are perfect collusionists with the SingaporeFlyer firm.
So, I guess, the most important questions for investors of the SingaporeFlyer now are:
- When will I ever recoup my multimillion Singapore Dollar investment?
- Is s$27.50 still viable given the presence of a near perfect substitute less than 1 kilometre away, and possibly with free entry?
- Why didn't I put in my contracts a no-compete that Singapore was not allowed to approve any development that could create a near-perfect substitute for the x-years?
- Is there any way of getting compensation for the loss of revenue a-la when Singtel was "forced" to give up its "telecommunications" monopoly early?
Way before the Marina Bay Sands was confirmed, back in 1999, I already felt that it would be difficult for people to want to take a trip up an oversized Ferris Wheel, when half of the view was just empty sea. Now, with a near-perfect substitute, I think the SingaporeFlyer will become a perfect business case study on business uncertainty and the failure of vision.
Anyone with investments related to the SingaporeFlyer best be calling his broker now or consulting his online brokerage web site?