Singapore Opens S$1 Billion, 101-Hectare Park to Boost Tourism

Singapore opened its S$1 billion ($782 million) 101-hectare (250-acre) downtown park today, the city’s newest tourist attraction, as it seeks to boost visitor arrivals by as much as 10 percent this year.

Gardens by the Bay, a park filled with flora and fauna found in regions like South America and Africa, will attract as many as 5 million visitors a year, Chief Executive Tan Wee Kiat said in an interview. The botanical space, which includes six themed gardens and two climate-controlled conservatories, sits on reclaimed land across from the downtown casino resort.

“We could have easily used this for far more valuable commercial or residential developments, right in the middle of the new Singapore city,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a speech late yesterday. The city’s planners “believe a large and beautiful park was an important element of our new downtown. Just like Central Park in New York or Hyde Park in London, although not quite as big,” he said.

The project, first started about six years ago, is part of the island’s move to expand its tourism industry and reduce its reliance on exports. The government said in March it plans to spend a further S$905 million over the next five years boosting the city-state’s tourism sector. The gardens are funded by both the government and private contributions, with donations from companies including Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp Ltd.

Singapore has added new attractions in the past five years, including two casino-resorts that include a downtown convention center and a Universal Studios theme park in the Sentosa island resort.

The latest park includes more than 226,000 species of plants such as a 1,000-year-old olive tree flown in from Spain, as well as South Africa’s king sugar bush and Chile’s cabbage tree, where visitors walk through on 3-meter (9.8-foot) wide concrete paths in climate-controlled domes.

“This is the first tropically-focused garden” probably in the world, Tan said late yesterday. “We are competing for the interest of the young, who are more seduced by informational technology and we have to reconnect them to” nature.

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