If you've been to any of the ESCAPE theme parks in Penang or Petaling Jaya, you might notice that it's quite unique when it comes to the activities available. The newest park planned to be built in Cameron Highlands will be even more unique and fun, the developers assures.
Spanning across a 60-acre valley at an elevation of 220 metres, this will be the biggest ESCAPE park in Malaysia. The park will also be the first of its kind in the region to offer an outdoor ski attraction, set within an equatorial climate.
That is not to say you can start enjoying snow in Malaysia, but rather you will be "skiing" down a slope made of solid materials.
Close to nature
ESCAPE Cameron Highlands will be a nature-based adventure park built into the natural landscape of Cameron Highlands that adopts a low impact development approach in design and execution. The project will also proliferate Cameron Highlands’ natural beauty by presenting a renewed tourism boost for one of the country’s most popular hill resorts.
Speaking at the virtual ceremony, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Hajah Nancy Shukri said ESCAPE Cameron Highlands will literally and figuratively be a breath of fresh air, as far as the tourism industry is concerned.
"This novel destination stands to offer something truly unique: reconnecting us with nature.
“The future of global tourism will be about family fun in the form of wellness. I predict an exponential growth in demand for nature-based tourism worldwide. Malaysia will set itself apart from its regional neighbours by promoting clean, healthy, family-oriented tourism. We will capitalise on our abundant natural beauty heading towards this new direction," she said.
“ESCAPE Cameron Highlands will do so much more than revitalise Cameron Highlands as a major tourism hub. This timely development will kickstart the revival of Malaysia's domestic tourism industry, as a whole, which has been greatly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic since last year,” she added.
Phase one expected to be completed in 2023
Designed and built by the world-renowned Malaysia-born theme park developer Sim Leisure Group, Phase 1 of the project is estimated to take 15 - 18 months to complete with an initial investment of RM15 million. This investment is conservatively expected to exceed RM100 million over subsequent phases, spanning the next 10 years.
With its retro-eco concept and unique appeal, ESCAPE Cameron Highlands is expected to draw 200,000 visitors within its first year, and is expected to exceed a million visitors annually beyond its 5th year.
“Unlike other theme parks, ESCAPE adopts the strategy of development in multiple phases to continuously add the novelty factor by introducing new attractions every year. As such, the project will continuously morph to evolve into something bigger and better, while still retaining the flavour and ethos for which the ESCAPE brand is known.
"As the brand presents a new genre of fun in the industry, we do not rely on our past or even current successes, but constantly innovate, researching new ideas and developing new attractions, to cater to evolving consumer demands. This is key to ESCAPE’s evolution in chartering new levels of fun measured in our own metric of ‘smiles per hour’ while retaining our philosophy of rediscovering childhood play and reconnecting with the natural environment,” said Sim Choo Kheng, Founder of Sim Leisure Group and ESCAPE Theme Parks.
ESCAPE Cameron Highlands combines the essence of the brand’s proprietary ‘retro-eco’ genre of fun with Cameron Highlands’ natural topography and environment. The theme park will bring ESCAPE’s Gravityplay and Adventureplay games to new heights, capitalising on the site’s overall 220m height difference which was a prime selection factor of the project site.
In addition to ESCAPE’s signature downhill rides and adventure-based attractions, the park will showcase the world’s first outdoor ski facility in an equatorial setting, featuring a ski lift elevating visitors to the top and a 1.2km dry ski track, which will take skiers through scenic routes, including local themed villages.
With its temperate climate, ESCAPE Cameron Highlands will be themed into five different European villages at varying elevations - starting with the Iberian village at the bottom, followed by the British, Balkan and Nordic villages moving up, before finally peaking at the Alpine village at the top.
“The conception of these five themed villages leveraged on our expertise in designing and building themed facades across multiple theme parks around the world, including Europe. These themed villages will also feature accommodation and rental offerings, in addition to hosting traditional European pastimes and activities, which will complement the ‘fun factor’ of ESCAPE’s signature Gravityplay and Adventureplay attractions,” said Sim.
Sustainability and maintaining a low carbon footprint are at ESCAPE’s core. Unlike conventional amusement parks worldwide, ESCAPE Cameron Highlands will preserve the natural habitat, setting the trend for sustainable theme park development.
Targeting domestic and ASEAN tourists looking to escape the tropical heat to experience something truly different, ESCAPE Cameron Highlands will elevate the themed attraction industry in the country to new heights, allowing visitors to reminisce sweet memories of childhood play in a natural environment, envisioned by Sim himself. The idea for the ESCAPE brand of theme parks was conceived in 1998 when Sim relived his childhood during a visit to the Vietnamese Thu Duc Village, just outside Saigon.
“We were contracted to build and operate a theme park there. I saw how the village kids and adults played the same way I did growing up in the ‘kampung’ in Penang. I started recollecting my childhood moments and refining those ideas into a theme park of my childhood mischief - one that would foster self-directed free-range play, catering to an increasingly astute and demanding market of consumers and thrill-seekers.”
“The ESCAPE concept in a nutshell advocates the re-discovery of childhood and re-connection with nature. It reintroduces the benefits of play and enhancement of motor skills by introducing. the nostalgic activities of yesteryear in a contemporary but natural environment. We have been doing this with ESCAPE Penang and ESCAPE Petaling Jaya, but I can guarantee, it will be quite unlike anything in ESCAPE Cameron Highlands,” Sim adds.
A new attraction at the hill station
ESCAPE Cameron Highlands is built in collaboration with the site’s landowner, Hektar Muda Sdn. Bhd., led by Dato’ Jimmy Doh.
“We are truly pleased and looking forward to this venture with Sim Leisure Group. We wholeheartedly believe that ESCAPE Cameron Highlands is a key innovation in Malaysia’s leisure industry – a gamechanger that will set itself apart from other themed destinations in the country.
As the landowner for the site, and with substantial landbank still remaining around ESCAPE Cameron Highlands, we have a far-sighted vision for Cameron Highlands, involving securing more operational partners to assist us in this journey, while being anchored by ESCAPE Cameron Highlands,” said Doh.
All in all, the introduction of ESCAPE Cameron Highlands will quite literally and figuratively take the brand – and Malaysia’s leisure industry – to new heights. As such, the introduction of ESCAPE Cameron Highlands will lead the way in not only recovering the industry which has been badly hit in recent times, but also surpassing its former glory.
If you're wondering if this project is going to make the traffic to Cameron Higlands a nightmare, the developers assure that that won't be the case.
In fact, they are expecting the theme park to help with traffic.
According to Sim, traffic jams in Cameron is often caused by cars looking for a parking spot, stopping the traffic on the narrow roads of the highlands.
ESCAPE plans to have a large enough parking lot that this will not be an issue, and perhaps even help with the situation.
We're sure excited to see how this project unfolds!