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​Proposed building of 'Downtown South' resort draws mixed views

Published on: 24-Aug-2019

There are exciting things ahead for Pulau Brani after years of operating as a port terminal, with plans to build attractions such as theme parks on the island, after Brani Terminal is relocated to Tuas Port by 2027.

Revealing the plans at the National Day Rally on Sunday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also disclosed that a "Downtown South" resort is likely to be built on Pulau Brani.

This would add to Downtown East, the lifestyle hub in Pasir Ris which hosts, among other things, a resort, an amusement park, event spaces and shops, and is run by the National Trades Unions Congress (NTUC). 

But some have questioned if having such a resort on Pulau Brani would be the best use of the island. 

Straits Times reader Toh Cheng Seong, in his letter published on Wednesday in the Forum pages, asked why prime land is being dedicated to a "two-or three-star resort like Downtown South on a Pulau Brani site that can fetch five-and six-star land bid prices".

Dr Michael Chiam, 58, a senior lecturer for tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, says the Downtown South project is aimed at giving Singaporeans a "sense of ownership".

"I guess where (the Government is) coming from is that instead of giving everything to tourists, this would give locals a sense of belonging and to have a stake in this development," he says.

But he is also not in favour of building Downtown South on Pulau Brani, adding "this is prime land where we can build a little bit more for the public and tourists".

"Instead, we can find another area on the southern corridor rather than building it on Pulau Brani," he adds. 

In contrast, Dr Wong King-Yin, 38, a tourism studies lecturer at Nanyang Business School at Nanyang Technological University, says having an attraction like Downtown South could be a way of "diversifying offerings by positioning the use of the island at a lower tier".

"You could establish some five-or six-star luxury hotels there that could bring in profit, but you have to look at the demand side as well," says Dr Wong. "We know that Marina Bay Sands is going to build another tower, which is catered to wealthier customers...if we build so many luxury resorts or hotels at the same time, it could cannibalise the market."

As for future uses of Pulau Brani, she says the demographics and data would have to be re-examined in several years' time before deciding what to do with the area. 

She adds: "Right now, our biggest business sources are from China, Indonesia and India, but in five to six years' time, it could be Vietnam and Myanmar and their spending habits and preferences could be different." 

Dr Chiam suggests that Pulau Brani could serve as a focal point for water sports and food-and-beverage offerings.

"Sentosa already has many attractions, so we would not want to duplicate that," he says. 

"Currently, all the F&B outlets on Sentosa are scattered, but by bringing them all to Pulau Brani, that would provide a focal point and it would also be an ideal location to have activities like water sports."

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