Struggling Singapore Flyer 'needs overhaul': Experts

It is unlikely that the Flyer will be plucked from Singapore's skyline, but experts say its business model must be overhauled if it is to survive.

The company behind the 165m observation wheel, Singapore Flyer Pte Ltd, was placed under receivership on Tuesday for failing to meet financial obligations to a bank, its main lender.

Corporate recovery firm Ferrier Hodgson, appointed as receivers, is looking for new investors to manage the attraction. When asked about its future yesterday, Mr Tim Reid, a partner at Ferrier Hodgson, said: "It is a fantastic asset for our country and it will remain in operation."

Several worried tenants plan to meet Ferrier Hodgson this week to find out if their leases would survive under new management, and if action is being taken to make sure business does not drop over the next few months.

Mr Nicky Tan, 38, operations manager of foot reflexology spa Kenko, said: "We may also ask for lower rent if business is affected."

One tenant who is throwing in the towel is Chinatown Ann Chin Popiah. Owner Catherine Wee, 40, said that business dropped by about half in the past few months. "My lease ends early next year but I am definitely not going to extend it," she said.

The Flyer's biggest problem was a lack of local visitors, experts say. Ngee Ann Polytechnic senior lecturer in tourism Michael Chiam believes the ideal ticket price should be half the $33 that adults are currently charged.

"The management needs to look at the bigger picture," he said, adding that several tall buildings here also offer good bird's eye views of the city. He suggested organising events such as fashion shows to draw in crowds and getting another anchor tenant.

Mr M. Loganathan, a member of the NTUC Tourist Guide Chapter, pointed out that the steep discount given to travel agencies to include the Flyer in their tours eats into its profit margins. Bulk tickets are sold for about $16, a much higher discount than those given by other attractions here.

Mr Nick Foley, the managing director of branding consultancy Landor Associates Singapore, highlighted the fact that observation wheels are becoming more common around the world. "You cannot just click your fingers and say this is a wheel, get on it."

He suggested having different prices for sunset and sunrise rides, and to include tie-ups with Singapore Airlines, for instance, to market the experience.

When The Straits Times visited the $240 million Singapore Flyer during lunchtime yesterday, the ticket booth was empty, there was no queue at the entrance and the moving capsules were half empty.

Marketing executive Dylan Huang, 25, said he has been on the Flyer once and will not go again. "There's really nothing to see up there other than building after building."

limjess@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Chan Huan Jun