Sunday, May 02 2004
New Sunday Times

Malaysian ‘tropical isle’ in Germany

Abdul Razak Ahmad in Berlin

A MALAYSIAN company is building an ambitious leisure project near here which will be the first “tropical island” built within the world’s largest free-standing dome.
Situated in Brand, 60km from here in eastern Germany, the Tropical Islands resort is being developed under a 75:25 joint venture between Tanjong plc and Au Leisure Investments Pte Ltd.
Scheduled for a soft opening on Oct 1, Tropical Islands will feature a beach and sea, a rainforest showcasing tropical trees and plants from all parts of the world, a recreational park, streams, waterfalls, a tropical flower garden, a water park and a lagoon.
The whole resort will be fully enclosed within the dome and its climate strictly controlled to match a tropical environment.
The dome was originally built to be used as a hangar. It was erected on a disused military airport built by the Soviet Union during the Cold War era. The airbase was at one point the biggest outside the USSR.
The Berlin dome hangar has a floor space of 6.6 hectares and measures 360 metres in length, 210 metres in width and 107 metres high. The hangar can accommodate 17 Boeing 747-400 aircraft or 20,000 people.
The completed hangar and related assets were acquired from the CargoLifter AG group on April 16 for 17.5 million euros (RM57.4 million).
Said Colin Au, president and chief executive officer of Tropical Islands: "The ‘software' involves creating an environment that will ‘transport' visitors to another region of the world." Au, who is based at the Tropical Islands site, pioneered the Star Cruises ocean-liner holiday business and is credited with coming up with the idea for the resort.
A symbolic ceremony was held on-site here yesterday to mark the project's progress. The hangar doors were opened for the last time and two airships were flown out.
The first batch of tropical trees was then transported into the dome for planting.
The temperature inside the hangar would be increased to 25 degrees Celsius.
Tropical Islands will be marketed as a lifestyle destination and will open 24 hours a day throughout the year, including winter when the bulk of the projected 2.5 million to three million annual visitors is expected.
"Tropical Islands is the first of its kind in the world, and once we make a success of it, we can replicate the project elsewhere," Tanjong plc group chief operating officer Tan Kong Han said.
No on-site accommodation facilities will be built in the hangar.
Tropical Islands will offer visitors art and craft demonstrations as well as the cuisine from various tropical countries plus daily entertainment shows. Malaysia will be marketed with culture, food and entertainment showcases.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"