Over the last decade, global tourism saw intense growth and diversification, becoming one of the fastest growing industries in the world pre-COVID-19. The industry contributes to economic development, creation of employment opportunities and overall national economic growth. In Malaysia, the main sources of tourist hail from neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei and Vietnam as well as visitors from China, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom.
To further boost the industry, the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) has been actively promoting tourism activities in the country such as theme parks, recreational camps and convention centres. These projects are eligible to be considered for incentives under the Promotion of Investments Act (PIA) 1986, offering competitive incentive including Investment Tax Allowance or Pioneer Status, exemptions on import duty and sales tax on equipment and machinery, Industrial Building Allowance (IBA) as well as training grants. As of March 2020, MIDA has approved a total of 122 tourism projects including 24 integrated tourism projects, with total approved investments of RM 82.1 billion.
In this venture, Encore Melaka represents one of the most prestigious tourism projects approved. Collaborating with Impression Wonders Arts Development Co., Ltd. China, a pioneer in live performances with natural settings and innovative art production, Yong Tai Berhad under the leadership of Datuk Wira Boo Kuang Loon brought the project to life. The Encore Melaka Impression Series is directed by world-renowned producers: Wang ChaoGe, Zhang Yimou and Fan Yue. It is the very first Impression Series to be staged outside of China and the first in ASEAN. Melaka was handpicked by Wang ChaoGe from 150 contesting countries.
To bring the performance alive, the Encore Melaka theatre was built in both contemporary and avant-garde styles, comprising of shades of blue and white.
The theatre's exterior is bewilderingly similar with the Beijing National Stadium; designed to be an art piece and symbiosis with nature; the white aluminium exterior surface and the geometric cone reflects the ever-changing and colourful sky of Melaka. The geometric roof has concaved arcs made out of thousands of fish scale-like glass LED panels, which reflect its surrounding environment and changes the appearance of the theatre across the day. Designed for outdoor display, the LED technology has many advanced patented features such as leg bending, multi-layered water resistance and matte finishing.
The theatre's interior is also a sight to behold. It is equipped with cutting-edge technology, including multiple built-in hydraulics stages to raise and lower platforms built into the stage, a high-tech audio system, 3D mapping projection equipment and a spectacular 360 degrees rotating platform. The audience platform also allows the entire auditorium to rotate automatically during the show.
This exciting feature is the first of its kind in any Southeast Asian performing arts theatre. With 2007 seating facing the 240- meter-long stage, the audiences are rotated at a maximum speed of 5 meters per second, stable enough not to be noticed and quiet enough not to interfere with the performance.
Interestingly, the 42,000 square meter Encore Melaka theatre build-up is just a part of a more comprehensive proposed development plan known as Impression City Melaka. In coming years, Impression City Melaka will see the construction of hotels, residences, shopping and business centres, schools and wellness facilities.
The massive integrated tourism and cultural mixed development will be located on prime land, with development spanning over 138- acres in Kota Syahbandar that overlooks the Straits of Malacca.
Fully leveraging upon its location while upholding the heritage and culture of Melaka, the Impression Series at Encore Melaka presents an immersive visual and auditory experience for its audience. The 75 minutes epic play depicting six centuries of Melaka history has garnered rave reviews since it was unveiled in July 2018. Unlike any other cultural performance for tourists, it is a performance that reflects a society that embraces diversity and inclusiveness.
Its uniqueness is artistically expressed through the blend of the traditional and contemporary dance form and folk songs by 200 local performers. These performers hailed from all across Malaysia, with the youngest of the cast at 18 years old and the oldest being 70 years old. These performers are well trained based on Impression Series China’s performance standards, undergoing intensive training before their first show.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted the arts and culture industry in Malaysia, Encore Melaka has taken proactive steps to overcome the challenges. These include continuous engagements with potential vendors to the theatre tour, seeking out potential collaborations with art and cultural practitioners in Malaysia as well as strategically scheduling of their shows.
Furthermore, Encore Melaka has accelerated the implementation of its digital transformation. Among their largest undertaking is the pre-recording of its theatre tour for potential vendors who are unable to visit Encore Melaka physically. The recording takes them on a virtual stroll around the theatre, proposing ideas for their next project or collaboration. Encore Melaka is also working with live-stream event vendors to host ‘cloud weddings’. Project Cloud Wedding is the first of its kind live-stream wedding experience for couples looking to plan and organise their weddings with a unique virtual experience for their guests online. These innovative outreach undertakings have assisted Encore Melaka to improve its business strategy despite the current business climate.
Looking ahead, MIDA will continue to encourage more diversified tourism activities such as Encore Melaka in Malaysia. By attracting investors, both foreign and local, to create high valueadded tourism projects with international standards within the country, Malaysia will be well-positioned to draw more international tourists, boosting the overall economy.