The Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie couple faced last Friday in Bangkok another couple of Thai actors, Ananda Everingham and Anne Thongprasom. Except that if the two Thai celebrities were present in flesh and blood, their American counterparts were however in wax. They are parts of the 70 wax characters which will be displayed from December 4 at Thailand’s latest attraction, Madame Tussauds Bangkok. “We are not a wax museum but rather an interactive experience where people can get up close and personal with celebrities from around the world,” explains Paul Williams, General Manager of Madame Tussauds Bangkok.
The new attraction is taking possession of top floors at Siam Discovery shopping mall, in the heart of Bangkok’s commercial district in Rachaprasong. “We found in Siam Piwat Ltd, the owner of Siam Discovery, the right partner for our newest Asian location. Bangkok filled up all the criteria to turn into a successful operation for Madame Tussauds. Siam Discovery appears as one of the best locations in the city as it fits perfectly our target in terms of location, demographic profile or surrounding,” he estimates. Merlin Entertainments Group, Madame Tussauds’ parent company, has invested some THB 500 million (US$ 16.4 million) while Siam Piwat has injected THB 300 million (US$ 9.8 million) into the renovation of its premises. Spaces located between the 6th and 8th floor of Siam Discovery will not only host Madame Tussauds but also an ice-skate ring and 20 restaurants. “I must say that our investment was greatly facilitated by our close cooperation with the Board of Investments and the Tourism Authority of Thailand. We did not face any real hurdle,” adds Mr. Williams.
Mr Williams acknowledges also that Thai authorities have been just flexible. “We did not face any problems with the Thai or foreign figures we selected to present. We will have a mix of 70% of international celebrities versus 30% being Thai. We even got the Royal endorsement from Thailand Royal family to create wax figures of RRH Prince Mahitala Thibed Adulyadej and HRH Princess Srinagarindra, the late parents of His Majesty the King,” tells Mr. Williams. However, due to local superstitions, other members of the Royal family will not be displayed, he confesses. Many other Thai celebrities will however join the attraction, from famed singers to politicians.
Mr Williams is rather bullish about the success of Madame Tussauds in Bangkok. “We expect for the first year some 500,000 visitors, mostly Thais. Our THB 700 price could seem rather high for locals but we will run a lot of promotions for locals and expatriates which will reduce effectively the cost. I would expect that locals might only end up paying on average half the published rate”. Paul Williams is also looking to create a package with other attractions in the Rachaprasong area. “ We explore opportunities for a One-Ticket pass which could include Madame Tussauds, the Jim Thompson House and Siam Ocean World,” he says.
Madame Tussauds Bangkok is the first step for Merlin Entertainments Group to assess its presence in Southeast Asia. “We explore many more options to add attractions in Thailand and in the rest of Southeast Asia. Another big investment is the opening of a Legoland Theme Park in Johor Bahru, near the border to Singapore. The Park will be operational by 2012. And we continue to study other locations around the region as well as in China, Japan and Korea.”