Sentosa Development Corporation



Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) was established on 1 September 1972 as a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) to oversee the development, management and promotion of Sentosa island (previously known as Pulau Blakang Mati) into a tourist destination. Over the years, the SDC has transformed Sentosa into a premier leisure getaway. It has also expanded its function to oversee Sentosa Leisure Management, Sentosa Cove Private Limited, Sentosa Cove Resort Management, Sentosa Golf Club and Mount Faber Leisure Group. These subsidiaries and the SDC are jointly referred to as the Sentosa Leisure Group.1

Plans for Sentosa
In September 1967, Pulau Blakang Mati was returned to the Ministry of Interior and Defence of Singapore following the closure of British military bases in Singapore.2 Despite earlier plans to build an oil refinery on the island, Albert Winsemius, then chief economic advisor to Singapore, proposed developing the island into a holiday resort for tourists and locals instead.3 In January 1969, P. H. Meadows, who was then the chairman of the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (STPB), officially announced plans to transform Pulau Blakang Mati into a “tropical island resort and a South Sea Island paradise”.4 To reflect the island’s new image, the island was subsequently renamed “Sentosa”, meaning “Isle of Tranquility” in Malay, in 1970.5


In June 1971, an action committee was formed to chart a course of action for Sentosa’s development as a tourist destination.6 The committee was headed by G. E. Bogaars, then permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance (Economic Development), and comprised representatives from the Ministry of Finance, Urban Renewal Department, Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), Singapore Tourist Promotion Board, Attorney General’s Chambers, and the Bases Economic Conversion Department.7

The Singapore government approached an American firm, Dillingham Overseas Corporation, to do a feasibility study of the project.8 Completed in September 1970, the study confirmed that the project was viable and would increase tourist arrivals.9 A development plan referred to as the Dillingham Master Plan was drawn up to transform the island into an international standard vacation complex.10 The proposed attractions included a golf course, an open air theatre, a gun museum, a marine complex with a coralarium, an aquarium, and a “Pirates Cove”. They were designed not to compete with those on the main island of Singapore.11 The total development cost was estimated at S$68 million spread over a period of nine years. The private sector was expected to invest S$56 million with the projects expected to be completed by 1979.12

Sentosa Development Corporation Bill
On 7 March 1972, the Sentosa Development Corporation Bill was introduced in parliament by then Minister for Finance Hon Hui Sen.13 Under the guidance of the Economic Development Division of the Ministry of Finance, the SDC was charged with the control and administration of Sentosa island, along with development of services and amenities for tourists and the public.14 The initial stages of developing Sentosa had been handled by various government departments such as the JTC and the Urban Renewal Department. The SDC was thus formed to “reduce the burden shouldered” by these departments.15 To finance its operations, the SDC was given a government loan and empowered to invest its surplus funds in trustee securities. It was also granted exemption from stamp duty and income tax.16


The Sentosa Development Corporation Bill received its second reading on 23 March 1972 and it was passed by parliament on the same day.17 The bill became an act of parliament on 4 May that same year.18

Development of Sentosa
On 21 August 1972, the Sentosa Development Corporation Act came into effect with the corporation slated to begin operations on 1 September 1972.19 Ngiam Tong Dow, who was then the permanent secretary at the finance ministry, was appointed as the first chairman of the board.20 The board’s immediate task was to take over the implementation of the initial projects that had already started. It also had to evaluate, reassess and implement other projects proposed for Sentosa. They included the 18-hole Tanjong golf course;21 the 4-ha (0.04 sq km) Fort Siloso complex;22 Sentosa Coralarium;23 and the Maritime Museum that also housed a maritime library.24 A cable car service linking Mount Faber to Sentosa was also introduced to facilitate transport to the island. The service was then managed by Singapore Cable Car Pte Ltd, a company in which the SDC held a 50 percent stake.25 Under the direction of the SDC, Sentosa was made into a premier recreation gateway popular with tourists and Singaporeans alike. Most of these projects were completed by 1979.26 The SDC continued to develop Sentosa’s amenities in the 1980s with a monorail system introduced in 1982.27 Attractions such as the Musical Fountain and Fountain Gardens were also added during this period.28

The late 1990s, however, saw Sentosa losing its allure as its attractions were criticised for being uninteresting and dated, leading to a decline in visitor attendance.29 An advisory council, comprising foreign theme park experts, was commissioned by the government in 2000 to advise the SDC on charting a new course for the recreation island.30 This period coincided with a leadership transition. Alan Choe, SDC’s chairman since 1985, retired in March 2001 and was succeeded by his deputy, Phillip Ng. Choe had served with the SDC for more than 30 years and was responsible for developing Sentosa from a defunct British military base into Singapore’s most popular tourist attraction.31

A new direction for the SDC
In February 2002, Darrel Metzger was brought on board as the first non-Singaporean chief executive of the SDC.32 Apart from experience in overseeing the development of Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, Metzger also sought to inject a fun-loving work culture in-line with that of the leisure industry.33 Under his charge, the SDC underwent corporate restructuring, transferring the day-to-day operations of the island to a wholly-owned subsidiary – Sentosa Leisure Management Pte Ltd.34 A S$3-billion master plan was shortly unveiled to overhaul the island’s facilities over a 10-year period into a world-class resort destination. New attractions such as a revamped fountain show, an interactive theatre, a theme park and four new hotels were all part of the planned line-up.35 Visible change was effected as early as 2004, with Fort Siloso opening after a S$5-million facelift, making it a one-stop centre for an overview of Singapore’s World War II history.36


In August 2006, Palawan Beach re-opened after a S$20-million makeover, complete with a refreshing variety of food, retail and recreation options.37 Sentosa Express, the long awaited light rail service linking Sentosa to mainland Singapore, finally debuted in January 2007, replacing the previous monorail system and boosting transportation capacity to the island.38 In January 2010, the highly anticipated Resorts World Sentosa opened. As Singapore’s first Integrated Resort, it houses the first Universal Studios theme park in Southeast Asia and Singapore’s first casino.39 Described as a “game changer” for Sentosa and Singapore’s tourism landscape that would anchor Sentosa as “Asia’s favourite playground”, the SDC envisioned a more than doubling of visitor attendance to the island.40

In 2010, the SDC gained full ownership of Mount Faber Leisure Group after purchasing the remaining 50 percent of its shares.41 In 2011, Sentosa’s annual visitorship hit 19.1 million, up from 7.83 million visitors in 2010.42 In November 2012, the world’s largest oceanarium – Marine Life Park – opened featuring the highly anticipated S.E.A. Aquarium and Adventure Cove Waterpark.43


Apart from overseeing the development of Sentosa, the SDC also manages and maintains nine of Singapore’s Southern Islands, including Pulau Hantu and Kusu, St John’s, and Sisters’ islands.44 The SDC seeks to preserve the greenery and heritage of these islands,45 and has constructed basic amenities such as shelters, benches, bathroom facilities and barbecues pits to cater to visitors. These islands have been described as “peaceful and tranquil”, differing sharply from the hectic city life of mainland Singapore.46



Authors
Nurhidayahti Miharja, Lim Tin Seng & Aloysius Ho



References
1. Sentosa Development Corporation. (2014, July 4). About us. Retrieved from Sentosa Development Corporation website: http://www.sentosa.gov.sg/about-us/
2. 
Campbell, W. (1967, August 1). A new life planned for an old fortress. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Tan, K. C. (1982, August 31). Oral history interview with Albert Winsemius. [Transcript of cassette recording no. 000246/18/10]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/ 
4.
 A ‘paradise island’. (1969, January 23). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Republic of Singapore. Government Gazette Extraordinary. (1970, September 14) (G.N. 2873). Singapore: [s.n.], p. 3570. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN)
6. Sentosa Development Corporation. (1972). Annual report, 1972/1973. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957092 SDCAR-[AR])
7. Sentosa Development Corporation. (1972). Annual report, 1972/1973. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957092 SDCAR-[AR])
8. Sentosa Development Corporation. (1972). Annual report, 1972/1973. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957092 SDCAR-[AR])
9. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1972, March 23). Second Reading of the Sentosa Development Corporation Bill (Vol. 31). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 1125. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
10. Sentosa Development Corporation. (1972). Annual report, 1972/1973. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957092 SDCAR-[AR])
11. Sentosa pleasure island will have Pirates Cove. (1972, March 24). The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1972, March 23). Second Reading of the Sentosa Development Corporation Bill (Vol. 31). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 1125. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
13. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1972, March 7). First Reading of the Sentosa Development Corporation Bill (Vol. 31). Singapore: [s.n.], col. 484.(Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
14. Republic of Singapore. Government Gazette. Bills supplement. (1972, March 8). Sentosa Development Corporation Bill (B 12/1972). Singapore: [s.n.], p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 348.5957 SGGBS)
15. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1972, March 23). Second Reading of the Sentosa Development Corporation Bill (Vol. 31). Singapore: [s.n.] ), col. 1126. (Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN)
16. Republic of Singapore. Government gazette. Bills supplement. (1972, March 8). Sentosa Development Corporation Bill (B 12/1972). Singapore: [s.n.], p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 348.5957 SGGBS)
17. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary debates: Official report. (1972, March 23). Second Reading of the Sentosa Development Corporation Bill (Vol. 31). Singapore: Govt. Printer, col. 1128. Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN.
18. Republic of Singapore. Government gazette. Acts supplement. (1972, June 30). The Sentosa Development Corporation Act 1972 (Act 22 of 1972). Singapore: [s.n.], p. 329. (Call no.: SING 348.5957 SGGAS)
19. Republic of Singapore. Government gazette. Subsidiary legislation supplement. (1972, August 25). The Sentosa Development Corporation Act (Commencement) Notification 1972 (S 257/1972). Singapore: [s.n.], p. 575. (Call no.: RCLOS 348.5957 SGGSLS)
20. Sentosa Chief. (1972, December 25). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Frida, E. (1973, December 27). Picturesque, exciting. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperS.
22. Siloso opens its doors. (1975, February 8). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. 60ft high corals at Sentosa. (1974, August 3). The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Campbell, W. (1974, September 15). Of matters maritime. The Straits Times, p. 10; Marine library at Sentosa soon. (1975, January 6). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Writer, S. (1974, February 15). First major project in Sentosa resort completed. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Sentosa Development Corporation. (2014, July 4). Milestones. Retrieved from Sentosa Development Corporation website: http://www.sentosa.gov.sg/about-us/milestones-2/
26. 5 major tourist projects for Sentosa. (1973, November 20). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Sentosa date. (1982, December 31) The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Musical fountain opens. (1982, June 10) The Straits Times, p. 7; Chua, A. (1988, July 3) Sentosa opts for Fountain Gardens. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NespaperSG.
29. Some Sentosa attractions 'boring'.(1999, March 22). The Straits Times, p. 30; Boo, K. (2001, November 23). Is Sentosa losing its charm? The Straits Times, p. 1; Boo, K. (2000, August 2). Sentosa should be overhauled, say experts.The Straits Times, p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Boo, K. (2000, August 2). Sentosa should be overhauled, say experts.The Straits Times, p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Sentosa chief steps down. (2001, March 2). The Straits Times, p. H11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Tan, K. (2002, May 11). A storm called Darrel. Today, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Tan, K. (2002, May 11). A storm called Darrel. Today, p. 5; Disney man for Sentosa. (2002, February 8). Today, p. 2; Darrell Metzger named new Sentosa CEO. (2002, February 8). The Business Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Sentosa Development Corporation. (2014, July 4). About us. Retrieved from Sentosa Development Corporation website: http://www.sentosa.gov.sg/about-us/
35.
Boo, K. (2002, June 22). $3b overhaul for Sentosa. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from Newspaper SG.
36. New look for Fort Siloso. (2004, December 1) The Straits Times, p.10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Sentosa Development Corporation. (2010). Milestones: Sentosa Development Corporation. Retrieved from Sentosa Development Corporation website: http://www.sentosa.gov.sg/about-us/milestones-2/
37. Sentosa’s Palawan Beach smiles after a $20m facelift. (2006, August 11). Today, p. 50. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Rajan, T. (2006, December 5). Sentosa Express set to roll from VivoCity. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Sentosa Development Corporation. (2010). Think Sentosa, 09/10 Annual report, p. 17. Retrieved from Sentosa Development Corporation website:http://www.sentosa.gov.sg/sentosaAR09_10/pdf/Sentosa-AR-2010.pdf
40. Sentosa Development Corporation. (2010). Think Sentosa, 09/10 Annual report, pp. 1, 11. Retrieved from Sentosa Development Corporation website:http://www.sentosa.gov.sg/sentosaAR09_10/pdf/Sentosa-AR-2010.pdf
41. Sentosa Development Corporation. (2010). Think Sentosa, 09/10 Annual report, p. 13. Retrieved from Sentosa Development Corporation website:http://www.sentosa.gov.sg/sentosaAR09_10/pdf/Sentosa-AR-2010.pdf
42. Sentosa Development Corporation. (2011). Relive, 10/11 Annual report, p. 32. Retrieved from Sentosa Development Corporation website: http://www.sentosa.gov.sg/sentosaAR10_11/pdf/Sentosa_2011_AR-Annual_Report.pdf; Sentosa Development Corporation. (2010). Think Sentosa, 09/10 Annual report, p. 1. Retrieved from Sentosa Development Corporation website:http://www.sentosa.gov.sg/sentosaAR09_10/pdf/Sentosa-AR-2010.pdf
43. Sentosa Development Corporation. (2013). Changing the way you play, 12/13 Annual report, p. 26. Retrieved from Sentosa Development Corporation website: http://www.sentosa.gov.sg/sentosaAR12_13/downloads/Sentosa_AR_2013_PDF_version.pdf
44. Sentosa Development Corporation. (2010). About Us: Sentosa Development Corporation. Retrieved from Sentosa Development Corporation website: http://www.sentosa.gov.sg/about-us/
45. Sentosa Development Corporation. (2010). About Us: Sentosa Development Corporation. Retrieved from Sentosa Development Corporation website: http://www.sentosa.gov.sg/about-us/
46. Teo, G. (2002, June 21). Southern exposure. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 10 July 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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