3-D museums: Next big thing for Asia tourism?

Visitors take a picture at the Alive Museum, located in the Suntec City shopping mall in Singapore.
Alive Museum Singapore

Winnie Chan waited in line for three hours to enter one of Singapore's latest attraction but it was worth itshe left with photos of herself riding Harry Potter's broomstick and being trapped in a cage with a giant baby.

Such is the draw of 3-D museums—where optical illusions bring two-dimensional paintings to life. Popularized in South Korea, industry players are launching 3-D museums across Asia, confident they'll become major regional attractions.

"It is a booming market with new openings in China and Thailand. Competition is building but it's healthy," Winston Lo, director of strategy and finance at HK 3-D museum told CNBC. The gallery opened in the busy district of Tsim Sha Tsui last month and aims to attract 400,000 visitors in a year's time.

In Singapore, visitor numbers exceeded expectations at the Trick Eye Museum and Alive Museum, both of which opened in June. The former estimates that it has chalked up over 100,000 arrivals in its first outlet outside South Korea. It plans to expand into Hong Kong by November.

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Snap happy

Industry players believe the experience of interacting with art pieces will get visitors to fork around $20 for a visit. The opportunity to take playful photos has a particular appeal for snap-happy Asians.

"Photo-taking is the main activity for Asian tourists, [so] 3-D museums are quite the perfect destination to take memorable photos in various fantasy scenarios," said Mandy Foo, marketing manager of Trick Eye Museum.

"Concept is the key appeal. It's fun, engaging and highly educationalthe recipe for huge success," said Patsy Ong-Hahl, managing director of Adval Brand Group, the licensee of Singapore's Alive Museum.

3-D museums are also positioned to benefit from social media, according to Winston Lo: "In Hong Kong, smartphones are a way of life so news spread quickly through social media which is how many people know about us. When their friends upload pictures they find hilarious, they want to come."

An artwork featuring the Singapore icon "Merlion" at the Trick Eye Museum's gallery in Singapore.
Trick Eye Museum Singapore


In Singapore, the new galleries feature original installations that are not found in South Korea, as well as localized pieces that include the iconic Singapore "Merlion." There are plans to refurbish the artwork as often as every quarter.

Singapore-based journalist Dion Tang, who has been to the Trick Eye Museum in South Korea as well as Singapore's Alive Museum, is keen to visit the Hong Kong gallery which has been ranked on TripAdvisor's local must-visit list.

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"The experience in Seoul was an eye opener! Furthermore, it's a good place for bonding with friends and family. Even my mum who is 60 year's old and my niece who is nearly 4 year's old enjoyed the visit," she said.

Travel agencies also see 3-D museums appearing on the wish-lists of Singapore-bound tourists.

"These museums are in-house activities and are thus not subjected to weather conditions. Especially nowadays with movies in 3-D and 4-D, this has attracted many people who want to experience illusion art," Alicia Seah, director of marketing communications at Dynasty Travel wrote in an email to CNBC.

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Besides tourists, locals like 27-year-old Miss Yeo also plan to visit one of the museums in Singapore following an enjoyable visit in South Korea.

"I had a really good time in Seoul. The art works will be different in Singapore so why not visit again?"

By CNBC's See Kit Tang