For much of the world, the last 18 months have represented challenging times, with financial crisis, natural disasters and social unrest grabbing the headlines. However, very quietly, Asia’s theme park industry continues to flourish. Chris Yoshii reports.
Total attendance at the Top 20 parks in Asia rose over 9% in 2011, surpassing the 100 million mark. This occurred despite a fall in attendance at Tokyo Disney Resort as a result of the Tohoku earthquake.
Hong Kong’s Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland, Lotte World in Seoul and Changzhou Dinosaur Park in China opened new attraction areas and saw massive market responses with attendance jumps of between 700,000 and 1.2 million per park. At the same time, these venues were able to lift ticket prices and increase in park spending, giving a triple bonus to revenue and profitability.
These successes clearly show the power of reinvestment, both to bring back local residents and attracting tourist in greater numbers. Growing middle class and domestic tourism is giving existing parks confidence to invest.
In addition to expansion, a number of new parks and attractions have appeared or will open soon in Singapore, South Korea and secondary and tertiary destinations within China.
In 2011, new attractions in China included the regional parks Fantawild in Qingda and World Joyland in Changzhou, Polar Ocean Worlds in Wuhan and Jinan, and the Hot Go Park and Happy Magic Water Cube waterparks in Fushan and Beijing.
In 2012/3, new major destination theme parks are expected including the latest Happy Valley park from OCT in Tianjin and the Chimelong International Ocean Resort in Zhuhai, close to Macau.
Singapore, never shy when it comes to promoting tourism, is now home to the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands and will soon welcome the Marine Life Park as an added attraction at Resorts World Sentosa. Meanwhile South Korea has realised its second opportunity to host a World’s Fair with Yeosu Expo 2012, now open.
The three Asian attractions recognised by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) at its Thea Awards ceremony earlier this year represent only a small sample of the excellent creative work being done by the attractions industry in this part of the world.
The House of Dancing Water at City of Dreams in Macau (pictured above) is a stunning, spectacular live show based on Chinese legends, while Crane Dance at Resorts World Sentosa (pictured below) is an animatronic love story of gigantic proportions. Then there’s Space Fantasy The Ride at Universal Studios Japan, a spinning rollercoaster that provides an immersive story about the Sun.
I believe that these stellar attractions embody an important new direction for themed entertainment in Asia:
•Show-oriented. The Asian market particularly appreciates show-based attractions with strong storylines and theatricality. These projects are often modern and vibrant interpretations of ancient stories that resonate with their intended audience.
•Culturally relevant. Although designed by an international cast, the stories and images are culturally relevant to the Asian market. Asians feel an emotional, historical and cultural connection to the stories, visuals and characters.
•Technically bold. Gadget-crazy Asians love to be thrilled with new attractions, brilliant images and the marriage of theatre and technology.
So what is the general outlook for themed entertainment in Asia? Fundamentally, the growing middle class and their aspirations for travel and experiencing new things will drive a large demand for leisure and cultural attractions. Currently we estimate some 600 million Chinese are able to afford a visit to a modestly priced themed attraction. Most are living in cities (in 2010, for the first time 50% of the Chinese population was classified as urban).
In the future, middle class growth will be in the smaller towns and countryside. Assuming income growth continues, as early as 2020 the number of Chinese middle class could reach over a billion – or three times the size of the US middle class population. Similar massive growth in middle class populations is emerging in India, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Countries/regions that have already achieved high standards of living such as Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau and Korea are benefiting from massive influxes of high spending tourism from China and other Asian countries.
Waiting for Disney
AECOM is currently tracking nearly 30 new theme park projects in China alone, representing some US$17 billion in capital investment. Shanghai Disneyland is the single largest project and remains on track for a 2015/2016 opening. This, Disney’s first park project in mainland China, is expected to dramatically alter the country’s themed entertainment landscape. In many ways it will raise the bar in terms of quality, pricing and guest experience.
The aformentioned Chimelong International Ocean Resort in Zhuhai, a US$1.2 billion marine-oriented theme park, hotel and resort from the Guangdong-based Chimelong Group, will open in stages starting later this year. Other major new theme park projects on the horizon, such as Monkey Kingdom near Beijing and Hello Kitty Park near Shanghai, both scheduled for a 2014 debut, are part of large scale, mixed-use complexes that include hotels, retail and often residential communities.
In Manila Bay, Philippines, construction is underway on four resort entertainment and casino complexes expected to compete with Macau and Singapore within the Asian gaming market. This mega-project, sponsored by the PAGCOR national gaming authority is being developed by four international and domestic consortia. Each will have a minimum of 800 hotel rooms. Themed entertainment facilities announced to date include indoor waterparks, themed shopping and live shows.
In Korea, various national and regional government agencies and developers are promoting plans for large scale destination resorts and entertainment projects, many of which are located near Incheon Airport outside Seoul.
This growing market is resulting in many opportunities for professional attraction operators, designers, fabricators, construction companies and equipment suppliers. Developers are increasingly seeking international expertise and technology as well as localised sources and implementation.
For its part, the TEA is ramping up its activities in Asia with an exploratory committee headed by Jeff Mayer. Key TEA events for 2012 will include a get-together at this month’s Asian Attractions Expo in Hong Kong and an event in Shanghai in September, updating the status of the Disneyland project.
In summary, the Asia market for themed entertainment is growing rapidly in volume and sophistication. Tapping into that growth and opportunity requires a dedicated effort and collaborative approach for all involved.
Chris Yoshii (Chris.Yoshii@aecom.com), pictured, is vice-president and global director of economics in Asia for AECOM and boasts over 25 years’ experience in economic consulting for leisure, real estate and infrastructure projects worldwide. Operating in over 100 countries, AECOM offers a wide range of architecture, engineering and development services.
This is a version of an article originally published by the Themed Entertainment Association in its 2012 Thea Awards programme, and reprinted here with permission. teaconnect.org