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Theme parks rise to the challenge

Updated: Jan 11, 2022 By DU JUAN China Daily Print
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A shark and a ray attract visitors to Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. [Photo by Lu Pengru/For Cina Daily]

International attention

With increased demand for entertainment among Chinese, global players are eyeing this booming market.

Following the opening of Shanghai Disneyland in June 2016, and Universal Studios Beijing last year, another international giant-Merlin Entertainments, which is based in the United Kingdom and known for its Legoland parks-also entered the Chinese market.

Construction of the Legoland Shanghai resort in the southwest of the city started on Nov 17. The venue, which covers 318,000 square meters, is expected to open in 2024. Similar to Shanghai Disneyland and Universal Studios Beijing, the project has Chinese and overseas investors.

In addition to Shanghai, Legoland resorts are also reportedly scheduled to be built in Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and in Sichuan province, along with hotels to serve these venues.

It is easy to understand why global players and their local partners have huge confidence in the Chinese market.

Tickets for Universal Studios Beijing went on sale on Sept 14 and were quickly snapped up on the resort's app and at authorized tourist agencies.

According to online travel agency Ctrip, more than 120,000 tickets were sold by noon that day, while room rates for hotels within 5 km of the resort rose by 150 percent.

Since the venue opened, excited visitors have formed long lines as they wait to enter the park, regardless of the weather.

Lin Huanjie, head of the Institute for Theme Parks Studies in China, an industry think tank registered in Hong Kong, said at a forum in November that the rapid arrival of several international theme parks in China proves this market has huge potential.

According to the institute, the pandemic has halved the number of visits to theme parks outside China, while the number of visits to such venues in the country has continued to rise. From 2020 to last year, China surpassed the United States to become the nation with the highest number of visits to theme parks in the world.

Lin said, "It's only natural that these experienced global players will pose challenges to domestic theme parks. Some local venues with a bad location, unattractive features and immature operational experience will fall victim to this industry transformation."

He anticipates that as more international players arrive, only about 10 local theme parks will remain in the next five years.

Zhang Yi, an analyst at iiMedia Research, a consultancy based in Guangzhou, the Guangdong provincial capital, said international theme parks might affect visits to major domestic venues in the short term, such as the Happy Valley parks in Beijing and Shanghai. However, in the long run, international parks will benefit domestic venues by giving them a competitive edge.

He added that global players will provide incentives for the market, which is good for the development of the theme park industry in China as a whole.

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