Theme parks in the China market will tend to cluster around three regions of high customer densityin the next few years namely – in Shanghai Bund, Guangdong province and Hainan.
Theme parks have been staking out regions of high economic growth in China, forming mutually beneficial partnerships and creating a new competitive landscape in regional economies. Global theme park brands like Disney and Universal Studio are entering the China market in recent years local theme park brands are also on the rise, with the range expanding from long-standing independent parks such as Panyu Safari Park, The Window of the World, OCT, Happy Valley to branded parks under the banners of Chimelong, Wanda and Haichang Group.
Region 1: New Shanghai Bund - Pudong and Lingang districts
Positioning: Top tourist destination in East Asia and world-class hub of a tourism city
Key players: Haichang group, Walt Disney Company
The Shanghai municipal government is moving full steam ahead to achieve its goals of becoming a world famous tourism city with the configuration of “four districts, three belts and one island”. Haichang Polar Ocean Park and Shanghai Disney Resort are being positioned as MICE and theme park recreation areas within the “four districts”. The two theme parks that are located approximately 25 minutes apart by car are major Shanghai tourism development projects that will both target holidaymakers from East Asia.
Walt Disney Company and its partner Shanghai Shendi Group broke ground for the Shanghai Disney Resort in April 8, 2011. In April last year, after Disney’s constant revisions to construction scale, both parties jointly announced to rollout expansion plans for the park in order to add new attractions to support the rapid growth of China’s tourism market.
Construction is also underway on the Shanghai Haichang Polar Ocean Park that covers 279,000 hectare with 12 pavilions. The theme park in Shanghai’s Lingang Lake will showcase 500 marine and polar animals of 30 species and more than 40,000 types of fish, coral and jellyfish when its opens in two years.
State district chief for Pudong new district Mingbo Chen estimates that Haichang Polar Ocean Park will receive 6 million visitors a year and become the newest landmark for Lingang district. Besides the Ocean Park and Disney Resort, the largest astronomy and space theme park in China will also be constructed in the area to enhance the popularity of Lingang district as a tourism destination.
Region 2: Guangdong province – Hengqin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Qingyuan
Positioning: International tourism destination
Key players: Chimelong Group, Wanda Group, OCT Group
In Guangdong that has a high concentration of theme parks, the key players including local groups Chimelong Group, Shenzhen-based OCT Group and new comer Wanda Tourism Group have each carved out their own niche in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai-Hengqin and Qingyuan.
The up-and-coming Hengqin market is drawing attention for its proximity to Hong Kong and Macau as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge scheduled to be completed in 2016. The 24-hour open border policy and the development of a free trade zone will also bring it closer to the south China metroplitan areas.
Chimelong International Ocean Resort in Hengqin will raise Zhuhai’s profile as a tourism city and complement Hong Kong and Macau to form a “golden triangle” to woo some of the 70 million international annual visitors to Hong Kong.
The remarkable success of Hengqin Chimelong International Ocean Resort has prompted the Chimelong group to pour in investments and expand the project. The second phase of the project includes a 300-hectare large-scale zoo open for daytime visits and night safari. It will be the largest-scale all-day zoo in the world when completed.
Hengqin Chimelong International Ocean Polar World will also expand its amusement park, adding a 40,000sqm mega indoor amusement center, 50m-high Ferris wheel, and a 6,000-seat marine show area.
Region 3: China’s “special tourism zone”
Positioning: International visitors, winter escapes
Key players: Haichang, Fen Xiaogang Studios
Hainan as the third prong of the theme park regional triumvirate is still in the early stages of development. An expert has suggested that theme parks could be Hainan’s opportunity to break into the rank of the international tourist destination.
Just before the 2015 Boao Forum for Asia was held in Hainan, the island put forth its plans of developing into China’s special tourist zone and a paradise in eight aspects, including leisure, living environment and shopping. Observers estimate that Hainan’s upgraded development policy will give it fresh growth impetus this year.
The main theme park operators in Hainan include Feng Xiaogang Studios, which owns the Movie Themed Town Haikou and is planning a space theme park and an ocean park, and Haichang, which developed the Haichang-Sanya Sleepless Fantasy Recreation project.(Translation by David)