China is poised to overtake the US to become the number-one market in theme parks, reveals the WTM Global Trends Report 2016, in association with Euromonitor International, released today (Tuesday 8 November) at World Travel Market London.
The report says 59 theme parks are planned or being built in the country, as Chinese consumers have increasing amounts of disposable income.
International players Disney and Universal Studios Inc are focusing their attention on China’s wealthy coastal regions, while local developers are looking more to inland cities.
But China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, has locked horns with Disney, opening two Wanda City theme parks in 2016, with more in the pipeline.
He is the founder of China’s largest player, Dalian Wanda Group, which opened the US$3 billion Nanchang Wanda City in May, followed by Wanda City in Hefei in September – both with a greater Chinese cultural focus and ticket prices half those of Disney.
Euromonitor International predicts the value of theme park sales in China will rocket from US$4.6 billion in 2015 to nearly US$12 billion by 2020, with visitor numbers surpassing 330 million. In the US, theme park sales were US$8 billion in 2015, and are forecast to top US$9 billion by 2020.
The rise in China has been rapid – in 2013, the Chinese government lifted a ban on theme park approval, enabling parks under US$800 million to be approved at the provincial level, encouraging investors.
Lewa Happy World opened in Xian in 2015, and the US$5.5 billion Disneyland Shanghai opened in June 2016, catering to Chinese consumer tastes.
The first international theme park for Western China, Chongqing Riverside-Six Flags Theme Town, will open in 2019.
John Duffey, President and Chief Executive at Six Flags Entertainment Group, said: “The platform for growth in Chongqing is great and the perfect formula for our industry. There is a significant population, a growing middle class, growing disposable income and a limited theme park presence.”
Theme parks are proving popular in other Asian countries, such as 20th Century Fox World in Malaysia, and Lotte World in South Korea being a hit with Chinese visitors, said the WTM Global Trends Report.
Meanwhile, Wanda Group plans to expand overseas and take on international competitors.
The report said Wanda Group has taken the “bold step” of launching EuropaCity – a US$3 billion project incorporating a theme park and shopping mall near Paris.
The mix of shopping and attractions will be an attractive combination for a mix of nationalities and ages when it opens in 2021.
A further two overseas parks are planned by Wanda but locations have yet to be fixed.
Euromonitor International Head of Travel Caroline Bremner said: “The size and speed of these theme park developments is breathtaking.
“Annual theme park sales in China are rapidly catching up with the two leading markets: the US and Japan. China will soon overtake them to become the biggest market in the world by some margin.”
World Travel Market, Senior Director, Simon Press said: “Billions are being invested in these theme parks, catering for Chinese families and their rising disposable incomes – and Chinese developers are looking to the West for further opportunities.
“With China being the largest outbound market for tourists, existing theme park operators can take advantage of this trend, as the Dalian Wanda Group is expanding its empire outside of China.”
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