China's theme park ride just keeps on going up
Minions ride a float during a parade in Universal Beijing Resort. CHINA DAILY
The fast-growing Chinese appetite for amusement parks has made the country a global player in the industry and large-scale development projects are set to continue well into the future, according to a recent report.
Although the United States holds the crown for having the most amusement parks in the world, China scrubs up well with almost 3,000 of them, 93 of which each cover an area of at least 40 hectares－equivalent to 40-plus soccer fields－or have an investment of at least 1.5 billion yuan ($237.32 million).
While American big names too, like Disney and Universal, dominate the public conscience when it comes to amusement parks, many in China are homegrown and operated and future opportunities abound.
China's OCT, Fantawild and Chimelong rank in the top 10 of the world's leading amusement park operators.
The report, which focuses on Chinese tourism development for 2021-22, was released by three affiliates of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences－the National Academy of Economic Strategy, the Tourism Research Centre and Social Sciences Academic Press－on Wednesday.
The speedy growth in large theme parks in China has outpaced other regions around the globe over the past five years, and the country ranks among the world's top three in terms of growth in theme park tourist numbers, according to the report.
Despite the operational challenges that amusement parks in China have faced because of the COVID-19 pandemic, efficient prevention and control measures, combined with encouraging economic incentive policies, have assured theme park operators and helped to unlock enormous potential, the report said.
For example, Universal Beijing Resort has received more than 2.1 million visits since its opening in September 2021. The resort has spurred the development of surrounding businesses, said Yang Lei, deputy head of Tongzhou district, where the resort is situated.
Government data show that the district's cultural, sports and entertainment sectors registered a more than threefold surge in combined business revenue in 2021 from a year earlier, and the local accommodation industry reported a year-on-year jump of nearly 123 percent in business revenue last year.
And the prospects are looking good for further growth.
Wu Jinmei, an author of the report, and who is also deputy director of the CASS Tourism Research Centre, forecast the momentum to continue in the next 10 to 20 years in China.
She cited Universal Beijing Resort as an example. The resort currently only covers half of its planned 4 square kilometers.
The success of projects such as Universal Beijing Resort can be used as a prototype to develop more Chinese-branded cultural tourism projects, Wu noted.
Wu said intellectual property is the key to the prospects of theme parks.
China has a rich reservoir of IP resources to tap into, from ancient myths and historical classics to modern cartoons and science fiction. Creating an internationally influential theme park that integrates Chinese stories and modern technologies requires leveraging various resources and use of tech, she said.
"Chinese theme park designers are exploring ways of launching scenic sites that have their own IP and feature Chinese culture, in a bid to form a complete IP chain and increase the influence of Chinese culture worldwide," she said.
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