Chongqing to build park

By Chen Yang Source:Global Times Published: 2012-12-17 0:40:04

Chongqing plans to invest 3.5 billion yuan ($560 million) to build a Disney-style theme park based on a Chinese cartoon, the local government announced over the weekend.

The government of Chongqing's Hechuan district signed a cooperation agreement with a local property company Saturday to develop the theme park project. The park, which will cover 500 hectares in the district in the northern part of Chongqing, is projected to open in 2016.

"We have learned from Disneyland's business model and will fill the theme park with animated characters and scenery from the Chinese-produced 3D cartoon Xiha Youji," Hu Yigang, producer of the cartoon, told the local Chongqing Business News Saturday. He also has future plans to build more such theme parks in 10 provinces across the country.

Amid the economic downturn in China, many local governments are trying to attract investment by approving theme park projects. Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu Province, plans to build a fairy-tale-themed amusement park in 2014. An 18-billion-yuan park featuring roller coasters and a 4D movie theater will be launched in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province.

There are also ongoing foreign-invested projects, such as Disneyland Park in Shanghai, a Hello Kitty theme park in Anji, Zhejiang Province and an Angry Birds theme park in Haining, Zhejiang Province.

Currently there are more than 2,500 theme parks in China, but experts say most of them are operating at a loss. "Theme park operators can't depend on earning back their investments through ticket sales alone," Zhao Huanyan, chief consultant at SAO Hotel Solution Consulting in Shanghai, told the Global Times Sunday. He noted that even Disney relies on selling derivatives for profits.

"Domestic theme parks are competing with each other, but they're very homogeneous, as developers mainly import amusement equipment from abroad," Dong Guanzhi, a tourism professor at Jinan University, told the Global Times Sunday.

Zhao said that instead of earning profits from theme park operation, many real estate developers aim to make money by using theme park approvals to build commercial property projects such as hotels and shopping complexes under the same name.

In August 2011, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's top economic planning agency, banned local governments from approving theme park plans larger than 20 hectares or with total investment of more than 500 million yuan.

"The NDRC's rules mainly focus on theme park projects that occupy large areas of farmland or depend largely on bank loans," Dong said. "But in practice, local governments can dodge the regulation by approving theme parks but calling them cultural industry parks, which are promoted in the country's 12th five-year plan (2011-15) for cultural industry."

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