CHINA / SOCIETY
Universal Beijing Resort officially opens, signaling China’s opening-up and vibrant consumer market
Published: Sep 20, 2021 01:24 PM
The Universal logo marks the entrance to Universal Studios in Beijing. (Photo:IC)

The Universal logo marks the entrance to Universal Studios in Beijing. (Photo:IC)


The much-anticipated Universal Beijing Resort officially opened for business on Monday after 19 days of trial operation. Excited tourists coming from all over the country to the theme park despite rainy weather in the capital city and strict epidemic prevention measures due to recent COVID-19 flare-ups in East China, however the enthusiasm and joy within the resort remained undiminished. 

The grand opening ceremony was held at 9:00 am Monday amid the rain, with on-site performances featuring many Universal classic movie characters. Cai Qi, Secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, Hu Heping, China's minister of culture and tourism, Chen Jining, mayor of Beijing, and Tom Williams, chairman and chief executive officer of Universal Parks & Resorts attended the opening ceremony, media reported.

The resort officially opened its gates to welcome its first day of tourists at around 11 am, who were seen running into the resort and shouting with great cheer in videos posted across online media platforms.

"Ever since the resort opened for trial operation, there were only two groups of people left in my friend circle - those who had been to Universal Studios and those who had not. Today I finally joined the former group," Stella Wang, a Shanghai-based fashion blogger, told the Global Times on Monday. She flew to Beijing on Sunday for the long-planned trip. 

Wang said the 19 day of trial operation has boosted her enthusiasm and expectation for the resort to giddy heights after hearing her friends sharing their experiences and seeing flooding pictures and videos from those who had been offered a sneak peek. 

Wang's feeling matches that of many visitors who have been waiting for a long time for the country's first Universal Studios, and also echoes Chinese netizens' anticipation for the resort's first official opening day on Chinese social platform Sina Weibo, where the topic received more than 300 million views as of press time.  

With the Citywalk and seven themed lands including Minions, Harry Potter and Kung Fu Panda, Universal Beijing Resort has attracted not only amusement park lovers but also Hollywood movie fans in China.

Many people were seen wearing Harry Potter themed outfits holding wands in front of the Hogwarts Castle; a visitor said she lined up for one hour to buy a popcorn bucket in the shape of a car from the movie Despicable Me; some fans were enthralled with  Kung Fu Panda Journey to the Dragon Warrior for its "beautiful and delicate" decoration with Chinese cultural elements that complimented the atmosphere of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

There are about 10,000 parking spots at the ground parking lots and a six-floor parking building for the resort and nearly one fourth of the spots have been taken by visitors in one hour after the park opened, according to a report from the Beijing News. 

Actors perform during a parade at the Universal Beijing Resort (UBR) in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 25, 2021.(Photo:Xinhua)

Actors perform during a parade at the Universal Beijing Resort (UBR) in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 25, 2021.(Photo:Xinhua)


 
Tailored set of prevention measures

Amid the COVID-19 flare-up in East China's Fujian Province, the resort, coordinating with local public health departments, rolled out a series of strict epidemic prevention measures, including limiting the number of visitors and requirement of scanning health code in different zones.

Global Times reporters learned during the trial operation that nearly every indoor facility and store requires health code scanning. There are staff in different areas constantly reminding visitors to wear masks, and hand sanitizer is provided at entrance of every amusement facility.

"I scanned my health code at least 20 times and used hand sanitizers at least 10 times," a visitor surnamed Qi told the Global Times. He said the measures are understandable given the huge number of visitors, especially since there are a lot of children and elders.

Social distancing however is not easy to respect among visitors as most of the entertainment programs require people to queue for a long time. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, one of the most popular sites in the Universal Beijing Resort, normally requires 100 minutes of queueing time.

The resort also prepares an official app to show queueing time of every program, so that visitors can arrange tour routes efficiently.

In addition, local authorities, including public security bureau of Beijing's Tongzhou District, have stepped up efforts to ensure the smooth opening of the resort.

The popularity enjoyed by the theme park, especially amid the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, has majorly benefited from China's excellent virus control efforts, Jiang Yiyi, deputy head of the School of Leisure Sports and Tourism under the Beijing Sport University, told the Global Times on Monday.

Except for a handful of medium to high risk areas in China, tourism in most of the provinces and regions had rebounded a lot, including cross-provincial travel, which paved the way for the opening of the resort, Jiang said, adding that the resort implementing strict prevention measures are key as well.

Visitors to the Universal Beijing Resort take photos of a light show at  Hogwarts Castle in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter zone on September 3 during its trial opening. The park started ticket pre-sales on Monday at midnight, with tickets for the official opening day on September 20 snapped up in half an hour. Photo: VCG

Visitors to the Universal Beijing Resort take photos of a light show at  Hogwarts Castle in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter zone on September 3 during its trial opening. The park started ticket pre-sales on Monday at midnight, with tickets for the official opening day on September 20 snapped up in half an hour. Photo: VCG


 
Great economic performance expected


As the fifth Universal studios theme park in the world and the third in Asia, Universal Beijing Resort opened after 20 years of planning and construction. Yang Lei, deputy head of Tongzhou District of Beijing, where the resort is located, told domestic news site yicai.com that with a total investment of 53 billion yuan ($8.2 billion), the resort is estimated to see an annual revenue exceeding 10 billion yuan.

Related accommodation and catering will generate more than 2 billion yuan of synergic economic effect, Yang said, noting that the construction of the resort's phase two and phase three are under planning, and characteristic towns and cultural and tourism industries can be developed around the resort.

After the official opening, the number of annual visitors to the resort is estimated to range from 10 to 12 million, media reports said, citing Yu Xuezhong, vice manager of the Beijing Tourism Group.

Universal studio resorts and Disneyland are world-classic theme parks, which needs to be supported by large-scale of consumer markets. There are now two Disneyland theme parks in China: one in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, relying on the market of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area; another one in Shanghai, relying on the Yangtze River Delta region. And the Universal Beijing Resort relies on the integrated Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region in northern part of China, Jiang introduced.

The three cities all have large-scale of residents and attract huge number of visitors every year. For instance, Beijing is home to 20 million residents, and is a destination for more than 200 million trips from both domestic and overseas annually prior to the pandemic, Jiang noted.

Based on analysis conducted by Qunar.com, the average spending by tourists visiting the resort is set to be about 3,300 yuan during the National Day holidays. And around 2,500 yuan during normal periods.

Situated in major areas in southern to northern parts of China, the three theme parks reveals a contour line for China's opening up to the outside world, and reflects China's rapid economic development and increasingly vibrant consumer market, experts said.


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