International theme parks eager to tap China market amid consumption recovery
Published: Mar 06, 2023 11:31 PM
LEGOLAND Shenzhen Resort breaks ground on August 26, 2021. Photo: VCG

LEGOLAND Shenzhen Resort breaks ground on August 26, 2021. Photo: VCG

From Legoland to Shanghai Disney Resort, international theme parks are accelerating their moves into China, eyeing the consumption potential of the world’s second-biggest market for theme parks, in another sign that the country is reviving after the pandemic.

Merlin Entertainments told the Global Times on Monday that it sees huge growth potential in China, which is a strategic market for the group. It said there has been good progress on the construction of the three Legoland parks in China and the country is making a rapid rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each of the Chinese parks will be around a third bigger than previous Legoland parks, including Legoland Shanghai which is set to be one of the largest Legoland Resorts in the world at approximately 31.8 hectares. Scheduled to be fully opened in 2025, the Shanghai resort will incorporate a fully themed hotel with 250 rooms.

Based on the classic novel Journey to the West and the legend of the Monkey King, Legoland Shanghai Resort will build a unique Monkie Kid zone that takes on references from traditional Chinese architectural style and China’s iconic natural landscape.

“Looking ahead, as China becomes more prosperous, we know that families are increasingly looking to spend their disposable income on fun-filled and memorable days out. As leaders in location-based entertainment, we are well positioned to respond to this growing demand,” Merlin Entertainments said.

Shanghai Disney Resort is also set to resume the traditional up-close Disney character interactions from Monday, after analyzing the recent trends and guidance, according to a notice issued on its official WeChat account on Monday.

“Guests are welcome to get closer and interact with our cherished Disney characters who look forward to opening their arms for hugs, handshakes as well as close-up photos with guests,” the statement said.

Shanghai Disney Resort is also presenting spring-themed performances, flower shows and souvenirs from March 1 to May 31, to welcome Chinese tourists.

The upbeat comments from international theme parks come as China’s tourism and travelling market is recovering, fuelled by the country's optimization of its COVID-19 approach.

“At the start of 2023, we are seeing growing demand from tourists and growing desire to travel with more people visiting the Universal Beijing Resort,” Joe Hoskin, executive vice president & general manager of Universal Beijing Resort, said at a 2023 media preview in January.

Universal Beijing Resort launched the first ever annual pass on January 12, enabling passholders to unlock a whole year of blockbuster fun and discover a wide range of seasonally themed activities.

China is now the second-largest market for theme parks globally and has continued to evolve and expand thanks to strong consumer enthusiasm, according to a report from McKinsey & Company.

The market has enormous potential. McKinsey analysis suggests that only 27 percent of China’s population has ever visited a theme park, less than half the average for developed markets, at 68 percent. The market size could more than double from 40 billion in 2019 to over 90 billion by the end of 2025, it said.