Foreign theme-park firms eager to explore Chinese market, betting on post-pandemic recovery
Published: Nov 20, 2023 10:37 PM
The World of Frozen themed area at Disneyland Resort in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China, on October 13, 2023 Photo: VCG

The World of Frozen themed area at Disneyland Resort in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China, on October 13, 2023 Photo: VCG

Walt Disney Company, the US entertainment conglomerate, is expediting its business exploration in the Chinese market, fully tapping the market's huge potential in particular in the wake of the pandemic when the world's second largest economy is seeing its consumption and tourism vitality surge back to previous levels. 

Throngs of visitors, adorning clothes or decorations drawn from the movie Frozen, were seen pouring into the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort in a short video clip seen on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday, the first day the resort opened a new themed land inspired by the hit movie to the public.

The new land, being the resort's latest expansion to attract visitors, has increased the number of themed lands to eight.

The World of Frozen has successfully integrated Hong Kong's Lantau Island's natural landscape with the design of "North Mountain," providing guests with expansive views of both. Guests can also take "Frozen" themed rides, and immerse themselves in iconic music from the movies, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Since the animated feature film Frozen was released in 2013, it has become one of the most popular media franchises of Disney. The roles in the movie including Elsa and Anna have also won over huge numbers of fans from across the world.

According to Wikimili statistics, among the 50 most profitable intellectual properties (IPs) in the world in 2022, Frozen ranks 27th. As of the end of 2022, the Frozen IP has generated global box office and derivative revenue of $13.7 billion.

"Frozen is most popular among the youth especially the female group, plus, the ice and snow-related factors in the IP are generally attractive for people living in the south, thus the new land is expected to attract a boost of visitors," Jiang Yiyi, deputy head of the School of Leisure Sports and Tourism at Beijing Sport University, told the Global Times on Monday.

Disney CEO Robert Iger told the opening ceremony of the new land on Thursday that the global influence of Frozen is evidence of the storytelling expertise of Disney, which is a cornerstone for the firm, according to Xinhua.

Peter Gao, business development director for the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, said he hopes the new area will attract tourists from all over the world and those from the mainland to visit or even re-visit, which will create new opportunities for Hong Kong's tourism industry.

Tourism is a pillar industry for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), and has been battered during the pandemic. Now it's on a recovery trajectory since the start of the year.

Hong Kong is now ramping up efforts to not only recapture visitors from the world but also those in the mainland, as the latter could release more momentum.

The number of visitors to Hong Kong Disneyland Resort has recovered rapidly this year as the number of mainland tourists have grown rapidly since the May Day holidays, in particular during the summer holiday. In addition to tourists from the surrounding Greater Bay Area, there are also many tourists from other mainland cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

Huge potential

Apart from Disney, other world-renowned theme parks with strong IP are also actively making forays into the Chinese market with heavy investment, which sends a clear signal that foreign capital is confident that the world's second largest economy will remain a major tourism and entertainment market, expert said.

The market has enormous potential and solid foundations, McKinsey said in an analysis report last year, which suggested 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. And the market size could more than double from 40 billion yuan ($5.6 billion) in 2019, to over 90 billion yuan by the end of 2025.

Merlin Entertainments, one of the world's leading visitor attraction operators based in the UK, showcased details of the eagerly awaited Legoland Shanghai at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) earlier this month, revealing the first features of the family-focused international IP-based resort.

"China is an important growth market for us and look forward to expanding our presence here with this important next step in our growth strategy," said John Jakobsen, Chief Operating Officer of Legoland Resorts.

Earlier in September, Legoland Shanghai Resort announced the completion of piling and the start of its main construction, marking a new milestone for the project.

Taking up an area of 318,000 square meters, the Legoland Shanghai Resort is located in the southwestern outskirts of Shanghai's Jinshan district, and it is expected to open to the public in 2024.

Currently, there are three Legoland resorts under construction in China - the resort in Shanghai, Shenzhen Legoland Resort, and Legoland Sichuan Resort. The total investment of the three resorts reached 13.6 billion yuan, according to a report by

In Beijing, home of China's Universal Resort, the second phase of construction has been put in for planning approval. Building work will start before 2025, according to an urban construction plan released by local authorities. The first phase of the 160-hectare resort was opened in September 2021, and has become a popular tourist destination in the capital city.

"International brands are intensely investing in the country with heavy investment, which could well mirror their long-term strategy in investing in the economy that is steadily on the recovery path and highly resilient despite challenges and difficulties," Jiang said.