21 May 2018 Attractions Management Handbook
 

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Attractions Management Handbook - Chris Yoshii

Interview

Chris Yoshii


Helen Patenall asks Yoshii about his role as president of TEA’s Asia Pacific Board and the trends and challenges being faced by the ever-expanding Asian attractions industry

Helen Patenall, Attractions Management Handbook
Yoshii holds key roles in TEA and AECOM
International IPs are heading en masse to Asia. HK Disneyland credits the Frozen IP for helping it to break its merchandise sales record photo: © disney frozen

Tell us about your background
I grew up in Los Angeles and had the good fortune to visit Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm (when it was a farm), Universal Studios (when it was just a tour) and Magic Mountain. Going to theme parks was just something we did for birthdays, school events and when family visited. Looking back I can see how local theme parks can be such a great place for children and families to enjoy.

Tell us about your work at AECOM
I have two hats. I head up the Economics practice for the Asia region with very key leaders in China and South East Asia. I started up the practice 10 years ago and we are now one of the largest economic planning groups in Asia and, possibly, also in the world.

I also head up the Leisure Market Sector, which looks after all the business development activities for the full range of AECOM services for leisure and entertainment projects. This includes economic services, masterplanning, landscape, architecture, engineering, program management and cost management.

What are the challenges of working globally and in Asia?
Fortunately, there’s a huge focus of projects and investment in Asia’s leisure sector. However, these are complex projects and while there’s a lot of discussion, not many projects get built with the commitment to timeline and budget necessary for a good project. The challenge is about finding the right opportunity and the right partners.

What trends can you see in the attractions industry?
In Asia, there’s certainly a boom in new development. Last year, 25 new theme parks, water parks and indoor entertainment facilities opened in China alone. We have a hard time even tracking the volume. I see a lot of innovation, with new formats and scales being tried out, both indoor and outdoor.

International IP are heading en masse to Asia while local parks are simultaneously expanding their own brands and products. Unfortunately there will be failures along the way as some parks are poorly conceived and under funded.

You head up the TEA Asia chapter – what is this aiming to do and why?
The attractions industry is very new in Asia and there is very little understanding of how to pull off projects. New design companies and manufacturers are joining the market with little real experience or knowledge.
The attraction industry (as with the rest of the world) is highly fragmented. At TEA we are trying to educate the market as well as provide a platform for small and large companies to get to know each other and share experiences and hopefully do work together. We also like to celebrate great work, so as to encourage excellence.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Joe Brown, a legendary leader of landscape architecture practice EDAW, is reported to have said: “80 per cent of success is just showing up”.

For me this worked and I put a lot of time and effort to get out there and meet people, give speeches, listen to others, and visit (and pay attention to) great places. I am an introvert by nature so it’s not really natural for me to get up in front of a room full of people, but I do it anyway.

What are the best and worst business decisions you’ve made?
The best is moving to Asia when I had the opportunity 10 years ago. It was very clear then that Asia was rising and going to be growing for decades to come. Worst decision... Bank of America stock… need I say more?

What’s been your biggest challenge?
Finding and keeping great people to work with. In today’s market, staff hop from place to place. It’s a challenge recruiting, training and maintaining great people.

What might people be surprised to find out about you?
I had my first child when I was nearly 50 years old. My peers’ children are applying to college, while mine are applying to kindergarden. It’s better late than never!


Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2015 issue 1

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