24 Apr 2018 Attractions Management Handbook
 

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Attractions Management Handbook - Rising Star

Industry insights

Rising Star


Effective marketing campaigns, smart reinvestment and facility upgrades drive growth in Asia-Pacific, but it’s not all plain sailing. Chris Yoshi looks at the successes and the hurdles still to leap

Shanghai Disney Resort, Fantawild and Wizarding World at Universal Studios Japan remain key drivers of visitor attendance
Shanghai Disney Resort, Fantawild and Wizarding World at Universal Studios Japan remain key drivers of visitor attendance
Shanghai Disney Resort, Fantawild and Wizarding World at Universal Studios Japan remain key drivers of visitor attendance ©shutterstock/AKKHARAT JARUSILAWONG
Shanghai Disney Resort, Fantawild and Wizarding World at Universal Studios Japan remain key drivers of visitor attendance
Chris Yoshi – global director of economics at AECOM
JW Marriott Ocean Park is opening soon despite sharp visitation declines to the park
Chimelong top attended attraction photo: ©shutterstock/GuoZhongHua
The National Museum of China the top attended attractions photo: © Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images

For the Asia Region, 2016 was a year of contrasts with some parks marking record-breaking success and others experiencing sharp declines and losses.

The biggest event was the successful opening of Shanghai Disney Resort, which not only set the attendance record on a pro rata basis for a park in mainland China but also set the highest admission prices.

On the other hand, the major theme parks in Hong Kong (Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland), suffered sharp declines and recorded losses for the year. Inbetween there are many stories of success and challenges which are worth noting as the industry continues to grow and mature in Asia.

The outlook is for a boom in development and opening of new “theme parks”, waterparks and indoor entertainment centres. We estimate more than 100 projects are under development and due to open in the next five years. Most of these projects are in Mainland China, although there is increasing interest in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and India.

The big get bigger
By and large the theme park group operators had a strong year with an overall increase of 4.3 per cent, well ahead of the average. The Asia theme park group operators had strong year with substantial growth from the Asian companies OCT, Fantawild and Chimelong. These operators opened new locations as well as same park growth in attendance. Some parks offered lower priced nighttime tickets, general admission and pay-as-you-go (PAYG) tickets which resulted in higher attendance to older attractions. Nighttime tickets that include a major show and a few rides was a new trend in 2016. A number of Asia theme park group companies are also entering into management agreements with scenic areas and smaller attractions to extend their operations and business mix.

Songcheng Worldwide is a very successful attractions operator with a growing number of properties and attendance. However, as their focus is on large performance shows with small supporting areas, Songchen is not included in the 2016 TEA/AECOM Theme Index report. Similarly, standalone performance shows have also been excluded from all the group operator attendance estimates.

Mixed bag
The Asia theme park sector had mixed results. For some it was a standout year; others experienced attendance declines.

In Japan, Universal Studios Japan had another strong year with over 14 million in attendance as Harry Potter continues to attract visitors. Attendance at theme parks in the rest of Japan was largely flat.

China was generally a growth market with new parks opening and attendance rising at existing parks.

Shanghai Disney Resort had a strong first six months of operation in 2016, meeting and exceeding expectations. Shanghai Disney opened with six themed lands and a number of first-ever attractions. Overall the length of stay is a very high 9.5 hours, meaning visitors are arriving early and staying late to get the full Disney experience. The largest Sleeping Beauty castle is the backdrop for a dramatic evening spectacular show which is keeping people in the park.

Nevertheless, the biggest complaints are long lines (four-hour waits) for a few key popular attractions. The most popular ride is Soaring Over the Horizon. This ride film is so popular that it’s now been brought back to Disney’s Anaheim and Epcot parks in the USA.

Fantawild had several new parks, with its full year of operation in 2016 resulting in large increases in attendance. Fantawild also added new attractions and shifted to a flexible pricing system, including general admission tickets for some of their older parks which helped drive attendance growth.

OCT experienced growth in many of their parks due to new investments, more entertainment programming and lower priced nighttime admission tickets.

Both Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park experienced sharp visitation declines, largely as a result of reduced tourism from Mainland China as well as regional competition. Increased competition is a worrying issue – as more parks open in Mainland China, there’s less need for visitors to Hong Kong to include a visit to a theme park.

Hong Kong Disneyland recently approved a HK10.8bn (US$1.4bn, €1.2bn, £1.1bn) capital investment plan for 2018–2023, with new and renovated attractions and lands opening nearly every year. A new hotel at Ocean Park will also open soon, with a new waterpark and a second hotel under construction.

South Korea also had mixed results with Lotte World benefiting from higher foreign tourist arrivals. The recent political troubles between South Korea and China has resulted in a sharp drop in Mainland China arrivals and this will have a negative impact on South Korean parks in the coming year.

Riding the wave
Overall, waterparks performed very strongly in 2016 with 6.9 per cent overall growth. Chimelong retained its designation as the top attended waterpark worldwide with a solid attendance growth as a result of more entertainment programming and a longer operating season. Their nighttime summer programme has been met with great success, especially by the urban wealthy China millennial generation.

Waterparks in other cities for China generally experienced growth and flat performance despite many new smaller waterparks and waterplay areas opening up in the country: it’s estimated that more than 60 waterparks and waterplay areas are currently under construction.

In Korea, Caribbean Bay had a standout year with strong growth while other Korean waterparks were flat. In Southeast Asia, Sunway Lagoon in Kuala Lumpur introduced a Nickelodeon waterplay area which resulted in strong results. In Thailand there are reports of a flood of waterpark and waterplay areas opening up, creating intense pricing competition in the market.

The culture side
Museums in Asia overall had a good year, with a 3.1 per cent attendance growth. The National Museum of China in Beijing became the highest attendance museum in the world for the first time. The trend in Asia is to have more “free” entry museums, which is great for consumers but very challenging for museum operations.

Science museums continue to be a popular format, with travelling shows and temporary exhibits being very popular.

However, the museum industry also faces challenges. There’s a lack of essential components such as collections and exhibitions, as well as a shortage of trained curatorial, conservation and other museum professionals. Education programmes, adequate business planning and operating funds are also key areas.

Road ahead
In summary, the theme park industry in Asia is booming, and well planned and executed projects are meeting with critical and financial success.

However, more competition is raising the bar in terms of level of quality and the need for continual reinvestment.

We’re seeing more innovation in terms of product and format in Asia than anywhere else. This innovation has a cost and not all parks will be successful.

Creating a fantastic guest experience is still the most important factor in the success of both theme parks and waterparks in Asia.


Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2017 issue 1

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