Theme parks should dare to say no to “savage capital”!

In recent years, with the improvement of my country’s transportation infrastructure, the continuous improvement of residents’ income levels, and the continuous growth of leisure tourism market demand, theme parks have entered a stage of rapid development. In the past, there were only a few domestic theme park operators such as Overseas Chinese Town, Chimelong, and Fantawild. In recent years, Evergrande, Poly, Shimao, Kaisa and other real estate companies have entered this field one after another. Local governments have also created for theme parks. Lots of conveniences.

With the continuous introduction of relevant policies and opinions on the construction of theme parks by the state, theme parks have begun to embark on the road of standardization and rationalization. The key to a theme park is to give people the feeling of “theme” and tell a good story. Looking forward to more Chinese stories being unearthed. 

Theme parks need to accumulate “flesh and blood” cultural IP

Huge space layout overweight

A few days ago, the theme park Jinshawan International Paradise project built by Kaisa Group in Shenzhen has attracted the attention of the industry. In particular, former Disney executives joined Kaisa Group to take the helm of the Jinshawan International Paradise project, which has set off an upsurge of attention in the theme park industry.

Based on the “Shan Hai Jing” and Shenzhen’s local culture, Jinshawan International Paradise has implemented IP through the modes of “scenic entertainment”, “scenic performance” and “scenic service”, covering multi-functional formats such as amusement venues, immersive experience, and resort hotels. For Kaisa, which is setting foot in theme parks for the first time, it is not easy to land such a project, but Kaisa is willing to devote itself to theme park projects.

The relevant person in charge of Kaisa said that the cultural tourism sector is one of the highlights of Kaisa’s diversified sectors. At the moment when consumption is changing and upgrading, tourism has become one of the important directions of Kaisa’s transformation. Theme parks are products of compound development and have broad market prospects.

Compared with the “rookie” of Kaisa, Huaqiang Fantawild is considered a “senior” of theme parks. As early as 2007, Fantawild was the first to put forward the concept of “cultural technology”. In the subsequent development process, Huaqiang Fantawild has been constantly looking for the combination of technology and culture, committed to telling Chinese stories well with modern high-tech, and uniquely created a number of cultural and technological theme parks with Chinese cultural characteristics.

Theme parks should dare to say no to

According to Chen Huijun, the executive president of Huaqiang Fantawild, Huaqiang Fantawild has launched “Fantawild Happy World”, “Fantawild Dreamland” and “Fantawild Water Park” to create the first project of the “Beautiful China” trilogy “Fantawild Oriental God”. Painting” and “Fantawild ASEAN Painting” themed on ASEAN culture, with a total of more than 20 theme parks under five major brands.

In recent years, China’s theme parks have developed rapidly and investment is in the ascendant. According to the data, it is estimated that by 2020, 59 theme parks and 5 water parks will be completed and operated, with a total investment of 23.8 billion US dollars. From the perspective of the industry, such a large-scale investment stems from the company’s optimism about the prospects of China’s tourism consumption.

Lou Jiajun, a professor of tourism at the School of Business Administration of East China Normal University, said that China’s mass tourism and national leisure have risen in an all-round way. The development lays a solid market foundation.

It is reported that Disney, Merlin Entertainments, Universal Studios, Six Flags, etc. have increased their layout in the Chinese market through different forms, and more international theme park operators have or are planning to enter the domestic market. Take Wuhan as an example. At present, there are many theme parks in Wuhan, such as Happy Valley, Haichang Ocean Park, Evergrande Children’s World, and Madame Tussauds. Not long ago, another large-scale theme park, Sony Theme Park, announced its establishment in Wuhan.

In fact, whether it is the layout of traditional theme park operators or the influx of capital from real estate companies, they have seen huge room for development of theme parks.

The real estate in the name of cultural tourism?

In the process of theme park development, there is a phenomenon worthy of attention: In the past, there were only a few domestic theme park operators such as OCT, Chimelong, and Huaqiang Fantawild. In recent years, many companies including Wanda, Evergrande, and Poly Real estate companies have entered theme parks one after another. For example, Evergrande’s theme park plan – Fairy Tales and Myths Theme Park Evergrande Children’s World; Poly Real Estate took over the theme park project “Aviation World” after completing the acquisition of AVIC Real Estate. In addition, including Country Garden’s “Tianchen Dinosaur Theme Park”, Shimao’s “Shimao Carnival”, and Haier Real Estate’s “Haier Brothers Park”, many real estate companies have invested heavily in the theme park field.

Theme parks should dare to say no to

Wu Liyun, an associate researcher at the China Tourism Academy, said that new entrants to theme parks with real estate companies as the main body will increase their layout of theme parks, which is an important path for real estate companies to seek transformation and diversification. Real estate companies use theme parks to attract popularity and enhance the commercial value of real estate, which is also an important means to realize the value-added of residential real estate and commercial real estate.

“Other real estate companies that were originally non-cultural industries have also set foot in the theme park field for many reasons. Among them, theme parks, as a positive industry strongly supported by the state, will inevitably become one of the directions for many companies to explore and develop. This may be related to their future strategies and It is related to business layout.” Chen Huijun said.

Lou Jiajun believes that theme parks are popular because real estate companies can enjoy lower land costs and generous policy subsidies in obtaining such projects.

In the process, some real estate companies have turned theme parks into “enclosure movements.” Some industry experts said that in the past 10 years, real estate “next to” theme park chaos is not uncommon. In the early years, the real estate market was booming, and the capital recovery was fast; theme parks had a large investment and a long recovery period. From the perspective of economic feasibility and financial analysis, it is not advisable to simply invest in theme parks. Bundling real estate with theme parks became a common investment model at the time.

This model, known as “real estate enclosure in disguise”, has sparked a lot of controversy. Lin Huanjie, president of the China Theme Park Research Institute, said bluntly that it is undeniable that “park real estate” is an effective profit model for the development of theme parks. Theme parks are a powerful engine for regional development. With theme parks as the core, they can radiate surrounding areas, forming a gathering of business districts and residential communities such as hotels, restaurants, and entertainment. There are precedents of promoting real estate development through theme parks at home and abroad. If theme parks can truly become the engine of economic development, there will be no problem in co-development with real estate. Because theme parks do have problems such as large investment and long cost recovery cycle, and in the process of operation, they need to continuously update investment such as amusement projects. If a theme park project is simply constructed and operated, there will be greater risks. If the value of the area can be stimulated and local economic development promoted through the construction of theme parks, the model of “park real estate” cannot be completely negated.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach. This issue can be viewed from both sides. Not all real estate companies are ‘using the name of cultural tourism to practice real estate’. Without the feedback of real estate, it is difficult for a simple theme park to recover costs.” Lou Jiajun mentioned, The construction of theme parks requires a lot of money, and because of its cyclical problems, it will incur huge financial costs. It is understandable that real estate will subsidize the early operation of theme parks.

Chen Huijun mentioned that the smooth development of Huaqiang Fantawild’s theme park business has benefited from the continuous improvement of independent innovation capabilities and the accumulation of related intellectual property rights, forming a core competitiveness; benefiting from the cooperation with other related businesses such as special movies and animation products. Mutual support has opened up the upstream and downstream industrial chains; thanks to long-term patience and focus, it has the industry’s professionalism and leadership. Therefore, judging from the development experience of Huaqiang Fantawild, real estate feedback is not a necessary factor for the successful development of theme parks.

In addition to the debate on the development model of “park real estate”, behind the prosperity of theme parks, a series of problems caused by impulsive construction, homogenization, and excessive competition have gradually emerged. “The problems in domestic theme parks mainly include simple imitation, a small proportion of derivative products, and insufficient mining of secondary consumption.” Lou Jiajun said.

The way of survival is based on the national conditions

“In the industry, there is a saying: So far, there are 2,500-3,000 theme parks in China, of which 70 are lost, 20 are flat, 10 are profitable, and the accumulated funds are 300 billion yuan. But this set of figures is not accurate.” Lin Huanjie said frankly In the past, there was no accurate division of theme parks, amusement parks, water parks, zoos, botanical gardens, etc., as long as the projects that can allow tourists to play are called theme parks, even including future parks in squares, open parks or residential areas. The place where a few mechanical amusement equipment are placed on the construction land is also counted as a theme park. China’s theme parks have indeed taken many detours in the 30-year development process. In addition, the consumer behavior path of China’s theme parks is different from that of any country in Europe and the United States. It is not advisable to simply copy the operation mode of foreign theme parks. .

“Objectively speaking, many of the various theme parks emerging across the country are indeed losing money. And these theme parks that are losing money basically have one thing in common: no cultural connotation, no technical content, outdated projects, low service quality, unable to To meet the increasing experience needs of tourists.” Chen Huijun said.

Lou Jiajun believes that the main reason for the loss of domestic theme parks is the problem of profit models, and there are few other profit channels other than tickets. The strength of Disney is that it spends a lot of energy on developing cultural content, and then turns the content into derivative consumer products, audio-visual products, musicals and other products to make profits from multiple channels.

Talking about how theme parks can survive, Wu Liyun suggested that, in response to the needs of the consumer market, develop moderately advanced products and services, form the company’s own IP and business model, develop related products with theme park IP as the core, and extend to the upstream and downstream of the industrial chain , forming a theme park industry chain and ecosystem. At the same time, guide theme parks around the world to focus on product, service, and model innovation.

“Nowadays, developers of cultural tourism real estate like to use ‘best’ to advertise themselves, such as ‘I have the fastest roller coaster, I have the highest jumping machine, and the largest Ferris wheel’.” Former vice president of operations of Hong Kong Disneyland, Kaisa International Noble Franklin Coker, president of Paradise Group, believes that it is useless to focus only on hardware devices, because hardware cannot create memories for users and experience for users. “For example, many kinds of cameras and lenses are needed to make a movie, but they are just the carrier. What really matters is the actors. They have emotions, flesh and blood, and can vividly express the story and resonate with the audience.”

Lin Huanjie said that the popularity of theme parks will only increase in the next 10 years. Successful theme parks all have the ability to tell stories. Like Disney and Universal Studios, a story line has been told for decades, forming a popular IP known all over the world, and constantly innovating the content of its theme parks. China has thousands of years of traditional culture, and the combination of culture and tourism to create IP that meets the needs of Chinese national consumption is the key to turning losses into profits.

Chen Huijun believes that the prominent feature of the new generation of theme parks is the integration of cultural themes, high-tech, and interactive experience, which is also a feature of theme parks with international standards. To meet these requirements is not achieved overnight, it is a long-term accumulation process. It took more than ten years of innovation and development for Huaqiang Fantawild to create a series of cultural and technological theme parks that have reached the international leading level. The brand development history of Disney and Universal Studios is even longer. Therefore, the entry threshold of the theme park industry is actually very high. It is not that you can do what you want, and you can make money by doing it. Entering with the mentality of “joining in the fun” and “making quick money” naturally cannot develop long-term and healthy.

“If Universal Studios only uses Harry Potter and does not make any variables and secondary consumption, it is estimated that the money invested will not be recovered.” Noble added that every prop and building reveals the story behind the IP , “For example, as soon as you enter the Harry Potter venue, you want to buy something.” Therefore, Kaisa Sands Cove International Paradise will create some “connected” story scenes to create some good memories for consumers. “For example, we have a venue with the theme of ice and snow. Many people may never go to a place as cold as the Arctic. But in Jinsha Bay, you can experience the local environment and culture of the Arctic.”

Lou Jiajun suggested that Chinese theme park brands should achieve major breakthroughs in the IP of Chinese cultural elements, draw inspiration from traditional culture, and tell Chinese stories.

Tracing the source

Theme parks have a long history. The development of foreign theme parks is many years earlier than that of our country, and the development has been relatively mature. The theme park was formerly an amusement park. The source of the amusement park can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. At that time, many leisure gardens were built on the edge of some large cities in Europe. The amusement activities mainly included live performances, fireworks shows, horse riding, etc. Relevant literature shows that theme parks originated in the Netherlands and flourished in the United States. To commemorate the only son who died in the Second World War, a Madura family couple in the Netherlands built a “Lilliputian” that reduced more than 120 places of interest and modern buildings in the Netherlands at a ratio of 1:25, creating a It is the first of its kind in the world’s miniature scenic spots, and it is also the prototype of theme parks.

In July 1955, the completion of Disneyland in Los Angeles marked the birth of the world’s first theme park. The creator of the park, Mr. Walt Disney, applied the well-known animated characters and scenes to the theme construction of the park, adding sound, picture and other movie elements, so that tourists can easily enter the situation and experience the world beyond the amusement facilities. Emotional experience beyond the stimulus itself.

Theme parks should dare to say no to

Although the development of my country’s theme parks is relatively late, the development speed is very fast. The 1980s and 1990s belonged to the embryonic and exploratory stage of domestic theme parks. With the advancement of reform and opening up, people’s awareness of cultural consumption has been continuously enhanced, and cultural needs have continued to increase, and amusement parks have begun to rise. Areas such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou with relatively developed economies took the lead in setting off an upsurge in the construction of amusement parks, such as Longtan Lake Amusement Park in Beijing and Jinjiang Amusement Park in Shanghai. But at this time, the amusement park mainly attracted tourists to experience it by introducing amusement facilities such as Ferris wheel and roller coaster. In 1989, Shenzhen Splendid China Large Cultural Theme Park, the first domestic theme park jointly built by Shenzhen Overseas Chinese Town Co., Ltd. and Hong Kong China Travel International Investment Co., Ltd., opened the first of its kind in the true sense of the theme park in China, satisfying the needs of Hong Kong and Macao. The desire of tourists and foreign tourists to enter China and understand China, followed by the two theme parks of China Folk Culture Village and Window of the World, have also achieved excellent economic and social benefits. After that, various places followed suit one after another, and a large number of theme parks of various colors sprung up like mushrooms after rain.

Due to the lack of cultural connotation, pure reliance on amusement equipment and other reasons, coupled with the fact that many theme parks have been launched in a hurry without strict market research and meticulous scientific analysis, resulting in poor management and difficult return on investment. After that, the theme parks were facing a wave of closures, and a large number of theme parks began to close down, including the famous Oriental Paradise and Froebel Paradise. At this time, the industry began to reflect on how to establish a reasonable operating model, and China’s theme parks began to enter the second stage, which was mainly marked by the marriage of theme parks and real estate.

In the first 10 years of this century, Chimelong Group, Dalian Haichang Group, and Huaqiang Group successively invested in the construction of theme parks. Coupled with the continuous follow-up of the established enterprise Overseas Chinese Town Group, the development of theme parks is booming, and theme parks have entered a stage of rapid development and expansion. Theme parks at this stage of development began to pay attention to the exploration of cultural connotations and the design and construction of parks, and theme parks such as Chimelong Paradise, Changzhou China Dinosaur Park, Dalian Discovery Kingdom, and Fantawild Adventure were born. The theme park drives the surrounding hotels and real estate, and drives the development of local tourism economy.

With the continuous improvement of the high-speed rail network, the promotion of the rationalized holiday system, the upgrading of consumption structure and other factors, the national demand for theme parks has further increased. Foreign theme park giants are accelerating their expansion into China. Disney has opened in Shanghai, Universal Studios has settled in Tongzhou, Beijing, Six Flags America has chosen Haiyan, and Legoland has settled in Shanghai… Theme park operators at this stage of development are more committed to building their own Theme park brands pay more attention to the development of independent intellectual property rights, such as the “Fantawild” chain brand under the Huaqiang Group, and the “Happy Valley” series under the Overseas Chinese Town Group.

Stone from Other Hills

Unlimited creativity: Legoland theme park

Lego theme park has become one of the most popular theme parks in the world with its unique building block art. Walking into Legoland is like walking into a miniature world. The molecules that make up this world are plastic building blocks that are no bigger than a little finger. Copenhagen port, Amsterdam canal, Royal Danish Amalienborg Palace, Parthenon, Statue of Liberty, etc. These various and lifelike building block artworks are all made of plastic building blocks in a ratio of 1:20 to the real thing. The LEGO toy studio provides thousands of LEGO bricks, adults and children can show their skills, use their imagination and creativity, and create various models. The studio also has a go-kart track, where kids can race cars they’ve assembled to see who’s the best at their craft.

Distinct theme: Ferrari theme park

There are currently two Ferrari theme parks in the world, located in Abu Dhabi and Spain. The Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi is the first amusement park for Ferrari. It looks like an alien flying saucer when viewed from the air, with a huge Ferrari LOGO printed on the red roof. The Ferrari theme park in Spain also has the world’s first Ferrari themed hotel. The overall shape of the hotel is the front face of a Ferrari F1 racing car, the glass windows are shaped like air intake grilles, the red frame is the nose of the car, and there are racing simulators inside the hotel rooms.

The interior of the Ferrari theme park is filled with the roar of engines and the logo of Ferrari, and various details reflect that this is the world of Ferrari. Visitors can not only learn about the history of Ferrari, but also feel the tools used in racing and training, and learn how to change tires for real F1 cars. In the park, there is the largest Ferrari racing exhibition hall in the world except Maranello, where visitors can watch many classic and contemporary Ferrari racing series. In addition, you can also be trained to act as a logistics pit crew to change tires for real F1 cars.

Theme parks should dare to say no to “savage capital”

In 1989, Shenzhen Overseas Chinese Town “Splendid China” Park opened, and Chinese theme parks have flourished since then. In the past 30 years of development, the market scale has expanded rapidly, and the international influence of local theme park groups has gradually formed. According to a report jointly launched by TEA (Theme Entertainment Association) and AECOM (New York Stock Exchange), OCT Group, Chimelong Group Four local theme park groups, Huaqiang Fantawild Group and Songcheng Group, are among the top ten in the world. The report predicts that by 2020, the retail sales of theme parks in China will reach 12 billion US dollars, an increase of 367% compared with 2010, and will surpass the United States to become the global leader. Largest theme park market.

According to international experience, when the per capita GDP reaches US$10,000, the demand for cultural and entertainment consumption will increase explosively. In 2018, my country’s per capita GDP will be about US$9,780. In 2018, under the promotion of policies, the development of China’s theme parks has entered the fast lane. The construction of theme parks has sprung up, and a large amount of tourism and non-tourism capital has been injected, accelerating the layout of various cultural and tourism projects across the country. Taking OCT Group as an example, the total investment in cultural and tourism projects in the past two years is nearly one trillion yuan, and it has deployed 50 cities. In terms of investment scale, it can cost tens of billions of yuan, and even hundreds of billions of yuan. Among the theme parks currently in operation in my country, more than half of them have an investment of more than 1 billion yuan; most of the theme parks with an investment of more than 1 billion yuan have an investment of 1.1 billion to 3 billion yuan. The investment between Zhuhai Chimelong Ocean Kingdom and Shanghai Disneyland exceeds 5 billion yuan. It is predicted that from 2021 to 2025, the total investment of my country’s theme parks will be about 130 billion yuan, with an average investment of about 2.9 billion yuan per seat. It can be seen that the investment in Chinese theme parks is still high-fever.

my country’s theme park investment may face the following crises. One is the poor operating performance. Although the market cake is getting bigger and bigger, the revenue of domestic theme parks has not increased. The second is poor product quality. Most of the theme parks in China are mostly shallow and extensive development, relying too much on tickets, with a short product chain, supporting facilities that do not echo the IP of the park, and lack of special services. The income structure is single. 70% of domestic theme park income comes from tickets, while foreign theme park tickets account for an average of 30% and secondary consumption accounts for 70%. At the same time, there is a lack of deepening of cultural themes. Third, the development of local theme park brands is still immature, and they face strong challenges from the entry of international theme park brands such as Disney and Universal Studios.

The author believes that real estate kidnapping and lack of theme are the root causes of theme park investment failure. Domestic theme parks mainly rely on ticket revenue, relying on real estate income subsidies to feed back the theme park operations. The internal logic of its business model is: strive for cheap supporting land in the name of tourism, increase the value of supporting real estate through the flow of people and environmental transformation brought about by cultural tourism business, and return cultural tourism business through the return of supporting real estate development funds. The real estate development that matches the theme park is the source of profit. This model was feasible in the era of preferential policies for the real estate industry in the past. However, as the government insisted on the keynote that “houses are for living in, not for speculation”, real estate policy control methods have shifted from the traditional suppression of demand to increasing supply. At the end, the model of acquiring land in the name of tourism and supporting tourism with real estate has lost its basis for survival.

At the same time, many theme parks have insufficient innovation capabilities and insufficient grasp of cultural needs. The theme park itself is a project with large investment, high risk and long profit cycle. Wrong choice of theme or improper business strategy can easily lead to failure. my country’s theme parks lack respect for intellectual property rights, and plagiarism is commonplace, with gardens copying ancient buildings and mountain glass plank roads. Theme parks require operators to accurately grasp the cultural needs of tourists and mature market-oriented operations. Although my country’s cultural resources are relatively rich, high-quality and commercialized operations based on Chinese characteristic culture are still the key to many cultural and cultural industries including theme parks. Important problems faced by the theme of tourism industry. Pay attention to product updates. The “three-three system” that Disney has used for many years requires that 1/3 of the hardware equipment be eliminated every year, and 1/3 of the new concept projects be newly built. Due to the frequent updates of the projects, repeat customers constitute its main source of customers. In addition, innovative profit models are needed. The theme park is not the bigger the better, the more complete the better.

It is worth noting that since a large-scale theme park often constitutes an important growth point that promotes a region’s economic growth and residents’ consumption, its emergence is often directly related to local industrial policies. Some local governments put GDP first, ignore the foundation, actual demand and carrying capacity of the tourism market in the region, compare each other in the process of tourism investment promotion, and blindly and one-sidedly pursue “tall and high” projects, resulting in excessive investment in theme parks and resulting in serious losses.

The author suggests that the development of theme parks should not be able to speak to “barbaric capital”. Theme park developers need to calmly analyze market risks and future trends, change their business models, and focus on promoting the development of theme parks to be themed and refined.

First of all, theme parks should actively learn from the development experience of mature theme parks, integrate them into all aspects of theme park design, construction and operation, pay attention to the extension of the industrial chain and the improvement of product systems, summarize and output the development model of theme parks, and actively improve Management and service, optimize the income structure of theme parks, and avoid the risk of huge capital investment.

Secondly, enterprises should deeply explore the theme connotation of theme parks. The theme of a theme park must be attractive to tourists, and must be unique, difficult to imitate, and irreplaceable to competitors. Chinese theme park brands must achieve major breakthroughs in the IP of Chinese cultural elements, actively borrow excellent traditional Chinese cultural elements into the theme development and service provision of theme parks, and stick to the territory of Chinese traditional culture.

Again , focus on promoting the development of product refinement. In the era of impulsive investment, a large amount of non-tourism industry funds have entered the theme park industry on a large scale. Investors lack tourism industry management experience and the patience to operate the tourism industry for a long time, which can easily lead to failure. Theme parks should do a good job in market segmentation and precise positioning, dig deep into the potential of characteristic themes, and actively adapt to the trend of segmented and personalized tourism demand. The development of future theme parks should focus on potential needs such as elderly care, research, red, sports, etc., and develop additional products of theme parks in a differentiated manner to form corporate market differentiation and enhance brand competitiveness and international influence.

Finally, relevant departments should strengthen the approval and supervision of theme parks. The management department should actively formulate and improve the regulations on project planning, land use environmental impact assessment, and industry standards and regulations for the development of theme parks, use new technology to build a supervision platform, strengthen industry guidance and operation monitoring, correct bad behavior in the industry in a timely manner, and strictly control the theme park. The development of the park market is out of shape.

Theme parks are an important form of the integration of culture and tourism. They are part of meeting the needs of the people for a better life. They undertake the important mission of cultural supply, shaping local cultural brands, and building a culturally powerful country. After 30 years of development, my country’s theme parks have gradually become a reality. Indicators such as construction scale, number of tourists, and market demand all indicate that my country’s theme parks still have great potential for development. Large scale, homogeneous development, short life cycle and other risks and problems. Relying on themes, theme parks need cultural precipitation and refinement. Under the background of consumption transformation and high-quality development, the government and enterprises should cooperate with each other to form a combined fist to stimulate new vitality in my country’s theme park market and promote a healthy and sustainable market growth. quality development.

(Author: Zou Tongqian, Huang Xin and Lu Min; Author unit: Institute of Chinese Culture and Tourism Industry, Beijing International Studies University)

Content source: China Tourism News

Image source: Fantawild Overseas Chinese Town Shanghai Disneyland official