TRAVEL GAZETTE – China’s Wanda Group on Saturday opened a 40-billion-yuan (6.1 billion U.S. dollar) theme park in Nanchang, capital of eastern Jiangxi Province, as it seeks to cash in on people’s fast-growing appetite for leisure.
Wanda Cultural Tourism City (Wanda City) is the latest rival to Shanghai Disney, scheduled to open next month.
At the opening ceremony, Wanda’s chairman Wang Jianlin said Wanda hopes to have influence and a voice in the culture, tourism and entertainment industries and Nanchang’s Wanda City is the first step towards that goal.
The huge attraction includes a theme park, a shopping mall, restaurants and hotels.
Wang told the China Central Television a few days ago that Shanghai Disney relied too much on out-of-date intellectual property such as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, lacked anything new and had cost too much.
Wang said Wanda would make it impossible for Disney China venture to make profit in the next 10 to 20 years.
Wanda, a leading commercial real estate developer in China, has turned its investment toward the entertainment and tourism sectors. It has built three holiday resorts in Wuhan, at Changbai Mountain and in Xishuangbanna.
Another eight Wanda City projects are under construction and by 2020, 15 will have been built in China and another three overseas.
Wang said Wanda City Hefei will open in September, Harbin in 2017 and Qingdao, Guangzhou and Wuxi in 2018 and 2019.
“After Guangzhou and Wuxi open, I believe that people will then know which of the domestic and overseas brands is best,” said Wang.
According to Wanda, its tourism arm, the largest tourism company in the country, reported a revenue of 12.7 billion yuan last year. It has set a target of hosting 200 million visitors in 2020 to become the world’s biggest tourism company.
Wei Xiang, an associate professor with the National Academy of Economic Strategy under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that in the next five years, major players will vie for the market share of theme parks and cultural estate, and they will rely heavily on investment and R&D to win the cut-throat competition.
He Jianmin, a professor of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said that Chinese companies should learn from Disney in terms of industrial chain, development mode, high-standard construction and global market strategy.
Li Yuebo, an analyst with Industrial Securities, said Wanda and Disney, different in many aspects, can both win rather than lose in China’s booming tourism industry as they are based in different regions.
There is great potential to tap in theme park construction in China as more wealthy people are spending more on leisure. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions predicted that Chinese theme parks would receive 320 million visitors in 2025.
Tian Yong, a professor with Jiangxi Normal University, said that other Chinese theme park operators, like Fantawild, Happy Valley and Chimelong, have operated well.
Fantawild, which runs an animation subsidiary, has opened 18 theme parks in 13 second- and third-tier cities across China. Last year, they received more than 23 million visitors. Theme parks contributed to over 90 percent of its revenues last year.
“Fantawild was founded only 10 years ago, and the young company bases its business on traditional Chinese culture,” said Liu Daoqiang, president of Fantawild.
“We will continue to apply high-tech to tell China story and promote Chinese culture in the future,” said Liu.
“Domestic and foreign theme parks are something like Chinese and western food,” said Liu. “They compete and complement each other, and each may have its fans,” he said.