Asian Theme Park Boom Continues

Theme park and casino development is fueling the Asian construction boom that is attracting A-list talent from the West.

Over the next several years a number of parks aimed at the burgeoning middle class of China, South Korea and other mainland Asian countries will open and American design and architectural companies are getting involved.

Walt Disney Enterprises will open a new Disneyland on the outskirts of Shanghai in 2016, while nearby a park dedicated to Sanrio’s iconic cat, Hello Kitty, will open in 2014.

Though Sanrio is a Japanese company, the park has been designed by the Hettema Group of Pasadena.

Another California firm, Thinkwell Group, is doing the Monkey Kingdom Park, based on a famous Chinese folk story, near Beijing. It will also open in 2014.

Universal Studios will have two Asian theme parks by 2014. The one in Singapore is already opened as part of a $4.4 billion state-run casino resort complex. The other – the biggest Universal Studios theme park in the world – will be launched in Seoul three years hence.

Though Pricewaterhouse Coopers has projected annual theme park attendance in Asia to grow to 290 million by next year, theme parks have historically been a big risk.

Ninety percent fail, and Hong Kong Disneyland continues to struggle to make ends meet, and last week announced that it was cutting ticket prices by as much as 41 percent.

However, in most cases the failure can be blamed on lack of will; most local investors are reluctant to spend a lot of money.
The introduction of American designers indicates that some investors have realized they have to aim much higher.