China puts brake on theme park craze

Concerned about local debt build-up and tacky, low-grade developments, China’s powerful central planning body this week warned theme-park builders to curb their enthusiasm.

Developers should strengthen supervision to "prevent the formation of local debt risks, social risks and financial risks," the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said in a statement on its website on Monday, Reuters reports.

"In the development of theme parks we’ve seen unclear concepts, blind construction, imitations and plagiarism, low-standard duplication and other issues," the NDRC said, adding in some areas "local debt risks" were emerging.

The NDRC said entertainment firms should involve government more in theme park planning and be more careful with big developments involving investment of more than 1.5 billion yuan ($237m).

Theme parks are very popular in China, where hundreds have sprung up around the country developed by foreign firms such as Disney but also Chinese firms such as Dalian Wanda Group, Sunac China Holdings, and others.

Attraction sales grew 27% last year to 39.5 billion yuan ($6.3bn), according to consultancy Mintel, which predicts the market will more than double in size to 89.2 billion yuan by 2022.

The NDRC also said property developments around theme parks would be more strictly controlled and must be separately approved rather than being "bundled in" with the park development itself, reported Reuters.

Photograph: The Happy Valley theme park in Beijing opened in 2006 (David Castor/Wikimedia Commons)

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