Despite the Chinese government’s recent move to dampen enthusiasm for building new theme parks, the developers of the Universal Studios park in Beijing have decided to double their investment to $6.5bn to capitalise on expected demand growth.
The park is being financed by Universal Parks & Resorts and the Beijing Shouhuan Cultural Tourism Investment Company, which brings together five state-owned Chinese entities led by the Beijing Tourism Group.
According to the Wall Street Journal, this would be the biggest investment ever made in the construction of a new theme park.
Concerned about local debt build-up and low-grade developments, China’s powerful central planning body in April warned theme-park builders to scrutinise theme park plans more carefully.
Hundreds have sprung up around the country developed by foreign and domestic firms. 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.
This latest decision was taken after Universal and its Chinese partners saw the success of Disney’s $5.5bn Shanghai park, which has attracted more than 11 million visitors in the first year after it opened in 2016. Disney has since expanded the Shanghai park with a new section based on the Toy Story movies.
Universal now expects the Beijing park to draw 10 million visitors in the first year after it opens in 2021, up from an initial projection of 7 million, according to the WSJ.
The park will be built on a 120ha site in the southeastern Tongzhou district of the capital. It will include areas based on the Harry Potter universe, with other rides based on the Transformers, Kung Fu Panda and the Jurassic Park movies.
China’s theme park market is expected to overtake America’s in the next few year. Theme-park revenue in China topped $6 billion last year, up 27% from 2016, and is expected to hit $14 billion by 2022, according to market researcher Mintel.
The site of the theme park has been prepared, and major construction is expected to begin this year.
Image: Universal’s rendering of the planed park