Real Madrid to open virtual reality attraction in China

Football club Real Madrid has become the latest organisation to take space on the southern Chinese island of Hengqin, which is transforming itself from an oyster farm into a global tourist attraction to rival neighbouring Macau.

The world-famous Spanish club is to open a 12,000 sq m attraction in 2019 featuring virtual reality entertainments and a museum showcasing the team’s history. Its partner in the scheme is Hong Kong developer Lai Sun Group.

This development will be part of the $760m first phase of Lai Sun’s $2.7bn Novotown cultural and entertainment complex, which is now 70% complete. When all five phases are built it will contain attractions based on brands such as National Geographic and film studio Lionsgate, with hotel space provided by Hyatt Regency.

Larry Leung, a vice president of Lai Sun, told Macau Business Daily that all buildings would be topped out by the end of 2017, leaving a year to complete fit-out work, landscaping, the installation and testing of equipment and staff training before the opening date of January 2019.

He also told Reuters that the island would complete a southeast China triad. "Hengqin will be the Orlando of China. Macau is Las Vegas and Hong Kong is New York.

The first big attraction to open on Hengqin was Chime-Long Ocean Kingdom (Chime-Long)

Hengqin island is three times larger than Macau, with an area of 96 square kilometres. Its growth began in 2008 when it was named a New Area within the Guangdong free trade zone by Xi Jinping during his tenure as vice president of China.

It was be given an infrastructure budget of $12bn to prepare the ground for commercial investors and Macau-based companies wanting to branch out in the face of falling revenue at home.

The first big commercial development was the Chime-Long Ocean Kingdom, which offered the world’s largest aquarium, rides, and a dolphin-themed hotel with 1,888 guest rooms.

Others in pipeline include Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group’s $1.6bn casino-free tropical island style resort, and no fewer than eight attractions to be developed by the mainland Chime-Long group.

The island is now one of the hottest development areas in China; Reuters reports that economic growth increased 10% in the first half of 2017, and property prices have doubled in the past two years.

Top image: Landscape architect SWA’s rendition of Hengqin

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