Thibault Paquin (below) is the founder and principal of Celebrating Life Asia, an independent consultant and development company for the leisure & entertainment industry. He is also the managing director of iVenture Card Asia, which is operating attractions passes in Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore.
Continuing a series of reflections on the recent evolutions of the Asian attractions industry, I look at the latest regional trends as we prepare for IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo 2013. And it's all about the 3 Ws.
So here I am trying to make sense of a really busy start of the year for our industry in Asia. First thing first, I go on the www and search the industry news for some trends. There it is – easy – our year is marked by the 3W!
Wet Wet Wet
This must be the year of the water parks. They are under construction everywhere.
Malaysia is getting 8 new water parks: in Shah Alam, Port Dickson, Morib, Langkawi, Penang, Miri, Johor (Legoland) and Desaru Coast.
Even Singapore and Hong Kong which ‘abandoned’ water parks for a while are now getting back into it: Adventure Cove just opened at Resorts World Sentosa, Wild Wild Wet Singapore is getting a massive revamp, Sentosa is planning a ‘not-so-secret’ water coaster and Ocean Park Hong Kong announced a new water park for 2017.
China – as it usually does – goes for big and bold. From Playa Maya in Shanghai (part of Happy Valley) to Asia’s first Wet’n Wild water park in Hainan Island.
So why are water parks so popular this year? Well, here are a few thoughts:
1. Water parks are cheaper to build than theme parks;
2. I think ride manufacturers have done a great job marketing their products;
3. The low admission price and the repeatability of the experience makes it perfect for domestic families; and
4. They can even generate repeat visits to theme parks when in same complex: Samsung Everland, Chimelong Paradise, Legoland Malaysia, Ocean Park, etc
But the other side of the coin is the low differentiation factor and therefore the low barrier to entry. I heard there are 3 water parks under construction in Pattaya alone; I wonder how that’s going to work?
And where there is water there is wildlife, so onto our second W now.
Wild Wild Wild
If you’ve read my last article – Asia’s Integrated Resorts – you may remember a lot of the local integrated resorts in Asia combine a water park with wildlife (zoo, safari, aquarium, etc). They seem to work well together; and particularly so when a water park is combined with marine life as 3 of the region’s biggest projects demonstrate:
– Marine Life Park @ Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore (opened end 2012): world’s largest aquarium, water park and marine life interactions.
– Ocean Kingdom, China (Asia’s most anticipated project in 2013): theme park, water park and animal exhibits around the world’s largest dolphin-themed hotel.
– Desaru Coast, Malaysia (opening 2014): Ocean Quest interactive marine park and Ocean Splash water park.
Other large aquarium and marine life park projects include Singapore’s River Safari (opened April 2013) and Hanwha Aqua Planet Jeju (opened end 2012).
On the zoo front, the trend is for more of a safari experience, whether open-style in Malaysia (Bukit Gambang) or more scripted in Korea (Lost Valley Safari @ Samsung Everland).
And finally on the gardens side, the experience is becoming a lot more immersive. The Gardens By the Bay in Singapore feature two giant domes including an amazing indoor waterfall. And not too far, in Kuala Lumpur, the teams of TAR are working on ‘Malaysia Truly Asia’, an attraction in Lake Gardens, which will combine a jungle and cultural experience.
No more plain underwater tunnel, botanical gardens or animal enclosures, it’s all about story-telling, interactions and multi-sensorial for a better WILD experience.
Weird Weird Weird
But our overview would not be complete without listing our lot of bizarre projects for this year. Not a new trend though; our industry has always attracted them!
Starting with a military theme park in Beijing, featuring exhibitions, re-created battle zones, mock war games, and high-tech simulators.
Still in China, artist Zhu Kefeng and his team have constructed metal robots using recycled iron and steel parts and turned a once abandoned factory into a theme park with more than 600 Transformers-inspired sculptures.
Continuing with strong personalities, a theme park in China’s Henan province has unveiled its latest addition: a huge statue of the park's founder… as Buddha.
So 2013 is going to be a Wet, Wild and Weird year, how exciting!