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Where is the next growth market for themed attractions?


Predictions range from Dubai bouncing back (with a dash of realism), to China continuing to boom and South Korea, Brazil and India as ones to watch, while many backed the US as a safe long term bet. 

Here are some highlights of the discussion…

•    If the price of oil holds high and they keep social unrest to a minimum, I’d still look to Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia

•    China

•    Whilst Dubai was the catalyst for the initial development of attractions / entertainment facilities this year’s DEAL trade show proved that the vast majority of other areas within the MENA region are still on the “up”.  Dubai is static for obvious reasons, but it will come back once the economic cycle improves.

•    I agree Dubai is still in the doldrums and key investments are still on hold due to the regional turmoil and investors and banks putting on hold loans that had previously been agreed. I agree Asia as whole looks a much safer investment prospect with regard to stable growth within the leisure market. However should things stabilize regionally in the Middle East and once the banks are confident to start lending again, the Middle East will bounce back very quickly with rapid growth in Leisure.

•    Dubai I think will do well over the coming years if and when the banks and the money folks feel its safe to invest again. China on the other hand is already very strong with major cash and markets. The problem with China is its Government and all the major risks that could come with it. I feel the US market still has much to offer for the right investors as well as people with new ideas. And so for me the US is still the best market and will remain so for years to come.

•    I agree, but it is interesting that no one ever mentions South America. Our quiet but powerful southern American hemisphere. Why is that, do you think? I suspect it is overlooked, because the countries that have the most turmoil, get most of the focus from the media + press.

•     I believe Dubai will bounce bank. Jordan is becoming very active and is putting in a major theme park. But, I would say look to South Korea, who is busy trying to build and promote itself as the gateway to Asia. These are certainly interesting times. As to South America, they are not spending in that direction, but they are growing and becoming more stable. They will surprise us in the near future.

•    I believe that Dubai will never again reach the scale that they had once planned, and rightly so, that type of growth is unsustainable by any stretch of the imagination. Hopefully they will relook at their plans and spread it out over a few decades and concentrate on quality. I believe the countries to look at will be Brazil, Panama, Saudi, Jordan, India, S. Korea, and China.

•     I know there are at least 2 parks in South America now because I have worked with managers that worked there. But is the area stable and are people going to these parks? China seems strong enough but they would be relying on their own people to feed the resorts, I don’t see tourism feeding it. Since I had been working there, I learned it was hard to get in and its an extra cost to travel there and get a VISA. Plus there are so many natural sites to see, so who is traveling there as a tourist to see a resort or theme park? Dubai! What feeds it I want to know? All the Arab world wanting to go there? India? If they are still ready for growth and they are awaiting the banks for loans, then I hope they are prepared to handle the tourist growth, before the new stuff starts back up and is constructed.

•    Some very good points in summary there. Interested in your thoughts regarding the generational shift. I don’t think for one second that an aging population is going to be interested in visiting parks in their own right whatever operators do but I do believe that there is a definite trend for them to be taking their grandchildren, particularly where the parents have split up or have anti-social working patterns (or even simply can’t take enough time off in the school holidays). One thing to remember is that they are likely to be both cost conscious and very much quality conscious, which will keep operators on their toes!

As for where the industry will be growing, you’re absolutely right about South and Central America, there’s so much happening already in Brazil, notwithstanding the World Cup and Olympics still to come. The other area, apart from China of course, is S.E. Asia, as our recent work in Malaysia as highlighted.

Incidentally, I like your line about ‘ ‘Nor do people want to be questioned and searched over and over in transit.’ I’ve heard many Brits cite that as a reason NOT to go to the USA for holidays anymore!

•    I am currently in the middle of the expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland which will segway into Shanghai Disneyland. The Asian leisure industry is definitely growing.

Russia. We have Winter Olympic games, World Cup 2018 and Formula-1. We have some projects like Entertainment park in Sochi. It’ll be first but not last real park in Russia.

•    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Turkey. It is a large market in its own right with a very strong international tourist base and great tourist infrastructure.

•      Asia in general … lots going on.

•    Brazil, Panama, India, S. Korea, and China.

•    Asia is booming! I think China is already showing that it is the growing giant of this Century. China knows how to collectively sacrifice for the benefit of a distant future. India is amazing too. I would consider Brazil also a likely candidate to be on the lookout for. Let’s not forget Turkey, it can be a promising place…

•    I think the US is going to start building again. I know its not looking like it right now. I think American companies are chomping at the bit to start to upgrade old rides and reinvest in this industry. But I am an optimistic. I guess time will tell.

•    There is a lot on the menu for American companies both domestic and international … how much of it will come to pass depends on so many things. I think all in the know ( at least those of us with a crystal ball) agree that were looking at a good five year run.

•    India is just learning about Themed entertainment. This is the right time to come to India. The economy is growing and more disposable income for middle class population makes entertainment activity the next attraction.

•    I do tend to agree, not just because I am an Indian. Considering the relatively low overall life expectancy level of 64.7 years & the high population growth rate, the Indian population is going to remain predominantly young for the forseeable future (unless of course there is a war due to which 1 maybe 2 whole generations of young productive adults are wiped out). …

•    Brazil! We’ve worked on several film and entertainment projects in Brazil and witnessed amazing growth! New studios being built, massive infrastructure in place, and 17 million people to entertain just in Sao Paulo alone!. We truly saw growth in Brazil!

•    An interesting discussion and one with no real clear answer. All the comments are good and on the mark as to good potential performers. I’ve been in Leisure Entertainment for over 20 years as a Master Planner, Concept and Guest Experience Developer and Inventive Problem Solver. Working at high level and internationally for most of those 20+ odd years. Following and predicting trends has been an essential part of our business and success. As early phase start up project consultants, we’ve seen enough project implode or wither away to last a life time. The complexity of working in overseas markets is often more work than people realize.

The true and overriding factor for all countries and markets is the Global Economy, less the actual Economy and more consumer confidence. Anyone that have ridden out a recession or three can tell you that traditionally Leisure and entertainment traditionally does better during a recession. This is a very different Global economic crisis that is very unpredictable, and, at least in my humble opinion has not had the usual effect of rallying the troops to make things better.

Most of our Client base world wide expresses near terror and uncertainty fueled by the constant negative barrage of media coverage and the political positioning that seems to occur on a seemingly daily basis. Until the economy stabilizes, predicting the next big growth market is pretty close to that, a Guess. There is still too much international instability. Fortunately, Leisure like air and shelter is a necessity and despite the craziness, random chaos and some times just straight out stupidity, there will always be growth in the Leisure market.

•     The lull in Dubai is temporary. Nobody can deny that Dubai has everything to attract tourist and investment in real estate. The constructions that are complete now are word class. I would expect Dubai bouncing back very shortly.

•    Having seen the moves in Dubai towards more FEC style facilities than the big parks; at DEAL this year we saw a number of projects being announced that take the regional entertainment facility approach to the UAE market.

Some of you may be aware of the move by FerrariWorld towards a more retail complex mix to support their park – and if you look at the SEGA Republic facility at the DubaiMall you get a feeling for the ‘Retail-Tainment’ mix of the changed market.

I have to wonder in this changed financial condition globally how many entertainment projects will promote the ‘staycation’ aspects of the new audience – how many operators and developers can even comprehend what is needed to support the needs of this new audience?

Coming up to the 15th anniversary of the DisneyQuest project I worked on as a Walt Disney Imagineer – it would seem the time is once again ripe for a retail unit entertainment project (LBE).

•    My group and I are some of those hired guns that have traveled the world for various projects bringing the so-called "American Theme Park Expertise" to markets and Clients that are engaged in large to medium Theme Park / mixed-use leisure projects that are looking for that next-level (culturally sensitive) American Creative input and development managements teams.

We have had a few India projects cross our desks this past couple of years, but it seems none have gotten past the detailed meeting stages. We have gotten into the bidding on a couple as well, but have not seen a kick off yet. Not that this is particularly unusual. We’ve worked on many early stage projects than I can remember them all, that are great projects but do not get to the finish line. India is an interesting market and our group lives for new challenges.

I’d be interested in looking at some serious projects in India. We have not run into one yet that has the base elements in place all at the same juncture. Brazil is growing interesting and we are going to take a more serious look. What’s the climate, are there active projects or just potential?

•    The world in our time is changing and no matter how hard you look or where you seek the best bet is still the US Market. The sad part is you cant get investment folks to look at what is a major market that could be making major returns by next summer. Yes India, China, South America and Dubai just to name a few are all markets that in time will also make good returns, but not as fast as a few good projects right here in the U.S. and right now. I think its that old saying “a Dollar waiting on a Dime”, time will tell if some one out there picks it up before it’s lost.

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