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Park People

Andrew Lee IAAPA Asia Pacific

A veteran of the travel and hospitality industry, Andrew Lee was appointed to head up IAAPA’s new Hong Kong office in 2010. As the association’s vice-president for Asia Pacific, he serves the needs of members in arguably the fastest growing part of the world for parks and attractions

and is also heavily involved with IAAPA’s summer Asian Attractions Expo. Following our interview with the association’s incoming international chairman Will Morey, we thought readers would be interested to learn a little more about industry trends in this particularly buoyant region.

Where are some of the hotspots in the Asia Pacific region right now?

If you are talking about park and attractions growth, then I would say China is still the number one place probably for the next few years – it’s just massive – and members like OCT, Chimelong and the Wanda Group are among those leading the way. The next place, without focusing on a particular country, is probably South East Asia. You have the success of the two integrated resorts in Singapore, Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, and now it’s spreading out really nicely into Malaysia with Legoland and the other new development around Johor. There’s a lot of potential too in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, and more theme parks and attractions are being developed in Thailand. Interestingly I have not included India, even though it is very populous and things are happening over there. Due to bureaucracy and the challenge of getting land, the country is not growing as fast as it could be, but it certainly has potential.

Is the Japanese and South Korean market now fully mature? I don’t know if ‘mature’ is the right word. Obviously they were some of the first countries in Asia to have success with big theme parks, but

A strong cultural content, as at the OCT East resort in Shenzhen is an important part of many Chinese parks

Korea is still looking to develop more stuff, in particular Jeju Island and Busan. As long as new children are being born in each day then you will always have new business coming in! I would say the challenges in these markets will probably be to evolve the product to meet current trends.

Apart from the traditional theme/amusement park, what other attraction models do you see emerging? The model for many is a mix of theme park, culture – that’s very important – and hotels and infrastructure. I see mixed use developments as still quite trendy, in fact I’ve been seeing an increase in enquiries from hotel developers who have never gotten into this industry before but would like to include some sort of leisure component, for example an aquarium. I receive enquiries from shopping malls who want to do something a little bit more creative. I’ve also heard of several upcoming stadium projects where they want to incorporate attractions into their venues so that people can visit these facilities on a regular basis rather than just coming for concerts or events, which might not be a daily occurrence.

What attraction has personally inspired you most in last 12 months during your travels with IAAPA?

I am always very drawn to attractions that try and do something good for nature. One of the operations I have high respect for is the Taman Safari in Jakarta. They are really pushing the conservation message, educating people how to protect the tiger population and so on. It’s a very interesting attraction and I’d encourage anyone to visit if they are in the neighbourhood.

There has been some talk in the last year or so about the Chinese government attempting to curb new theme park development. How true is this? You would have to check with the Chinese authorities, but my understanding is that it is not about curbing new theme park development; rather it’s about stopping those developers who are applying for theme park licences and using that to build condominiums. I think if you had real plans to build a theme park, getting a licence would not be problem – it’s more about tackling developers who try and find a loophole by building five blocks of condominiums and then just putting in a children’s playground or a few rides.

The real estate and theme park combination is nevertheless a model employed by several developers. How sustainable is this? The mixed model is still sustainable. You can have real estate coupled with theme parks, but you need the right balance. The other development can help sustain the theme park because you have a ready supply of customers. This will be especially important in the second and third-tier cities where they will be counting more on the local population than on national and international tourists.

What impact do you expect the arrival of Shanghai Disneyland will have on the Mainland China market? I think the impact will be all good. It will set a benchmark in China for content, cleanliness and safety, something the rest of the industry can

44 NOVEMBER 2012

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