Wanda to openHe­fei theme park to duel Dis­ney


Bil­lion­aire Wang Jian­lin is pre­par­ing to open his sec­ond Wanda City as he es­ca­lates his ef­forts to fend of­fWalt Dis­ney Co in China.

He­feiWanda City, about 500 kilo­me­ters west of the $5.5 bil­lion Shang­hai Dis­ney Re­sort, will open to the pub­lic on Satur­day. Be­sides theme park fa­cil­i­ties, the 35 bil­lion yuan ($5.2 bil­lion) de­vel­op­ment will in­clude ho­tels, a movie the­ater, a shop­ping mall and res­i­den­tial apart­ments across 1.6 square kilo­me­ters, ac­cord­ing toWanda.

Wang is seek­ing to spear­head the na­tion’s bur­geon­ing leisure in­dus­try by de­vel­op­ing 15 Wanda City projects across the coun­try by the end of the decade. In­clud­ing oth­ers, a to­tal of 59 new theme parks will open in China by 2020, serv­ing an es­ti­mated 220 mil­lion park-go­ers and ri­val­ing the US in terms of scale, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates from in­dus­try con­sul­tancy Ae­com.

Wang opened his firstWanda City three months ago in the south­east­ern city of Nan­chang, at­tract­ing more than 2 mil­lion tourists on its open­ing month and the com­pany is es­ti­mat­ing it will bring in 10 mil­lion vis­i­tors a year. The Nan­chang de­but came days be­fore the cre­ator of Mickey Mouse opened its first park in the Chi­nese main­land, which Wang has re­ferred to as be­ing a “tiger” that has no chance of beat­ing his “pack of wolves.”

As to the Shang­hai Dis­ney­land, it took more than a month for theMagic King­dom to at­tract its mil­lionth vis­i­tor. And while Dis­ney won’t dis­close vis­i­tor fore­casts, an­a­lysts have es­ti­mated that the Shang­hai park would at­tract 15 to 30 mil­lion peo­ple an­nu­ally. In re­sponse to queries, Dis­ney spokesper­son Alan­nah Hall-Smith re­ferred to com­ments this week by CEO Bob Iger that Shang­hai Dis­ney “has been well re­ceived by the Chi­nese con­sumers”.

Wang is plan­ning more Wanda City projects in ci­ties such as Harbin, Guangzhou and Wuxi. Wanda said on Fri­day Chongqing Wanda City, which will cost about 55 bil­lion yuan to build, has started con­struc­tion and will prob­a­bly at­tract 20 mil­lion vis­i­tors an­nu­ally af­ter it’s com­pleted by 2020. He also aims to open five of the projects overseas by the end of the decade.

Be­hind the wave of theme parks is China’s grow­ing mid­dle class, which is fu­el­ing de­mand for leisure ac­tiv­i­ties. There are about 300 parks in op­er­a­tion al­ready in China with scores more on the way, ac­cord­ing to Mac­quarie Group Ltd es­ti­mates in Jan­uary. The gov­ern­ment pre­dicts the na­tion’s $610 bil­lion tourism in­dus­try will dou­ble over five years.


Tourists at the newly opened He­fei Wanda City.

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