Asia is on the cusp of a theme park boom.
Shanghai Disneyland opened in June, Wanda City opened in May and 14 more Wanda theme parks are set to open by 2020.
And by 2018 Universal Beijing, 21st Century Fox World Malaysia, Six Flags, multiple new Legolands, and many other smaller theme parks will be popping up across Asia.
With all of this new theme park development, what will happen to Hong Kong’s two major theme parks, Hong Kong Disneyland (HKDL) and Ocean Park, which have been around for some time and are already seeing a decreasing number of visitors?
From 2006 to 2014 the number of annual visitors to HKDL increased every year with 7.6 million coming to the park in 2014.
However, in 2015, HKDL saw its first decline in attendance in about a decade with 800,000 fewer visitors than the year before.
The ratio of mainland Chinese, who make up the greatest percentage of visitors to HKDL, to all visitors decreased 7 percentage points, from 48 percent to 41 percent.
The park also experienced its first revenue decrease since 2009.
Ocean Park also saw the number of annual visitors to its theme park fall by 1.1 million in 2015.
Ocean Park Corp. chairman Leo Kung said the number of mainland tourists visiting the theme park last year fell by 20 to 30 percent.
While both parks have said that last year’s declines were due to many external factors including relaxed visa restrictions to other tourist destinations and a decreasing overall number of tourists to Hong Kong, are the parks themselves really to blame?
Global brand and marketing consultancy Prophet conducted a survey among 300 mainland Chinese consumers, aged 18 to 55, from June 9 to 13 of this year to understand how HKDL and Ocean Park may be affected by the opening of Shanghai Disneyland.
Through this study, it was confirmed that Chinese are huge theme park visitors.
In fact, over half of all of their trips each year are to theme parks (2.2 out of four trips per year).
And they’re willing to travel to visit a theme park – with over 50 percent willing to travel five hours or more.
In fact, convenience is the least important factor for Chinese consumers when choosing to visit a theme park (only 5 percent ranked it as number one).
But with the opening of Shanghai Disneyland, mainland Chinese say they are now 40 percent less likely to visit theme parks like HKDL and Ocean Park.
After all, they now have their own, bigger Disneyland which for many outside of Southern China is closer to home.
So what are the Hong Kong theme parks to do?
When it comes to choosing theme parks, having the best rides and attractions (27 percent), and fun and excitement (26 percent) are the top drivers of visits.
With Ocean Park having been around almost 40 years and HKDL having been open over 10 years, both run the risk of starting to feel old and tired.
Both theme parks need to roll out new attractions and rides to continue to drive buzz in the market.
HKDL currently has a Star Wars themed attraction that has taken over Tomorrowland, but new and exciting exhibits and rides can’t just be a one-off event.
They need to be continually built and marketed to attract new visitors to the theme park.
Ocean Park will open a water park in 2018 which will surely drive new visitors but the park can’t wait until then to create demand in the market.
They must offer new rides and exhibits in the meantime to continue to create excitement in market.
The theme parks must also try to bring in new visitors.
With a decrease in the number of visitors from the mainland, they should look to Hong Kong locals and the ASEAN market as places to attract more visitors.
Home to more than 600 million people, ASEAN members have a combined population larger than Europe or North America.
Places like the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand, which don’t have major theme parks of their own, are prime targets for attracting new visitors.
Many of the big, new theme parks are now open. So let the visitors come, and the real competition for hearts and minds begin.
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