Theme parks, several research houses aver, is the next big chapter in China's ongoing consumption upgrade saga, after the surge in outbound tourism flights and a spike in cinema screens.
The Themed Entertainment Association, a tourism and entertainment trade group, projects China to be home to the world's largest theme park facilities by 2020.
A report from World Travel Market last year predicted that theme park-related retail sales are projected to hit $12 billion by 2020, up 367 percent compared to 2010.
That translates to 330 million people visiting one theme park or another by 2020 in the world's second-largest economy.
Consultancies attributed such optimistic growth projections to an expanding middle-income group that has the capacity and willingness for discretionary spending. People want to pamper themselves through a variety of entertainment, they said.
So, leisure attractions in China are becoming increasingly popular as disposable incomes in the country grow. ANZ Bank believes China's middle-and upper-middle-income earners will take up half of GDP consumption by 2030. Some 326 million people are projected to join this group in the next 15 years or so.
Theme parks' development in China has seen three phases so far. After the baby steps of the 1991-2000 period, Chinese leisure companies increased scale until 2015.Then on, the industry marched into what real estate consultancy Colliers calls the "third era" of mega projects, international brands, intellectual property or IP rights, and Chinese finance.
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