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Wang Jianlin

Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin opens second ‘Wanda City’ theme park

Complex in Anhui province is latest salvo in tycoon’s war with Disney for dominance of mainland market

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 10:35pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 11:31pm

Billionaire Wang Jianlin has fired the latest salvo in his war with Disney over dominance of the mainland’s theme park business, opening a 24 billion yuan (HK$27.9 billion) complex in Anhui province on Saturday.

Wanda Cultural Tourism City ties a theme park with hotels, water park, movie theatre and residential flats across a 1.6 sq km area just a short drive from downtown Hefei.

It’s the tycoon’s second big theme park venture, following the opening of Wanda City in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, in late May. The company eventually hopes to have 15 such parks across China by 2020, pushing Disney to the sidelines in the race to capture the growing domestic tourist market.

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“A tiger has no chance of beating a pack of wolves,” Wang famously said before opening the first park. He also bluntly vowed to make the Disney Resort in Shanghai “unprofitable for 20 years”, citing its high operating cost, slow ability to adapt and pricey admission.

Wanda is charging 218 yuan for a single admission to the Hefei theme park and 308 yuan for a family, while a multiple-entry ticket is priced at 788 yuan. By comparison, Shanghai Disney charges 370 yuan, per person on regular days and 499 yuan during peak days.

More affordable tickets is part of Wanda’s strategy to win over consumers in second-tier cities, who are sensitive to cost.

Yang Jing, a 33-year old Hefei resident, visited Wanda City on its launch and was satisfied. “It took our family just 40 minutes to drive from downtown. It’s really convenient.

“It would be much more costly for us to go to Shanghai Disney, though I know it would be much more fun,” he said.

In Hefei, Wanda is trying to avoid its weaknesses in competing with Disney on characters and other intellectual property. Instead of Snow White and Winnie the Pooh, the park features Anhui traditional buildings.

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The strategy seems to be working, at least in the second-tier cities. Hefei Wanda City drew huge numbers on its opening day, with people milling around every corner of the mall.

In Nanchang, the number of visitors in June surpassed 2 million, according to company numbers, while the attendance for July and August was near the same level, an unnamed Wanda executive told the South China Morning Post.