With Legoland, Wanda and Universal on the way, new attractions are needed for Hong Kong’s theme parks

Julie Purser says Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park will need to develop more exhibits and rides to compete with a rising number of new theme parks across Asia

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 5:35pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 7:03pm

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. By 2018, Universal Beijing, multiple new Legolands and many smaller theme parks will be popping up across Asia.

With all the new theme park development, what will happen to Hong Kong’s two major parks – Disneyland and Ocean Park?

In 2015, Hong Kong Disneyland saw its first decline in attendance in about a decade, with 800,000 fewer visitors than in 2014, and also experienced its first revenue decrease since 2009. Particularly, mainland Chinese, who make up the greatest percentage of visitors to the theme park, decreased by 7 per cent, from 48 per cent to 41 per cent of total visitors.

Convenience is the least important factor for Chinese consumers when choosing to visit a theme park

Ocean Park also saw its number of annual visitors fall by 1.1 million in 2015. Chairman Leo Kung said the number of tourists from mainland China visiting the theme park last year fell by 20-30 per cent.

Prophet conducted a survey among 300 mainland Chinese consumers aged 18 to 55, from June 9 to 13 of this year, to understand the impact of the opening of Shanghai Disneyland. Through this study, we 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 4 trips per year). And they’re willing to travel to visit a theme park – with over 50 per cent willing to travel five hours or more. Convenience is the least important factor for Chinese consumers when choosing to visit a theme park (only 5 per cent ranked it as No 1).

How Disney made sure Shanghai Disneyland doesn’t put off Chinese visitors

That said, due to the opening of Shanghai Disneyland, mainland Chinese said they are now 40 per cent less likely to visit other theme parks. So what are the Hong Kong parks to do?

When it comes to choosing theme parks, having the best rides and attractions (27 per cent) and fun and excitement (26 per cent) are the top drivers of visits. Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland run the risk of starting to feel old and tired. Both parks need to push out new attractions and rides to continue to drive buzz. Disney currently has a Star Wars-themed attraction taking over Tomorrowland, but the new exhibits and rides can’t just be one-offs. They need to be continually built and marketed. Ocean Park will open a water park in 2018, which will surely drive new visitors, but the park must offer new rides and exhibits in the meantime to create excitement in the market.

With a decrease in visitors from mainland China, the theme parks should look to Hong Kong locals and the Southeast Asian market, which is home to more than 600 million people, as places to attract new visitors.

Julie Purser is an associate partner of the Prophet consultancy in Hong Kong