Splashing, rolling and rocking into the next few years are more theme parks globally, spurred by rising leisure spending and international tourism.

Theme parks are making a big splash in the industry of late – in 2017, historic levels of growth in the global theme park industry was recorded, according to the latest Theme Index and Museum Index report. Theme parks are increasingly becoming a symbol and showcase for regional pride, culture, and technological achievement.
The global market for theme parks is expected to reach USD44.3 billion by 2020, driven by recovery in leisure spending, rise in international tourism and growth of the middle class population in emerging countries.
As a result, the world is seeing an increasing number of theme parks and arts installations – these include amusement parks, theaters, water parks, virtual and interactive games parks – basically any man-made attractions designed to entertain. It is the business of fun and story-telling, and it’s gaining so much popularity that more developers are incorporating it into their mixed developments.
They are being designed into regional and specialty shopping complexes, mixed-use waterfront developments, and even some multi-use office buildings.
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Indeed, theme parks in China have been cited as one of the contributing factors to the historic levels of growth for
the theme park industry in 2017, according to the Theme Index and Museum Index report. The other two factors are increased visits to Disney attractions, and indoor/family entertainment centres.
Although interest in the industry has “cooled a little bit” since the opening of Shanghai Disneyland as well as China’s economic slowdown, an industry insider observes that the sector is picking up again. The industry, he believes, will develop in places where parks can be operated in a profitable way, such as in cities like Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangdong, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.
Technavio’s analysts forecast the Global Amusement Park Market will register a CAGR of 8.2% by 2022. Yet, the market faces some challenges such as foreign exchange rate fluctuation, regulatory changes, threat of terror attacks, seasonal nature of industry, etc.
Several trends are noted in recent years:

  • The development of immersive attractions based on intellectual property is ongoing and being explored globally. Examples include Angry Birds Activity Park and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town.
  • Continuing investment and innovation in water parks, hospitality expansion and interactive theme park. For instance, in the US, there are theme parks that are
    based on theme of Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc.
  • The spending in theme parks consists of admission fees, food, souvenirs and other related purchases made at the parks, but over 50% of industry revenue still comes from ticket sales.
  • Families are drawn to theme parks with integrated accommodations, in comparison to standalone theme parks, which may be slowly growing out of style.

For a relatively small population of about 32 mil, Malaysia is big on theme parks.
By 2019, Malaysia will count 3 world-class internationally branded theme parks – LEGOLAND Malaysia, Sunway Lagoon’s addition of Asia’s 1st Nickelodeon themed land (Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon) and 20th Century Fox World Malaysia at Genting Highlands which is expected to be opened in 2019. Add to this is the recently opened Encore Melaka, a lavish theatre production that takes the audience through centuries of the city’s storied history.
Beyond theme parks and water parks, there is a huge potential for indoor attractions with hundreds of malls across the country crying for a new generation of lifestyle and entertainment anchors to save them from increased competition and online retail, observes Thibault Paquin, CEO of Celebrating Life, and member of Malaysian Association of Amusement Theme park & Family Attractions (MAATFA).
A number of new trends such as active play (e.g. District 21), edutainment (e.g. KidZania, Petrosains, Aquaria, Entopia), lifestyle-driven (e.g. The Top) and IP-based (e.g. Angry Birds Activity Park, Thomas Town, Sanrio Hello Kitty Town), are leading the way but cautions Paquin: “We should always be careful to build the right product for the right audience and in the right location.”
He further adds if all projects announced or rumoured get developed (an example is a Ubisoft video game indoor theme park), Malaysian malls will offr lots of exciting new indoor entertainment concepts including wind tunnel, wave house, indoor skiing, VR theme park, RDE (Retail Dining Entertainment) and fun museums.
Paquin also notes that government support is crucial, saying: “We believe government should increase the Tourism Development Infrastructure Fund available for our industry, attract more talents, suppliers and investors through incentives and special programs, and reconsider its proposed entertainment tax, which goes against all required support.”
Over 25 theme parks and water parks are expected by 2020 which will see a rise in inbound tourists and domestic visitors. This makes Malaysia Southeast Asia’s theme park capital.
Apart from creating jobs and boosting direct economic contribution to Malaysian GDP, the investments in theme parks complement the growth of other industry sectors including consumer, healthcare, property development, and construction, as well as the development of economic regions such as Iskandar Malaysia.

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