Asian Property Review talks to Samsung C&T ‘s Executive Vice President/ GM Tommy Jeong about the challenges of running a theme park especially in South Korea where theme parks abound.

APR:  What are the top 10 challenges facing Everland and theme parks everywhere in general?
TJ:  Safety is the most important part of theme park operations. In order for guests to have a good time when visiting parks, the safety must be guaranteed. Therefore, Everland considers safety as a top priority when it comes to park operations.
Second, the quick response to guest service needs. Guest needs are frequently changing in recent years. Nowadays, guests wish to have more hands-on experience rather than just riding attractions and viewing animals. Therefore, in attractions, entertainment and other areas, Everland created and added various hands-on experience opportunities. Also, we utilize Samsung Electronics’ IT technologies such as VR and AR for state of the art experience. We also provide various services using Everland mobile application.
Third, guest return visits matters the most when it comes to operating regional parks. Therefore, parks must update contents to provide familiar and new experiences at the same time. At Everland, we try to create different seasonal contents by having rose and tulip flower festivals in spring, water festivals to cool down the heat in summer, Halloween festival in fall, and Christmas light festival in winter.
Fourth, outdoor theme parks are seasonal business. Therefore, the biggest challenge is providing stable service quality while achieving operational efficiency during all seasons.
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APR: With intense competition, how can a park differentiate from another? Who are your biggest competitors?
TJ: To get ahead in a fiercely competitive market, we must create Everland’s unique identity and enhance our competitive edge. Everland is a world-class theme park with unique elements which allows guests to enjoy rides, plants, animals, and entertainment contents all at the same place. We’ve created synergistic effect by combining all these elements.
Also, we’ve put efforts to enhance and develop Everland’s dynamic identity by having seasonal festivals throughout the year. In the past we’ve considered other theme parks in Korea as our competitors but now we consider all other leisure and entertainment businesses such as sports complexes, large shopping malls, concert halls and more.

APR: What are the key success factors in the theme park industry?
TJ:  Due to rapid globalization and digitization, the boundaries between businesses and industries have collapsed and blurred. Unlike in the past, guest and market dynamics are changing faster than ever. Under these circumstances, businesses must accurately understand the market and make right investment decisions. By doing so, park industry can build and maintain competitive edge over other industries. Everland also puts efforts to move away from traditional park business models and create new contents.
APR: Who are your target market? Do you experience any impact from fewer visitors from Mainland, China? What are your visitor numbers since 2016 up to 1st half 2018?
TJ: Two thirds of guests who visit Everland are from the metropolitan area of Seoul. Foreign guests take up about 10 percent of total guests. Everland did not experience much impact from decreased number of Mainland Chinese guests to Korea because most of the guests from China visit Korea for short trips. On the other hand, the number of Southeast Asian guests is expected to grow which will lead to the growth in the number of foreign guests. Annual Everland attendance totals around 7.5 to 8 million.
APR: What sort of advanced technology do you use? Is the hardware imported or sourced locally? What about the software?
TJ: For the last several years, Everland utilized technological innovations to elevate theme park experience. One of them is VR-based rides. Combining VR devices with Everland’s VR contents created various attractions such as VR Adventure (4D Theater), Robot VR Ride, GYRO VR Ride and these rides gained a lot of attention.
Also, the attraction, “Shooting Ghost” which combines shooting system using the latest GPS with video contents was opened this July. Everland moved away from relying on global companies to working with Korean IT companies and utilizing Everland’s in-house capabilities for attraction planning and development process.
In addition, the existing ticketing system was renewed completely into the new mobile ticketing system. Everland utilized Samsung’s technology and invented the system. The system allows guests to make reservations, obtain and redeem coupons, and use the reward system.
APR: What new attractions can we expect up to 2020?
TJ: We have plans to renew existing attractions which are old and less popular with new technological innovations. Also, we prepared various entertainment and animal content projects. We will start the advertisement of these new attractions when they are ready to be open to the guests.
APR: Which is your biggest revenue earner – ticket sales, drinks and beverages, souvenirs, etc?
TJ: In terms of revenue size, the biggest is ticket sales followed by F&B, and souvenirs. To increase the sales revenue, Everland improved food and service quality for F&B and developed new products, improved product design, and promoted Everland characters for MD.
APR: Do you think the park has affected (whether increase or decrease) the price of surrounding real estate?
TJ: Everland estate is located in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province. The founder of Samsung, Chairman Lee Byungchul, chose the area for ‘The Demonstration Project of National Land Development’ in 1960’s and since then, the wasteland transformed into vast forests with grandiose views.
When Everland was fist opened to the public in 1976, the area had bad access compared to big cities like Seoul. But the development of the metropolitan area of Seoul and transportation system led to huge land development in the area around Everland.
APR: What is your view on the outlook of theme parks in Asia up to 2020?
TJ: Recently, theme park development has been very active in China and Southeast Asian countries and this trend is expected to continue for a while. We believe that the future of the theme park business is very bright as the economies of each country
prosper and the interest in leisure industry increase.
The theme park business is a challenging one because it has various industry characteristics in it. Also, the investment size or use of IPs at the parks does not guarantee success. The new theme parks can enter the market successfully by reducing risks and adding key success factors. These can be done by having a thorough review process from the initial stage of project and forming a partnership with leading companies with industry know-how.

APR: With more mega theme parks being built in China, how would this impact theme parks in South Korea?
TJ: As more Chinese guests enjoy theme parks and as Everland continues to enhance our brand identity, we believe that more visitors from China will visit our park in the future.
APR: Outside of South Korea, where else does Samsung C & T operate a theme park/water park?
TJ: Everland has participated and made good results as a consultant for the new theme parks and water parks in Taiwan, China, and more. In addition, Everland is planning to cooperate with Southeast Asian countries for their park operations.
The Harbour City Project in Malaysia is expected to be launched soon and through this project, Everland will prove its top-level operational capabilities.

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