Be Like a Rabbit: Responding to Attractions Industry Trends in China’s Reopening
By David Bogdonov, Regional Vice President, APAC
Having spent a considerable amount of time in Asia during my career at WhiteWater, I always pay attention to see what the next Chinese zodiac will bring come Lunar New Year. After the vitality of the Tiger, the Year of the Rabbit is expected to be more chill, with an outlook of peace, hope, and prosperity. With China opening up this year, I thought we could learn from the characteristics of a rabbit to respond to this transition.
Act Swift as a Rabbit
With the recent relaxing of Covid policies in China, we are seeing an immediate increase in inquiries and activities with our clients throughout the country. Many developers and operators are wasting no time. As confidence builds and the market ramps up, we expect to see the attractions industry acting swiftly in this rebound.
The Rabbit Is a Symbol for Patience
Just because China is reopening now doesn’t mean behaviours will go back to pre-Covid times overnight. While there is pent-up demand for travel, many people have gotten accustomed to how they had lived for the past three years. This mentality, together with the rising cost of travel that we all have been hit hard with globally as well as the long visa processing times for Chinese travellers, means that there will still be many consumers vacationing locally. Hotels and resorts continue to need to find ways to differentiate to attract the wallets of staycationers. Adding water park amenities is a sure way to stand out.
As airlines apply to resume routes to and from China, the world must wait patiently for the return of Chinese tourists.
Be as Alert as a Rabbit (for Market Signals)
With travel to China resuming, I am excited about visiting our clients again, many of which feel like old friends. I will be perking up my ears like a rabbit to listen to new market signals when we exhibit later in the year at CAE in both Beijing and Zhengzhou as well as at IAAPA Expo Asia in Singapore.
One interesting development in China is the rise of intellectual property usage. The huge success of LinaBell at Shanghai Disney as well as Tsuburaya Productions’ Ultraman at Haichang Ocean Park show that these are just the beginnings of an evolution to the themed entertainment industry landscape.
Those Born in Year of the Rabbit Are Responsible; the Rest of Us Can Be Too: Sustainability
Environmental sustainability is becoming more important all over the world, and China is no exception. At the same time the Chinese government is promoting green tourism and ecotourism, consumers attitudes are changing to reflect their concerns for the environment. According to a survey by Dragon Trail International compiled in December 2022, 88% of Chinese respondents say that they care about the impact they have on destinations and communities when travelling.
What this means for our attractions industry is that we need to look at every aspect of the way we do business, from materials to supply chain, from manufacturing to operations. At WhiteWater, we have begun working on an ISO14001 environmental certification. It is not easy of course. But we are happy about the increased attention on sustainability and legislation being enacted to the benefit of the people and planet.
The Rabbit Brings Prosperity
As the market recovers in China, we can already look forward to two high-profile openings in 2023. In Macau, after its award-winning outdoor water park opened in 2021, Studio City is ready to welcome an influx of family visitors when phase two—the indoor water park—begins operations. In Shanghai, SnowStar Waterpark will wow guests as the government continues to support “ice tourism” to coincide with the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and beyond.
Finishing on prosperous thoughts, I would like to send our clients, colleagues, and friends warm greetings and wishes for a healthy and happy Year of the Rabbit.