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Chinese theme parks win awards

By LIU YINMENG in Los Angeles | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-04-15 23:09

Entertainers dressed in colorful skirts decorated with flowers pose at the Guangzhou Chimelong Tourist Resort in Guangzhou city, South China's Guangdong province, March 7, 2019. [Photo/IC]

Several Chinese theme park operators, including Guangdong-based Chimelong Group, received a special nod from the Themed Entertainment Association on Saturday, an acknowledgement that insiders said further highlights the growing influence of the Chinese market in the industry.

Six of the 15 recipients who received outstanding achievement awards during the 25th Annual TEA Thea Awards Gala at the Disneyland Resort Saturday came from the Asian Pacific region, and three of those six were Chinese companies.

"We are very honored to receive this award," said Su Zhanpeng, vice-president of the Chimelong Group, a major Chinese tourism and resort industry player.

"Winning the recognition on an international stage further enhances our confidence. It also proves that we Chinese are also able to build a world-class theme park," Su added.

Themed Entertainment Association, or TEA, is an international nonprofit that represents the theme-park industry. The organization's annual Thea awards were created in 1994 to showcase "excellence for the creation of compelling educational, historical and entertainment projects".

The win marks the fourth "outstanding achievement award" that the Guangzhou-based company has received from TEA. Chimelong's Ocean Kingdom theme park, located in Zhuhai, won the same acknowledgement in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

The attraction being honored this year was the SlideWheel, a feature at Chimelong Water Park in Guangzhou, which the TEA called "a highly engineered and innovative achievement that provides guests both visual and physical sensations that are unique to the waterpark industry".

The idea for the SlideWheel reportedly came from an 8-year-old Swiss boy named Fischer, who told his father one day that he wanted to ride on a waterslide that he has never gone on before. Fischer drew a sketch for his dream waterslide. His father took his drawing to Wiegand.maelzer, a well-known German waterslide supplier.

The innovative 24-meter tall SlideWheel, which eventually became a reality with the help of Chimelong's investment, combines sliding, swinging, twisting, shaking, rotating, and zero gravity into a single ride experience. It also uses LED light on the interior and exterior of the structure to create a light show for spectators.

TEA International Board President Michael Mercadante described the SlideWheel as "the only one in the world right now".

"They (the Chimelong Group) are developing things and willing to go out on a limb to create the first experience, so we admire that," he said. "They are doing some of the best work in the world."

Fantawild's Oriental Heritage theme park in Xiamen and Huaxia Cultural Tourism Resort's Legends of Camel Bells in Xi'an also received outstanding achievement awards.

Bingo Tso, senior vice-president of Advanced Communication Equipment, which provides audio and video lightning for Legends of Camel Bells, said today is a "breakthrough" period for the Chinese theme park industry and that he hoped more Chinese companies win recognition on the international stage.

Mercadante said the slate of Thea award recipients from Asia this year represents the development of the attractions industry on that continent.

"It's obvious that there is a lot going on there," Mercadante said.

According to the 2017 Global Attractions Attendance Report published by the TEA, the Asia Pacific region experienced a 5.5 percent average growth in attendance in 2017, primarily driven by the Chinese mainland, where some parks saw double-digit year-on-year increases.

"We have forecast for several years that China would become the largest theme park market in the world by 2020. That forecast is still on track, especially with Universal Studios Beijing due to open around that time, and many other projects still in the pipeline," the report read.

Mike E. Davis, senior vice-president at Universal, said his company's new theme park in Beijing is set to open in 2021. He said that the growth of the entertainment industry is going to be concentrated in Asia for the next 10 years.

"The opening of China to the rest of the world has provided a kind of a spark for the Chinese to learn more about the world. For so many years, China has had economic restrictions, and now it's opened so beautifully, and I think that's why the rest of the world wants to come to China, learn about China, experience China, and be a part of China," Davis said.

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