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Beijing to get Legoland theme park

By WANG YING in Shanghai and WANG ZHUOQIONG in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2022-02-19 08:40

Children play with toys at a Legoland discovery center in Beijing.[Provided to China Daily]

A Legoland theme park will come up in Beijing's Fangshan district as part of the Chinese national capital's plan to upgrade its suburban industrial layout.

In September 2021, Beijing became home to the Universal Beijing Resort.

The anticipated Legoland theme park figures among the nine new priority projects of culture and tourism for this year, according to a notice published on the website of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform.

The joint venture project will be located in Fangshan district's Changyang town. An urban development subsidiary of Orient Group and UK-based Merlin Entertainments will own the project, the notice stated.

To be spread over 304,000 square meters, the Beijing Legoland theme park would consist of the Legoland resort, a themed hotel, a business street, a parking lot and more, according to a report in Beijing News.

According to John Jakobsen, chief operating officer of Legoland Resorts Group at Merlin Entertainments, there are currently three Legoland resorts in the process of construction in China, and Merlin Entertainments is exploring more opportunities for more Legoland projects.

Speculation has been rife about the theme park since 2015. Many suggested the Legoland theme park might be located in Qinglonghu town of Fangshan district.

Theme park industry experts said the new facility, whenever it starts operations, would help enhance the development of Fangshan district and nearby areas.

The Universal Beijing Resort, currently the largest worldwide, has received more than 2.1 million passenger trips already, according to Beijing Youth Daily.

Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Universal theme park has been instrumental in bringing about the development of related industries in Tongzhou district, the resort's location.

"Sales revenue of businesses that are above the designated size in the cultural, sports and entertainment industries saw a year-on-year growth of 367.4 percent in Tongzhou district, and that of the accommodation business reported a growth of 122.6 percent," said Yang Lei, deputy head of Tongzhou district, during a news conference on Feb 8.

The locations of the Universal Beijing Resort and the expected Legoland park show that the local government of Beijing has put in great efforts to promote its outskirts' industrial layout and upgrade, said Sun Xiaorong, a member of the Chinese Tourism Reform and Development Advisory Committee, in an interview with China News Weekly.

Sun said he believes many similar projects would be launched in suburban areas, and they would help narrow the gap between urban and rural areas around the national capital.

Theme parks of varying sizes have been booming in Chinese cities in recent years. As many as 339 theme parks operated across China at the end of 2019, according to the 2021 Chinese theme park competitiveness evaluation report. Among them, a quarter are in the red, 22 percent can barely break even, and 53 percent are profitable.

Against a global visitor drop of between 50 percent and 90 percent at theme scenery spots, China bucked the downtrend with steady recovery and vigorous development, according to the 2020 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index.

Up to 20 new parks have been launched since the outbreak of the pandemic, showing the nation has firmly remained a key destination for new developments, according to the global attractions attendance report.

Regarding the rapid development of theme parks across China, Sun said fierce market competition is inevitable. "It is not a zero-sum game, but positive-sum competition."

The Legoland Beijing Resort will mirror Merlin Entertainments' ambition to grow in the world's second-largest economy.

Nick Varney, CEO of Merlin Entertainments, said in a media interview in 2018 that the group plans to build 20 Legoland resorts worldwide in the future, including five in China.

Construction of the Lego Sichuan Resort, China's first Legoland resort, started in Meishan in June 2020. It covers an area of about 570,000 square meters. It is scheduled to open to the public by 2023.

In August 2021, another Legoland project began construction in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. Covering about 580,000 square meters, it entails an investment of more than $1.08 billion. The park is due to open in 2024.

Construction of the Legoland Shanghai Resort kicked off in November 2021 in the city's Jinshan district. The $550 million development is projected to open in 2024.

Du Juan in Beijing contributed to this story.

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