How 2016 Became the Year of the Theme Park Construction Crane: A Closer Look at the Market

Posted by Sasha Bailyn on Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

The Orlando Sentinel dubbed 2016 the Year of the Construction Crane for the theme park industry, and that’s remained true both abroad and at home. If there’s one part of the theme park world that’s thriving, it’s the global scene. According to the latest numbers, theme park attendance has grown 5.4% at the top 25 parks globally year over year – and while last year’s numbers haven’t been published yet, the signs point to a continued positive increase. What projects have caught experts’ attention and what trends do we think we’ll be seeing more of in the year ahead?

Turkey has played host to one of the most exciting recent developments. Last month, the Legends of Aqua water park – which is part of the larger Land of Legends initiative in Turkey – opened to both public and critical acclaim. With over 70 rides, a dolphinarium, a 5D cinema and more, Legend of Aqua has already poised Land of Legends to be a premier tourist destination on the Turkish Riviera. The park is a collaboration between some of the industry’s most recognizable names: JRA (Jack Rouse Associates) worked with Rixos World Parks and Entertainment, Polin Waterparks and Dragone Entertainment to make its vision a reality.

Land of Legends is a $1 billion dollar project with an underlying Greek and Roman theming that integrates with its setting nestled between the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. With a Typhoon Coaster, A Magicone and a world-class lineup of slides, it’s an excellent example of what’s possible with combining expert theming and a regional narrative and design focus. We’re looking forward to the next round of development at Land of Legends.

BirdsEye View - Legend of Aqua

Meanwhile, some of the industry’s most aggressive development is focused in Asia. Asia in general and China in particular are watershed markets for theme park development. The $5.5. billion dollar Shanghai Disney opened earlier this year and Forbes reports 65 additional parks are being built in China alone, including contributions from international brands like Legoland and Universal. However, there’s a thriving domestic theme park scene as well with brands like Chimelong and Songcheng playing large roles. In addition, the expansive industry around theme parks – including local suppliers and vendors – is thriving. It’s estimated that this year’s spending on parks in Asia could top $20 billion. The IAAPA has predicted that growth in the region over the next few years could be a sustained 8.8%.

Another hotbed of innovation and rapid growth for theme parks is occurring in the Middle East and Africa region – specifically within Dubai. The city is within four hours of three billion people, which fuels some of its incredible growth. The Gulf News recently reported on Dubai’s desire to be an Orlando 2.0 and reports that by 2018, there will be eight full-fledged large parks in the city. Currently, the region is braced for major momentum on the part of Dubai Parks and Resorts, which opens three new parks in quick succession. This month, they’re slated to open the doors to the region’s first Legoland park, Legoland Dubai. In November, the first Bollywood theme park is added to the lineup and finally, in December, Motiongate Dubai will join the ranks. Motiongate’s third park is dedicated to the movie industry with sections devoted to Sony, DreamWorks, and Lionsgate – along with a kid-focused section that’s themed to the Smurfs. The region’s first $1 billion indoor theme park – IMG Worlds of Adventure – opened this summer and includes attractions themed with Marvel characters and other recognizable intellectual property brands, as well as some proprietary creations.

IMG Worlds of Adventure - Dubai

Finally, there’s a significant amount of theme park construction and new attraction development happening in key markets at home. Media headlines have recently asked whether all the construction happening will be disruptive. Orlando is gearing up for a big refresh with Universal’s third theme park, Volcano Bay (a water park), and Disney’s Star Wars and Avatar Lands. A number of smaller attractions are being refreshed, and Wet’n’Wild which has long been an Orlando staple is closing down.

As 2016 draws to a close, things are promising to be exciting in the attractions world for the 2017 summer season and beyond. International parks that have long been in development will be opening, and highly anticipated attractions at home will finally open their doors. A number of forces are driving these developments: 1) big brands are going overseas, 2) properties continue to re-investment in flagship parks to keep them current, and 3) homegrown entertainment brands are entering the theme park races in their own regions. Beyond that, big sweeping influences like intellectual property, better technology and more integration between entertainment channels are making it possible for theme parks to push their development and innovation to the next level. We’re excited to see what’s ahead!

Images courtesy of Rixos and JRA; Arabian Business

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