Regional Updates - November 2017
The Wanda Group launched the world’s largest indoor ski resort, Harbin Wanda Ski Park, with six slopes, spread out over half a kilometer and featuring an 80-meter vertical drop in Harbin Wanda City, a US$6 billion resort in the northeast of China. The ski facility, shaped like a giant piano from the outside to honor the city’s musical heritage, can host up to 3,000 skiers. The resort also features a movie park, outdoor theme park, hotels, and 2,000-seat theater.
While the Dalian Wanda Group will operate Harbin Wanda City, it’s selling 91 percent of the resort—along with comparable stakes in a dozen other theme parks—to property developer Sunac China Holdings for RMB44 billion. Taken together with a decision to sell 77 hotels to another developer, the sale is one of the largest property transactions in Chinese history.
Partition Museum Marks Modern Exodus
Seventy years after one of the deadliest upheavals in modern history, the world’s first Partition Museum pays tribute to the survivors and victims of the communal clashes that marked the beginning of the end of British colonialism and birth of modern India and Pakistan. The partition displaced 15 million people; hundreds of thousands of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were killed in the violence. Located in Amritsar, Punjab, India, approximately 20 miles from the border in a historic red brick town hall, the museum contains personal effects, letters, and rare video testimonies from individuals and families who, despite losing almost everything, showed courage and resilience.
World’s ‘Tallest, Fastest, Longest’ Roller Coaster, with a Virtual Twist
Imagine riding a roller coaster that drops nearly 300 meters, accelerates to 270 kph, and extends for almost 3,000 meters. Huis Ten Bosch’s new “VR-King” claims to do just that, with the help of virtual reality (VR) technology. In reality, the coaster lasts two and a half minutes, as riders experience the sensation of racing through buildings, woods, and a cave at high speeds. The Japanese theme park, which is located in Nagasaki and modeled after a Dutch village, is making VR an integral part of its brand. There are VR horror houses and a VR “attraction town” that offers a virtual reverse bungee, virtual shooting, and even virtual dating. Huis Ten Bosch has also opened a VR Land in Tokyo to boost the company’s name recognition and draw visitors to the Nagasaki park, about 1,200 kilometers away.
Giant ‘Swing on Steroids’ Debuts at Perth’s Adventure World
Adventure World’s newest ride has been described as a giant “swing on steroids.” Appropriately named “Goliath,” the massive pendulum swings more than 28 meters into the air and reaches speeds approaching 65 kph. “It’s a big ride. Everything about it is big, so we knew the name needed to be big (too),” Adventure World CEO Andrew Sharry told a local TV program. “Goliath,” which opened in late September and can seat 32 passengers, features a lap-bar harness and suspended seat system—a first for Australia—allowing for greater freedom of movement and a feeling of “flying through the air.” The height requirement is just 119 centimeters, making the ride accessible to children as young as 8 years old.
Safari, so Good for Longleat’s Expansion Plans
Longleat Safari and Adventure Park in the United Kingdom secured outline planning approval for a new 240-room hotel, with a water park and conference facilities for 200 visitors. The £45 million project will also provide a “unique, intimate animal experience for guests,” says Steve Mytton, Longleat’s media and public relations manager. Longleat’s team hopes to have full planning approval by March 2018, aiming to start construction next summer, with opening forecast for summer 2020.
The plans represent a “huge boost to Longleat’s long-term future,” according to Bob Montgomery, CEO of Longleat Enterprises Ltd. “We believe the hotel will enable Longleat to develop and grow over the coming years and will provide a new tourism hub for the area, which will create many more jobs and attract new investment.”
More than 40 percent of Longleat’s visitors (1 million annually) drive for more than two hours to visit its Safari Park and stately home. The expansion is an “excellent way to build on the success Longleat already enjoys,” says Eric O’Rourke, director of resorts at Forrec, which was responsible for the concept and master plan. The proposed resort—located on a 135-acre site—will be staying within the character of the historic estate.
Plopsa Brings Indoor Fun to Holiday Park
Plopsa plans to open a €7.5 million indoor zone next summer at Holiday Park in Haßloch, Germany. The themed area will feature characters including Heidi, Mia and Me, and Tabaluga. Seven attractions are planned: a family roller coaster, an interactive flying carousel, a merry-go-round, a huge slide, a ball pit, a climbing tree, and a playground. There will also be a theater for 500 guests, two food and beverage outlets, and a shop.
Serengeti-Park App Keeps Animals and Visitors Happy
“Serengeti Interactives” is the world’s first app that allows people to participate in the care of animals at Serengeti-Park in Hodenhagen, Germany.
Using the park’s app, guests can trigger different functions in interactives situated inside the enclosures. The interactives—themed as a baobab tree and totem poles—have been designed with animal welfare in mind. Visitors can remotely activate brushes for scrubbing, as well as water and food, sound effects, and salt blocks for the animals to lick. Some functions are free of charge, others cost between €1-3.
Fabrizio Sepe, director and owner of Serengeti-Park, wanted to enrich the animals’ experience and give people “the satisfaction of doing something good for their well-being, both during a visit to the park and from the comfort of home.”
Serengeti-Park and Jora Vision turned the idea into a reality. Jora Vision’s team consulted with the animals’ caretakers, then focused on the interactives’ locations, themed design, and necessary systems to achieve the desired effect. Everything works with a specially designed app from Von Affenfels GmbH, combined with Bluetooth beacons in the park.
Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo’s Supersized Screen Breaks Records
Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo’s giant organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen set three Guinness World Records for the largest OLED screen, the highest-resolution video wall, and the largest high-definition video wall.
Created in partnership with LG, the curved display sits above the aquarium’s main exhibit at The Dubai Mall, United Arab Emirates. Measuring 709.69 square meters, the display comprises more than 820 flexible, OLED panels, maximizing the visual impact.
Maitha Al Dossari, CEO of Emaar Entertainment, which operates the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, says the team was honored by the multiple records: “Emaar Entertainment continues to push the boundaries and achieve greater heights through innovative installations and attractions. We’re committed to delivering the best in the industry and inspiring joy.”
Three White Tigers Join the Beto Carrero World Zoo Family
This summer, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Beto Carrero World Zoo in Penha, Santa Catarina, Brazil, the team added three white tigers to its family. The zoo continues to grow in honor of its founder, Beto Carrero, who loved animals, especially the tiger because of its beauty. The three tigers are Ravi, a male brought from Germany’s Senne Grosswild Safariland, and Rahny and Amal, sisters from Argentina’s Temaiken Zoo. Bringing the three tigers together to live in harmony in the habitat took approximately four months, says the zoo’s coordinator, Kátia Cassaro. “These are animals who are used to living alone, so bringing them together was slow, delicate work. Now, they are fully adapted to the area, and the hope is that in the next year, when they reach sexual maturity at the age of two, they will reproduce.” While many believe white tigers to be albino, they are rather Bengal tigers that have a genetic difference that leaves the tiger white with blue eyes. Visitors can catch a glimpse the tigers each day at the zoo’s Secret Garden.
Parque da Mônica Adds a Ferris Wheel and New Show
This year, Brazil’s Parque da Mônica is expanding its entertainment repertoire with two new attractions: a Ferris wheel and a new show. Adding to the “skyline” of the indoor park, the Ferris wheel will provide up to 32 riders with a view of Parque da Mônica’s Main Street. The new musical show, which features characters from the award-winning 1970s comic adventure “Mônica & Friends,” created by Mauricio de Sousa, provides visitors with a fun way to think about diversity and inclusion through stories and songs.
New Aquatic Roller Coaster to Debut in Brazil
One of the world’s largest aquatic roller coasters will open in Olímpia, Brazil, at Thermas dos Laranjais. The new attraction, which sits on 365 meters of track, will feature falls, turns, curves, and climbs—including areas that run through water. Apart from its long route, one of the main highlights of the ride, which was not yet open at press time, is that it does not require visitors to climb stairs to access it; instead, they will climb into the same floats that arrive in the pool at the completion of another ride.
A 360-Degree View of the Mayan Jungle and Caribbean Sea at Xel-Há
Taking adventure to greater heights, Mexico’s Xel-Há recently opened its newest attraction: “Scenic Lighthouse.” This attraction features a 360-degree lookout at the top, where visitors can enjoy unparalleled views of the Mayan jungle’s greenery, the Caribbean Sea, and sea life, before they plunge down 30 meters on one of four twisting slides and into the cenote.
Experiencias Xcaret Opening New Hotel with All-Inclusive Program
Adding to its repertoire of eco-focused parks, the Experiencias Xcaret Group, based in Quintana Roo, Mexico, is opening a new hotel in the Riviera Maya, the Hotel Xcaret Mexico. The 900-room property will be divided into five “houses” that will each offer different experiences to guests: Casa Fuego, an adults-only area; Casa Tierra, which is focused on families; Casa Agua, a spa and wellness area; Casa Espiral, which is oriented to adults and groups; and Casa Viento, which is open for all. One of the options the hotel will offer guests is an all-inclusive fun package, which provides guests unlimited access to all parks in the Experiencias Xcaret group: Xcaret, Xel-Há , Xplor, Xplor Fuego, Xenses, and Xoximilco, as well as tours to Xenotes Oasis Maya, Xichén, and Tulum. The project will add more than 1,400 jobs to the area—from maintenance to reception to executive-level positions, for which the management team began hiring in September and October.
High-End ‘Street Food’ Comes to Alpen Park
Brazil’s Alpen Park is giving thrill-seeking foodies a new reason to visit the park with a new gastronomic space, Augusta Café. Inspired by the urban food scene of São Paulo—specifically the concept of high-end “street food”— Augusta Café offers small snacks and quality meals for adults and children alike. Some of the menu highlights include: the Crazy Meat Sandwich, which is made with boneless pounded meat, caramelized onions, and melted cheese with Caesar sauce; the Augusta Burger, which features an exclusive meat mix, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, and arugula; and churros with dulce de leche. Adults can also enjoy homemade beers, such as the Gram Bier handmade draft beer, and wine. The idea for Augusta Café came from owners Gustavo and Patricia Wiesel, who named the restaurant after Augusta Street in São Paulo, known for its artistic and foodie lifestyle.
Royal Plans Underway for the Historic Queen Mary
Urban Commons plans to redefine the skyline and social scene of Long Beach, California, through a new $250 million entertainment zone anchored by the historic Queen Mary. Urban Commons operates the ocean liner, which was moved from England to Long Beach 50 years ago. The firm released plans for Queen Mary Island, which will occupy land adjacent to the ship; the revenue generated by this new entertainment complex will help fund much-needed repairs on the Queen Mary itself, the company says.
Urban Adventures will include around 20 experiences, like ice climbing, a zip-line coaster, simulated skydiving, surfing, and kayaking. Designs for the rest of the 66-acre island include a 7,000-seat amphitheater, a refurbished boardwalk, and 500,000 square feet of retail and additional entertainment.
Urban Commons says it will raise funds for the effort without taxpayer assistance. Long Beach city officials have expressed support for the project, and Urban Commons hopes to break ground two years after receiving final approvals.
Coaster Riders Throw on Their PJs to ‘Sleep N’ Soar’
Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, gave 167 roller coaster fans the chance to ride in their pajamas during a “Sleep N’ Soar” event celebrating National Roller Coaster Day on Aug. 16. Participants arrived at the park in their superhero PJs as part of the “DC Summer of Super Heroes” and spent one hour riding “Batman: The Ride” exclusively to set a world record for the most roller coaster riders in pajamas. They received special certificates commemorating the event.
Submarine Ride Is Merlin’s Biggest Investment in Legoland
Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad, California, will open “Lego City Deep Sea Adventure” in summer 2018. Though the resort provided no cost figure for the attraction, it did say it will be Merlin Entertainments’ largest single investment in any Legoland park.
The submarine adventure will take guests on a search for lost treasure on a sunken Lego shipwreck. The 12-seat submarines will enter an underwater habitat that contains more than 2,000 different living sea animals, including a variety of sharks, several species of stingrays, and tropical fish. Visitors will also see scuba divers made from Lego bricks. Touchscreens at each porthole inside the subs will be used by guests to assist the Lego minifigure dive team find gems, pearls, Lego gold coins, and other objects during the journey.
The debut of “Lego City Deep Sea Adventure” will follow the opening of the resort’s Legoland Castle Hotel in the spring. It will feature 250 knight‑, wizard-, and princess‑themed rooms, and provide employment for 200 Model Citizens (Legoland’s term for employees).
Dollywood Water Park Floats Funds to Critically Ill Kids
The first 600 guests who entered Dollywood’s Splash Country in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, on Aug. 26 and mentioned the Ronald McDonald House received a 50 percent discount off a regular or child admission ticket. Since 2003, Dollywood’s Splash Country has donated more than $347,000 to the nonprofit that provides aid to families with critically ill children who are being treated in area hospitals, and 100 percent of the funds raised during this year’s “Ronald McDonald Day” at the water park went to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Knoxville. This year’s effort raised $15,000 for the families.