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Universal joy, immersive experiences on the way

By WANG ZHUOQIONG | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-08-10 09:09
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Employees carry out construction of phase one of the Universal Beijing Resort in Beijing in January. [Photo by Dai Bing/For China Daily]

Work on capital's ultra-modern theme park resort project accelerates toward 2021 launch

Not just fun elements based on movie characters like Minions, Transformers, Harry Potter, various other thrilling attractions inspired by them will enliven the Universal Beijing Resort (UBR) that is tipped to open in the national capital in the first half of next year.

The multibillion-dollar project in the eastern Tongzhou district of Beijing is Universal's largest in the world, and will come amid hopes that the raging COVID-19 pandemic will have waned by the time of the resort's opening, and will deepen the nascent recovery in the tourism industry. Such prospects are in line with the country's recent emphasis on boosting domestic demand, thereby increasing and upgrading consumption.

The nation's top leadership has on various occasions reaffirmed the idea of a dual-cycle development pattern. That is, the country's growth will rely on both domestic and international economic developments, with the domestic cycle being the mainstay-and the development of tourism, and the larger services sector, fits in nicely with this theme.

UBR executives said the plan to open the theme park resort next year remains unchanged, with construction and recruitment as priorities this year.

According to Beijing International Resort Co Ltd, the company that owns the UBR, construction is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Beijing International Resort is a joint venture 70 percent owned by Beijing Shouhuan Cultural Tourism Investment Co Ltd and 30 percent by Universal Parks& Resorts, a business unit of Comcast NBCUniversal.

In June, the UBR unveiled details of the Universal CityWalk Beijing complex, the gateway to the resort and home to ultra-modern retail, dining and entertainment facilities. CityWalk, which will also open next year, is expected to house a multiplex cinema with Beijing's largest commercial IMAX screen taking pride of place. Another CityWalk attraction will be Red Oven Pizza Bakery.

That's not all. The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, retail stores, a reinvented "Grandma's Travel Home" restaurant, Asia's largest Peet's Coffee, and trendy outlets such as Pop Mart will complete the world-class feel of the resort.

CityWalk's strategic location and design are already creating a buzz among theme park aficionados. It will provide the first glimpse of the stunning experiences expected at the resort.

Located at the main entrance of Universal Studios Beijing, CityWalk will connect the theme park, parking facilities and subway entrances, allowing guests easy access to the fun and excitement without even having to enter the theme park.

Tom Mehrmann, president and general manager of the UBR, said: "CityWalk is also designed to stand as a destination in its own right, as a new high-quality recreation and entertainment option for residents and tourists in Beijing.

"We believe CityWalk will drive the formation of a new cultural business center, giving a strong boost to Beijing's economic development. For the capital, it means jobs, housing, development and growth."

The UBR is an umbrella concept encompassing CityWalk, Universal Studios Beijing, the theme park, and two resort hotels-the Universal Studios Grand Hotel and the Nuo Resort Hotel.

The resort is designed to cater to the shifting cultural and tourism preferences of the younger generation of Chinese consumers, allowing them to enjoy and participate in a new and exciting lifestyle.

This year, efforts are on to continue to head toward the finishing line, with preparations for the grand opening receiving priority, UBR executives said.

To date, nearly 70 percent of the resort's overall construction has been completed, with the entire main structure completed. Ride and show equipment is now under installation.

Movie fans are expected to be immersed in the upcoming seven highly themed lands: Kung Fu Panda Land of Awesomeness, Transformers: Metrobase, Minion Land, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic World Isla Nublar, Hollywood and WaterWorld.

To make it more relevant and appealing to the local tourists, the resort has specially created experiences designed to reflect China's cultural heritage such as Kung Fu Panda Land of Awesomeness, the first such attraction in Universal Parks& Resorts worldwide.

"The resort is also expected to feed culture and tourism not only for this area but for the entire region and nation. So it is a great statement and a great opportunity to keep growing and building," said Zhao Ping, director of the international trade research department at the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Academy.

Zhao underlined the economic benefits of the resort, saying it will prove a strong boost to the national capital's economic growth, which is mainly propelled by spending in the services sector.

"Every time a theme park of such magnitude is set up, it will generate multiplier benefits to the local economy."

Shanghai Disney Resort, which opened in 2016, has brought economic benefits to the metropolis in many aspects, most visible ones being tourism and jobs.

Disney's fixed-asset investment boosted 0.44 percent of gross domestic product of Shanghai annually during its construction years from 2011 to 2016. It also created 62,600 new jobs on average annually.

The opening year of 2016 alone saw local tourism-related sales rise by 168.9 billion yuan ($24.09 billion), up almost 7 percent year-on-year, exceeding by 4.8 percentage points the average growth rate between 2011 and 2015, according to the Shanghai Information Office.

In 2016, about 305 million personal visits were recorded at tourist sites in Shanghai, up more than 7 percent year-on-year, exceeding by 4.38 percentage points the average of the prior five years. Small wonder, the UBR's opening is highly anticipated by everyone, including Chinese consumers, particularly those who have grown up with famous movie characters like those of the Transformers, Harry Potter and the Minions, said Zhao.

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