When it comes to fun, Asia means business these days -- big business. In 2010, six out of the 10 fastest growing theme parks were from that region. And South Korea is next in line to help Asia steal the mantle of theme park supremacy from the United States.
Executives predict that 2.8 million people
a year will visit the 800,000sqm Robotland theme park in Incheon, which is scheduled
to open within two years. They also expect traditional competition to be
blasted out of the water.
A two-hour drive from Seoul, the capital, Incheon
is witnessing the creation of a technology-based
metropolis, virtually from scratch, with high speed
rail and road links to the ultramodern national airport. So it is only fitting
that the futuristic robot magic kingdom will sit in the city’s hub, the
Cheognan district. Landmark Entertainment, the company that worked on the Terminator
Park attractions in California’s and Orlando’s Universal Studios theme parks,
promises four thematic Robotland
areas, the world's first robot museum, a daily robot parade and a robot
rollercoaster that stands 56m high. The themed areas will include a
child-centred "Kidbot Village", which looks at the history of robots,
and Fun City, which promises well-known characters from film, comic books and
you take a normal industrial robotic arm that can twist and throw you around in
3D, it can provide so many more movements and sensations than a conventional
rollercoaster,” said Brendan Walker, a thrills engineer who has helped
construct some of the most daring and scary rollercoasters in the world. “But then
you start thinking about controlling our experience through artificial
intelligence. It all become a bit darker and weirder. I can trust a ride
operator but can I trust a robot? There's an element of horror here. "
ambitious government-backed scheme is designed to showcase South Korea's
technological prowess. Education is very much at the heart of the big idea and the theme
park will act as a honey-trap for kids interested in robotic engineering.
But South Koreans are not only banking on
robots. Universal's planned park outside of Seoul, a $3.6 billion project and
the company’s third in Asia, is back on course for a 2014 opening, seemingly
buoyed by the growing appetite in the Asian market.
two existing giants of the Korean theme park industry, Everland
and Lotte World, recorded
double digit growth in customer visits and were featured in the top 10 fastest
growing theme parks in the world.
World, the world's largest indoor theme park, is a giant shopping, sports and
activity complex, but its main attraction is the amusement centre, complete
with rollercoaster, ice rink, monorail and a Magic Island with swimming pools
and cinemas. Crowds of children on school trips from the suburbs of Seoul
stream in through the ticket hall and leave several hours later, suitably
enchanted by their visit.
Everland is an hour's drive from Seoul in Yongin and has five themed areas,
including a zoo, a Caribbean Bay waterpark and the world's steepest wooden
rollercoaster. Opened in 1976, it is the nations' largest complex and ranks in
the top 10 in the world for attendance figures. Not surprising considering the project is a subsidiary of the technology giant,
Asia, attendance to theme parks rose last year by 7.3%, compared to 1.8% in the
United States. Attendance in the region is expected to rise to 290 million in
2012, from 249 million in 2007.
China has 20 theme parks faring well. The
only blot on the landscape is the ban slapped on all new constructions because
of concerns that property speculation is overheating at the moment.
Tokyo still has some of the biggest
attractions at the moment thanks to the well -established brands of Disneyland
and Universal. But bucking the upward trend across Asia, Disneyland and
Disneysea have seen falling attendances in the first six months of this
Europe and the United States, analysts say, actual numbers may not be falling but
spending per trip is, provoking parks to take a leaf from the low-cost airline
industry and charge for "unbundled" services, like locker facilities before being flung
around on a ride or dryers after a soaking on the flumes. If the US wore
the crown in the 20th century for its creation of the modern fantasy fairground,
than Asia is on course to assume supremacy in the first half of the 21st