|A samba dancer interacts with visitors at the Happy Valley amusement park in Beijing in July. An Xudong / for China Daily|
Nearby apartments, hotels prove profitable for project developers
When visiting a theme park in China, listen for the shrieks as the roller coasters whiz past and the bumper cars collide.
Chances are, the loudest such screams of joy are from the investors.
Amusement parks are a booming business in China. But although attractions are springing up nationwide, industry insiders say the trend has less to do with tapping the thrill-seeker market and more to do with securing prime real estate.
Theme parks in Asia sold a combined 103.3 million tickets last year, one-third of the total in the world and second only to those sold in North America (127 million), according to AECOM, a consultancy firm in Hong Kong.
And unlike the US, East Asia is seeing a growing number of new attractions.
Chris Yoshii, an analyst for AECOM, told USA Today recently that almost a third of China's 2,500-plus theme parks have opened within the past two years, with the total number expected to surpass that of the US by 2020.
However, a 2010 study by the firm found that at least 70 percent of these attractions are actually losing money, with the real profits coming from adjacent projects.
Feng Yuguo, secretary-general of the China Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, said that fact doesn't worry investors.
"Many investors don't mind losing money operating theme parks, since the sales of tickets and food make up only a very small percentage of their profits," Feng said.
"The major part comes from the adjacent commercial and residential developments, including apartments, villas and hotels."
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