No longer just a wonderland of fun for kids, theme parks are making their spaces friendly for corporate hire and getting clients to see them in a new light
Asia has witnessed an explosion of theme parks in recent years, many themed around popular cartoon and movie characters and brandishing the latest in fun ride technology.
While these theme parks may have been built with families with children and the young-at-heart in mind, these attractions are also gaining fans in the corporate circle.
Popular theme parks such as Hong Kong Disneyland and Universal Studios Singapore, which offer private venue hires and are equipped with themed spaces that make memorable venues for networking functions, meetings, product launches, gala dinners and award presentations, are no stranger to corporate event organisers. They are also favoured for having quality hotel accommodation located on site or in close proximity.
Several business event specialists told TTGmice that theme parks are hotting up as venues for corporate gatherings.
“We have observed a rising trend for meetings and incentives at theme parks,” said Ankush Nijhawan, managing director of Nijhawan Group of Companies, one of India’s leading travel conglomerate, noting that cities in Europe, Asia and the Middle East are “particularly successful at winning these events”.
He explained that theme parks appealed to corporate clients as they satisfied the need for work spaces and fun elements under one roof.
Pacific World’s regional director Asia, Selina Chavry, agrees. “Theme parks with hotels in close proximity and feature a significant number of meeting and convention spaces (are getting more MICE enquiries) as they are a good alternative to conventional (venues) in city hotels. They are also equipped with facilities for post-meeting activities.”
Chavry also noted that theme parks are savvy marketers. “Much focus has been channelled towards MICE buyers. Theme parks are making efforts to distinguish themselves by constant upgrade of facilities, adding new rides, etc. to leverage on the growing (business events) market. In keeping with the growing demand, the (theme park) industry has also become more organised and active on a professional level,” she said.
Kota Kikui, general manager, MICE Sales Department of Tokyo-based Tobu Top Tours Co., said Japanese companies loved the idea of hosting incentives at theme parks.
“Theme parks in Japan are popular among the Japanese, so taking staff to a theme park is a way to give (staff) unforgettable memories,” said Kikui, adding that the improving national economy has led to an increase in clients rewarding staff with trips to destinations with theme parks.
Of course, not all business event organisers are sold on the idea.
Vidya Hermanto, managing director of Corporate Incentive Management with Indonesia’s Panorama Leisure, remarked: “Theme parks are perceived to be a place for families, therefore they do not really appeal to corporates. We have not received any requests for meetings in a theme park, although there have been some teambuilding and family day programmes at these venues.”
He added: “And because of their characteristics as a family fun place, there are limited activities that corporates can do there. The theme park also cannot reflect the corporate image and goal of a corporate event.”
Simon Ang, managing director – operations with Celebrate Life Travel & Leisure Philippines, has observed a decline in corporate requests for theme parks.
“Clients that have done (meetings and incentives at theme parks) in the past are now interested in exploring new destinations. As they become more travel-savvy, they want to take the road least travelled – hikes, safaris, treks and other adventure experiences – instead of visiting yet another theme park which offers the same rides and attractions,” commented Ang.
The demographics of incentive winners contribute to a weak demand for theme parks too, according to Richard Vuilleumier, managing director of Panorama Tours Malaysia.
Vuilleumier said: “Many incentive qualifiers are in their 40s and they are not so keen on theme parks as compared to shopping and visiting iconic attractions. Having said that, a half-day programme can be included in the itinerary provided the theme park is iconic, for example Tokyo Disneyland which stands out because it is the closest to (Malaysia) and one can see iconic Disney characters that adults can relate to. The good weather in Tokyo is another winning factor.”
Tobu Top Tours Co.’s Kikui expects corporate interest in theme parks to rise as more theme parks continue to spring up on Asian soil.
He explained: “Japanese companies want destinations that are not too far from home because (staff) can only go away for three or four days. Japanese firms are not keen to give their staff long vacations. Short trips also keep costs down. Theme parks in Europe or North America are too far away.” – Paige Lee, Mimi Hudoyo, S Puvaneswary, Rosa Ocampo, Rohit Kaul and Julian Ryall
Viewpoints – What should theme parks do to attract corporate clients?
“The (clients) I speak with are always asking for more information about the parties and unique events they can do at theme parks, so park operators need to be better at providing such information.”
General manager, MICE Sales Department,
Tobu Top Tours Co.
“Theme parks can create lasting memories for MICE delegates by going out of their way to create (unique) entertainment for corporate groups. For example, a dining function can be enhanced with a theme and characters in costumes mingling with delegates.”
Panorama Tours Malaysia
“Theme parks offering unique concepts and attractions would be a welcome move to address and adjust to the evolving market.”
Managing director – operations
Celebrate Life Travel & Leisure Philippines
“Theme parks (that succeed) are continuously focusing on creativity and offering the newest rides, experiences and services to its guests. They are also evolving their MICE offerings such as the provision of express entry for groups, welcome banners, souvenirs and discount coupons.”
Nijhawan Group of Companies
Not just for kids
TTGmice spotlights upcoming theme parks that are suitable for business events
Shanghai Disney Resort, China
Mainly China but also markets across Asia and beyond
Unique selling points
Shanghai Disney Resort will be a world-class family vacation destination that combines classic Disney characters and storytelling with the uniqueness and beauty of China. The resort’s vision is to build an “authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese” resort, and aims to provide unique content and experience to all visitors by introducing Chinese elements in its dining outlets, entertainment and architecture.
The resort will have accommodation, function rooms and in-park venues for private events. More details on its events capability will be shared at a later stage.
Movie Animation Park Studios, Perak
Domestic visitors as well as travellers from Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, China and India
Unique selling points
Said to be the first animation theme park in Asia, Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS) is one of the most unique and exciting projects underway in Malaysia’s leisure and tourism landscape, noted Darren McLean, co-founder and CEO of Movie Animation Parks Studios.
The attraction will be launched with more than 40 attractions in six themed zones. Highlights will include:
• South-east Asia’s first live car and bike stunt show, Stunt Legends, which will be performed at the 2,000-seat Stunt Legends Arena
• DreamWorks Animation Adventure Zone featuring themed attractions such as Mr Peabody & Sherman, Megamind, The Croods and Casper The Friendly Ghost
• South-east Asia’s first Smurfs ‘Live’ animation attractions
• The world’s first BoBoiBoy animation attraction
• Malaysia’s tallest drop tower attraction, Megamind Megadrop
• A variety of themed performances, F&B and retail outlets
Stunt Legends Arena has a VIP room and can accommodate large groups, while thematic restaurants will be set up within the park. There will also be open spaces that can be customised to meet the requirements of event organisers.
Twentieth Century Fox World Malaysia, Resorts World Genting
ASEAN, Greater China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India and the Middle East
Unique selling points
The attraction will be the world’s first Twentieth Century Fox World theme park.
It will bring the “rich heritage of Twentieth Century Fox movie and television from the screen to be experienced on the ground”. said Chow Wei Heng, vice president marketing with Resorts World Genting.
Perfect for family day outings and programmes for accompanying spouses and children, the theme park will feature a wide range of attractions themed after popular cartoon and movie titles like Ice Age, Epic, Rio, Alien vs Predator, Titanic and Night at the Museum.
Chow promises “something for everyone – young and old” at the future theme park.
Meeting venues have been alloted and there are plans to develop itineraries for event delegates. Details will be announced in early 2016.
Planet J, Sands Cotai Central, Macau
China, Taiwan, South-east Asia and Europe
Unique selling points
Planet J is the world’s first player-centric Live-Action-Role-Play (LARP) theme park.
“At Planet J you won’t find a roller coaster, but it features out-of-the-world role-playing games, where players can physically act out the actions of fantasy characters, and the pursuing of goals and interaction with other adventurers between realistic and virtual settings,” explained a spokesperson.
Connecting the players with the park is a mobile device called Magic Scroll, a personalised mobile gear that connects to over 200 whimsical games. Blending state-of-the-art technology and experiential storytelling, it will take players into a total immersive experience, from fun games to exhilarating quests for individuals, and grand adventures to dazzling performances for group challenges.
Planet J can be a unique venue for events or corporate functions, particularly for team-building or interactive events.
Event organisers and corporates can book the venue for exclusive use for a two-hour session. For longer sessions, bookings must be made at least three months in advance.
The Planet J team can also work with event planners to customise the venue and programme.
IMG Worlds of Adventure, Dubai
Unique selling points
IMG Worlds of Adventure is set to be the world’s largest indoor temperature-controlled theme park, allowing comfortable year-round visits.
Spanning 139,355m2 in size, the attraction will partner globally renowned brands such as Marvel and Cartoon Network to offer a mix of exciting themed rides and attractions that will appeal to visitors of all ages and nationalities.
There will also be an extensive F&B offering, with plans to offer Arabic, European, American and Pan-Asian cuisines.
Lennard Otta, general manager of IMG Worlds of Adventure, said the company will be developing fully licensed, bespoke merchandise, not available anywhere else in the world.
IMG Worlds of Adventure will play a supporting role in Dubai’s quest for a growing MICE sector.
Catering to both formal and informal events alike, the attraction will house state-of-the-art facilities like amphitheaters, event halls, cinemas and themed private dining rooms. It will also provide bespoke teambuilding and entertainment packages.