In his conference call with investors on Tuesday, Las Vegas Sands’ CEO Sheldon Adelson took the rather unnecessary step of stressing the importance of Asia to his company’s bottom line. He also mentioned the need for casino companies to offer their Asian customers more amenities than mere gambling. “I’ve been saying that ever since we opened the Sands in 2004, that anybody that opens any property should be required to have a matrix of both gaming and non-gaming activities.”
Some of the same people brought in to help diversify the resort casino offerings are also making their mark away from the casino floor. Kelvin Chan, a business writer with the AP, recently shone a spotlight on how western amusement park designers are shifting their focus from the slumping USA to ascendant Asia. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that spending by Asian theme park visitors will rise to $8.4b by 2012, driven by the rapidly expanding ranks of the region’s middle class.
Shanghai will see a Hello Kitty theme park designed by a Pasadena-based company open in 2014, while a $3.7b Disney-branded park is set to open in Shanghai two years later. A Burbank company is designing a park near Beijing based on the traditional Chinese tale Monkey Kingdom. Universal Studios, which already operates at the Resorts World Sentosa integrated resort in Singapore, will open a theme park in Seoul, South Korea in 2014, while Legoland is set to make its Asian debut in Malaysia in 2013.
But just as western online gambling companies looking to open Asian-facing operations need to understand the market they’re serving, the same is true for theme park designers. KB Creative Advisors’ Kevin Barbee, who’s working on several Universal Studios attractions, points out that Asia’s multi-generational families don’t necessarily go to theme parks looking for the exact same experience as an American family. “If you have a roller coaster, the youngest is probably too short to go on and oldest ones don’t want to be spun and twisted.” In other words, know your marketplace, or it’s you who’ll get taken for a ride.