Monday, July 22, 2024

Vekoma: Coasting around Asia

Jason Pan of Vekoma discusses the latest theme park trends in Asia

interview by Martin Palicki

ABOVE: Jason Pan. Photos courtesy Vekoma.

Netherlands-based Vekoma has more than 20 new attractions opening around the world in 2019, many in Asia. As a respected name in roller coaster manufacturing, Vekoma has built attractions for a wide array of clients, including Disney. InPark spoke to Jason Pan, Vekoma’s regional director of sales and marketing about how roller coasters and thrill rides are faring in the dynamic Asian theme park market.

Vekoma is opening numerous projects in China over the next few years. Do you think the theme park industry in China has reached a peak stage of development?

Since the opening of Shanghai Disneyland in 2016, more investors have stepped into this market and we see a growing number of Chinese theme park companies ranking in the top 10 according to the TEA/AECOM Theme Index attendance reports.

New parks are being built and as we all know, it takes a considerable amount of time to build a park, so we believe it is still not the peak of Chinese park developments. We will see more park openings in the coming two years. It’s also important to note that after these years of rapid growth and development, the Chinese market has also become more mature and oriented toward high quality.

Much has been written about how Asian consumers generally prefer less intense rides than Western consumers. As a roller coaster manufacturer, do you find that to be true?

Of course there are cultural differences in Asia but “fun is fun” wherever you are in the world. We have found that Asian consumers like thrill rides a lot, however, the large population in Asia is also very family oriented and therefore rides that the entire family can enjoy are also very popular. To the Asian consumer it does not really matter whether it is a thrill or family coaster. They care more about having a fun experience. Park owners realize this and we see them opting for a mix of family and thrill coasters.

In terms of ride features, how important is bigger/taller/ faster to the Asian markets?

At the beginning, we did see some investors focusing more on bigger, taller or faster, however as the market is maturing, parks now focus more on the guest experiences. A new attraction requires a substantial investment so investors will choose those attractions that have a longer lifetime while at the same time being attractive to a range of audiences.

You can see there is a lot of good IP entering into the Chinese market, and combining it with rides allows parks to build more immersive attractions. Storytelling and immersive experiences are the most popular trends in China right now.

How important are roller coasters to new park developments in Asia?

Coasters have always been a main attraction for parks, no matter whether they are – in Europe/EMEA, USA/North America or Asia. Because of their big scale and visibility, they entice people into a park and get them involved in the whole park environment.

What are some of the things an operator should consider in regard to buying and operating a roller coaster?

When operating and buying a coaster, the ride experience is not the only important element that an operator must consider. Safety is the first priority, and safety is closely connected to maintenance. The client should make sure that the coaster will be easy to operate and maintain and look for options that include strong after-sales support. • • •

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Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

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