Monday, June 18, 2012

Why do ideas about theme parks pass by Russia?

The theme parks acquire the great popularity. But only in the West. Russians consider such projects too risky now. Why? Let’s think a little. 

For most people “park” is only “big garden or the grove with paths”. Provincial town parks in Russia are ordinary combination of benches, poor playgrounds for children, fountain as big rarity, and merry-go-rounds dangerous for life.  

There is a trend in major megalopolises to open leisure parks, but usually they look as accidental piles of various park amusements. At the same time in Europe building of theme parks (which imply not so much mindless entertainments as intelligent content) is developed actively.

Not to think is forbidden. 

There is a sense to compare the market of entertainment services in Russia and abroad. Mainly Russia has only recreation parks in the towns and entertainment complexes at the large shopping malls. And abroad it is a great industry. The PriceWaterhouseCoopers says there are more than 300 entertainment parks in Europe, and ten the largest of them are visited by more than 40 million people yearly. Paris Disneyland is the most popular in Europe (more than 10 million people annually). In the USA it is Walt Disney Park «The Magic Kingdom», Florida (15 million people). Turnover of capital of European parks is more than 3 billion euro. 

“At the last time theme parks as new segments of entertainment industry are developed actively in the West” – Yuri Yudakov, head of department office real estate, Praedium Oncor International. It is the matter about huge educational and entertainment complexes created with novel technologies. 

“We believe in intelligent relaxations” –Marcel Hatt declares, manager companion, Maxmakers (this company provides a consulting service in this field of activity). Theme parks are often opposed to American parks. “American entertainment parks are switchbacks, hamburgers and coca-cola only. No inspiration, no creation. And you’ll know nothing. On the other hand theme parks usually are intended for children to study with game” – Mr. Hatt explains. What is more theme parks offer content which is interesting both for the children and for the adults.

Foe example, more than 120 attractions of German EuropaPark are situated in 15 zones, and every of them is devoted to some European region or country. The national architecture and national features are represented there. EuropaPark offers some show-programs to its visitors. One of them is “The Journey to Times”. There are scenes with medieval knights’ tournament and audiences seats revolved round the scene. Project “Science House” offers excursions to the world of science and technology. The area more than one m2 is occupied by 80 interactive exhibits with possibility to experiment, construct and invent. Visitors can cause tornadoes by themselves, generate electricity, watch evolution of embryo. This idea focuses attention on botany, anatomy, chemistry, robotics, photonics and nanotechnology. Such a successful approach helped EuropaPark to obtain the public recognition and to get an impeccable reputation. They made entertainments’ level such high that serious people sad: “The EuropaPark is worth visiting!”. And, 4 million people have visited this place last year. 

Similar projects had been realized in other European countries. So, there is a theme park “City of Sciences and Arts”(Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias de Valencia) in Spain. This successfully functioning park was projected by famous architects Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela. The park consists of the following zones: Arts Palace, concert complex, exhibition centre, cinema, planetarium, centre for laser shows, greenhouse, interactive science museum, park of oceanography. The most popular here is the science museum which motto is “Forbidden not to think, not to feel, not to touch!”. The Ocean park has more than 500 animals from all over the world and a series of ecosystems of the Earth.


Of course, entertainment and theme park are not charitable projects. The cause of their financial success is a good combination of entertainment infrastructure and commercial objects such as hotels, cafes, restaurants and shops. It’ll give synergetic result, repeated effect. After visiting of theme park visitors should go not to parking but to entertainment zone with souvenir shops, cinemas and restaurants. According to Marcel Hatt, 50% of theme parks’ incomes are receipted from entertainment and attractions and other 50% is extra service. Additional services are parking, food, hotel accommodation, holding conferences, gift shops, educational and scientific objects. 

Hotel complexes EuropaPark Resort is situated here, it occupies an area of 27 hectares. It consists of five hotels, camping and tent village with the total capacity near 4.5 thousand places. Capacity of the hotels exceeds 90%. Besides it there are more 200 hotels and pensions in 14 municipalities located side by side with park. 

In Danish Tivoli Gardens there are 38 cafés and restaurants for 10 thousand people. Here you can visit Chinese and Turkish restaurants, coffee-houses and bakeries, de luxe restaurants with author’s cuisine from famous chief cooks. Not long ago de luxe hotel was opened, and every room was designed individually. 

“It is better to plan theme parks with other components, it’ll give an opportunity to make a loan from bank and reduce owned capital. So, if you will ask for a credit only for theme park, you’ll get only 20–30% of capital you need. But if it will be multifunctional project the correlation of owned capital and loan one will be fifty-fifty. It is possible to get 80% of necessary financing with office component. 

In addition theme parks could be excellent area for a brand showing. America has well-developed film industry, and usually entertainment and theme parks are created at movie studios. Disney, Universal, Paramount and Lego invest to the theme parks and promote film heroes in such way. It’s interesting that large automobile concerns are not indifferent to the theme parks. So the hugest attraction in EuropaPark (height of Silver Star is 70 m) was created in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz. 

Experts think that people are bored with countless trade-entertainment centers in Moscow and other Russian cities. And huge theme park would be very called-for. Especially as because prospective target audience of theme parks is quite wide: families with children, schoolchildren and preschoolers. But for some reasons Russian and foreign investors fear to build theme parks in Russia taking into account high risks. A lot of good projects remain on paper still. 

It should be stressed that incidents with failure of theme parks were abroad also. Here is a typical example. The first Swiss theme park “Mystery Park” was founded on writer Erich von Däniken’s initiative in 2003 at the place of former military airfield. After its opening project received the serious state support and also got the reward Milestone, it’s Swiss prize for quality and innovations in tourism. During first 100 days the park was being visited by 200 thousand people that was more than organizers expected in 40%. But the next year the flow of visit has decreased. Things were moving worse and worse, and in 2006 Mystery Park had became bankrupt and had closed. Swiss Academy of Technics called Mystery Park as “Cultural Chernobyl”. By experts’ opinion indistinctness of the conception, unchanging exhibition and low involvement of local touristic business were main causes of Mystery park’s closure. Space Park in Bremen suffered the same fate: its infrastructure and attractions had gone out of date though some years after its launch. 

It’s considered such parks should have possibilities for an organic development. Russian investors only make a helpless gesture: “Development implies land resources, investments and technical re-equipment”. 

They are not satisfied with payback period also. Sometimes it may be more than 10 years, not to speak of technical and other risks. For example, factories producing the attractions now have quite modest output and are overdriven today. 

Therefore many potential investors show preference to projects of sports specialization, for example skating-rinks or ski-resorts. It’s explained easily because entertainment park requires incomparably large territory. Taking into account land prices today only government support can attract an attention of investors. Moreover entertainment park is very power-hungry enterprise an infrastructure problems will be not solved by private company itself. 

It should be noted that state and municipality quite often support projects of the theme parks’ building. For example, Spanish “City of Sciences and Arts” was founded thanks to Valencia administration. It’s interesting that city has obtained it by dreaming of not only new jobs but cultural and service center in contrast to popular Barcelona and Seville.

By Valentin Ivanov
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