Another Universal Studios park is slated to open in 2014 in Seoul; it will be bigger than the company’s four existing parks. Asia’s first Legoland is scheduled to open in southern Malaysia in 2013.
A $2 billion, five-star hotel-and-amusement-park project slated to open in southern Vietnam in 2014 has lured Joe Jackson, father of the late king of pop Michael Jackson, as one of its investors.
“The growth of the middle class in Asia is phenomenal and will drive huge investments in theme parks in the coming decade,” said the consultancy Aecom in its annual report on theme-park development.
Phil Hettema, president of the Hettema Group, said he’s in talks “probably every week about additional projects upcoming in China.”
“There’s a growing market there. There’s a huge class of people looking for family entertainment,” he said.
Asian theme-park attendance is forecast to grow to 290 million in 2012 from 249 million in 2007, while spending in that period is expected to rise from $6.4 billion to $8.4 billion, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
It’s not just theme parks that need skilled designers.
In Macau, the only place in China where casinos are legal, the Galaxy is the first of what is expected to be several new hybrid casino-resorts aimed at turning the city into a tourist and cultural destination and reducing its reliance on gambling revenues.
Mr. Goddard said he was tapped by a rival casino company for its expansion project three days after Galaxy opened. His design featured multiple rooftop finials reminiscent of Thai palaces as part of a theme evoking a mystical Asian kingdom.
In Galaxy’s lobby, a fountain turns into a giant roulette wheel before a giant diamond rises out of the top. It’s a metaphor for wishing casino-goers eternal luck and prosperity, designer Jeremy Railton said.
Mr. Railton’s company, Entertainment Design Corp., also created the Dancing Cranes show at Singapore’s Sentosa Resort, which features two giant animatronic birds with video screens on their chests in a mating dance.
Legions of newly affluent Chinese making more trips around the country is one big factor driving China’s resort-building boom, said Christian Aaen, a principal at the consultancy Entertainment+Cultural Advisors.
There’s also a large pool of young people who are “looking for new things to do and are starved for entertainment,” he said.
Meanwhile, China’s government is trying to promote tourism as part of a push to boost domestic consumption. Regional governments have been partnering with private companies to build property developments anchored by theme parks that include hotels, shops, restaurants or other services, Aaen said.
But there are no guarantees of an easy ride.