Dalian Wanda Group Co., China’s biggest private property developer, opened its first Wanda City theme park in Nanchang, the capital of the southeastern Jiangxi province, Saturday. The 20 billion yuan ($3 billion) theme park, the first of the 15 the company has planned, opened three weeks before its direct rival Walt Disney Co. opens its first theme park in mainland China, in Shanghai.
Wanda hopes to displace Disney as the world’s largest tourism operator, and the Wanda City in Nanchang is the first step in that direction. Spread over 200 hectares, it houses an $800 million theme park, bamboo forests, an indoor shopping mall with cinemas, restaurants, numerous hotels and the world’s largest ocean park.
The theme is distinctly Chinese and Wanda Chairman Wang Jianlin — China’s richest man — said at the opening ceremony: “Chinese culture led in the world for 2,000 years, but since the last 300 years, because of our lagging development and the invasion of foreign cultures, we have more or less lacked confidence in our own culture. We want to be a model for Chinese private enterprise, and we want to establish a global brand for Chinese firms.”
China’s tourism industry is estimated to be worth about $610 billion and, according to the Chinese government, its size will double by 2020.
Disney’s $5.5 billion theme park in Shanghai is set to open on June 16, even though a soft launch already took place. But Wanda is hoping to give it a fight for Chinese tourists’ money.
“One tiger is no match for a pack of wolves — Shanghai has one Disney, while Wanda, across the nation, will open 15 to 20,” the 61-year-old Jianlin said in a recent interview to China Central Television.
Other than the animal analogy, quite common in traditional Chinese stories, Wanda also plans to beat Disney at pricing. Tickets to Wanda City are expected to cost visitors about half the price of tickets to the Disneyland in Shanghai.
Jianlin also has plans to open two Wanda Cities outside the mainland, but the intended locations for those projects have not been disclosed. The second Wanda City in China is expected to open in Hefei city in the eastern province of Anhui in September.