These days, anyone looking for the next big waterpark would be well advised to start their search overseas. Development in the United States is slow, thanks to the recession, but there’s a lot happening internationally.
Designers and manufacturers say the current hot spot seems to be Asia, where waterpark attendance is going up, and several major new parks opened recently, including the ChimeLong Water Park in Guangzhou, China, which topped a million visitors in less than three months — and the WaterCube Waterpark in Beijing, which is on Waterparks + Resorts Today’s2011-2012 it List.
Along with interest from developers in China, Randy Mendioroz said his company also is getting a lot of requests from Korea. And when it comes to design, “they all want Las Vegas,” added the principal at Aquatic Design Group in Carlsbad, Calif.
But it’s not just the Asian market that’s growing. South America is going slide crazy as well.
“Just last week in Venezuela I visited five waterparks two of them no older than three years,” said Paulina Reyes, executive director in Latin America for the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions. “I would say the good weather is an important factor, especially in the north of South America, Central America and Mexico.”
Mendioroz said waterparks are generally doing well internationally because it’s an easy entry into the amusement market. However, breaking into these markets can be difficult. Mendioroz, whose firm has been working on overseas projects for several years, said learning to operate within a new business culture, logistical issues with manufacturing and shipping materials, and, in some cases, just negotiating government red tape and making the right connections can be a challenge.
Then there are the unforeseen obstacles that can arise. A few years ago, waterpark development didn’t get much hotter than the Middle East, but that’s changed, partially due to political unrest in the region.
Europe is another unique situation. The state of the market differs from country to country said Jakob Wahl, programme manager, IAAPA Europe.
“Europe, other than Spain and Italy, is behind in terms of the industry,” Wahl said. “But we expect more waterparks to come.”
Like in the United States, some existing European waterparks have benefited from the financial crisis as people decided to “staycation,” Wahl added.
All told, it appears that the international market is poised for continued growth. As long as the U.S. economy remains slow, manufacturers and designers will continue seeking international projects
“Since 2008 we’ve seen a real drop in new development in this country, so people have been forced to look elsewhere for business,” Mendioroz said.