Published on : Thursday, December 7, 2017
When Begona Sanz, the deputy managing director of Real Madrid soccer club, visited Hengqin Island in Zhuhai in February, she was impressed to see the number of tourists flocking to the Chimelong Ocean Kingdom theme park, which is its sole attraction.
“They were shocked to see Chimelong Ocean Kingdom so jam packed,” said Larry Leung, the senior vice-president of business development (Hengqin) at Hong Kong-listed Lai Fung Holdings. The theme park attracted 8.5 million visitors in 2016, which is an increase of 13.2 per cent since it opened in 2014.
The island is called the “Orlando of China”, that is next to Macau. In September, the Spanish soccer club signed an agreement with Lai Fung Holdings to operate an indoor interactive soccer experience centre in Hengqin, its first investment on the mainland. The 1.2 hectare centre is expected to open in 2021.
Hengqin is being transformed into a tourism destination for mainlanders and overseas travellers. Also in September, Porsche announced a partnership with Lai Fung to open an auto experience theme centre at Novotown.
Residential and office rates in Hengqin have doubled since 2014. Zhuhai requires non-local residents to pay social insurance for five years before they can buy a flat.