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Amusement industry gets serious about theme parks

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Amusement industry gets serious about theme parks

Thatched huts, colourful rangoli adorning compounds, roadside dhabhas to appease your hunger and banjaras (nomads) to entertain you. If you thought this is a scene from a Bollywood flick, you are wrong.

This is the idea of a cultural village that Esselworld plans to develop over the next one year in Mumbai.

Close on the heels of Gujarat government’s intention to build a theme park at Porbandar, the amusement industry is gearing up for an exponential growth this year.

At least 60 water, theme and amusement parks are under construction in different parts of the country investing between Rs 450-Rs 600 crore.

Some of them are coming in smaller cities like Kanpur, Allahabad and Baroda. They will open up for public by next calendar year taking the total number of amusement park in the country to 180.

“From one Appu Ghar in 1985 to over 120 amusement parks in 2004, the Indian amusement park industry is witnessing a sea change,” says Arijit Sengupta, director and chief executive officer, Nicco Parks. His company, Nicco Parks and Resorts, has currently three amusement parks in Kolkata, Bhubhaneshwar and Jamshedpur.

According to Sengupta, this upsurge has been triggered by people’s growing need for interactive entertainment.

Entertainment options such as family entertainment centres, multiplexes and video parlours are passive forms of entertainment and this is where amusement parks have an advantage, he points out.

The Indian Association of Amusement Park and Industries (IAPPI) has estimated that the amusement and leisure industry is growing at a 50 per cent every year. By the end of 2006, this segment will generate over Rs 3,000 crore. The country can accommodate as many as 500 amusement parks.

Says Balwant Chawla, president of IAAPI, “Amusement options constitute one of the major tourist attractions for any country and it is high time that the industry receives its due in the tourism sector.” Disneyland Resorts as a theme park destination is the best example for this.

According to a study which was commissioned by the Disneyland Resort and prepared by CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), CBRE Consulting and Allan D. Kotin & Associates, Disneyland has had over 500 million visitors from across the globe till January 2004 and has generated revenues over $7.3 billion (Rs 3,285 crore) in 2004 alone.

Closer home, some of the major amusement parks such as Esselworld (Mumbai), VGP Resorts ( Chennai), Dizzieworld (Chennai), Fun Food Village (Delhi) collectively record around 15 million visitors every year. With tickets in the range of Rs 100-Rs 300, the big amusement parks put together have generated revenues over Rs 100 crore in 2004.

Despite these pockets of successes, the amusement park industry is not growing at a faster pace as the governmental policies are not conducive to growth, points out an industry watcher.

Amusement and leisure industry is a state subject and the norms vary from state to state.

“We have to apply on an average for 75 licences and some of them are required to be renewed every year,” says Nilesh Mistry, vice-president corporate affairs, Pan India Paryatan which manages the Mumbai-based Esselworld.

Add to this, is the entertainment tax and import duties levied on the industry for procuring international equipment.

The major clientele for amusement parks in India are domestic tourists for whom the park is often the only option as entertainment. Foreign tourists may not venture into such parks after being exposed to Disneys of the world.

But as Chawla points out, parks are successful abroad only because respective governments have taken steps to promote the parks as a part of overall tourism.

To give a fillip to the industry, the ministry of tourism is planning to come up with a rating of the parks over the next few months.

This system, once put in place, will help the better rated facilities to market themselves well.

What more, the tourism department has announced that the government would be interested in funding quality parks up to 26 per cent to promote them as a part of Indian tourism.

This announcement has indeed brought a cheer to the industry which is still on a roller coaster ride.


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