The wonderful world of wax
Updated: 2013-10-25 12:57
By Cecily Liu (China Daily Africa)
Li Na with her wax figure at the opening ceremony of Madame Tussauds in Wuhan. [Photo / China Daily]
China's affluent middle class are flocking to smaller amusement venues, such as Madame Tussauds
British amusement venue operator Merlin Entertainments Group is strengthening its foothold in the Chinese market, with the opening of a new Madame Tussauds in Wuhan this October.
There are more than 50 lifelike wax figures, including Chinese tennis player Li Na, actor Jackie Chan and singer Jay Chou. The wax museum is in Han Street, which runs along the south bank of the Chu River, and is part of Wuhan's central cultural zone.
Glenn Earlam, Merlin Entertainments' managing director of midway attractions, says China will be the group's number one growth market in the next few years. Midway attractions are indoor entertainment venues that can be seen in a few hours.
Earlam says visitor numbers at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong have grown sevenfold since it opened in 2000. Visitor number at the Shanghai museum, which opened in 2006, have trebled since then.
Founded in the United Kingdom in 1998, Merlin Entertainments is now the world's second-largest amusement venue operator after Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
In China, aside from operating the three Madame Tussauds, Merlin Entertainments also operates Ocean World aquarium in Shanghai, which became a part of its group as a consequence of acquiring Living and Leisure Australia Group in 2011.
Earlam says the company also has plans to open a cluster of three attractions in Chongqing from 2015: a Madame Tussauds, a Sea Life aquarium and a Legoland Discovery Center.
More than 6 million overseas tourists and many more domestic ones have visited Changfeng Ocean World in Shanghai. It offers performances by polar beluga whales, California sea lions, dolphins and other marine mammals.
Located 13 meters under the man-made Yinchu Lake, the aquarium has 300 fish species on display. It is divided into different sections that represent different animal habitats: Jungle Explore, Coral Reef Cluster, Deep Sea Wreck, Shark Corridor and Penguin Pavilion.
The aquarium is used by diving clubs and an "undersea wedding" service, and also offers overnight camps.
At Hong Kong Madame Tussauds, apart from international figures, many local stars from Hong Kong's film and music industries are showcased, such as actors Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee.
The Shanghai Madame Tussauds features many more Chinese stars, like the former basketballer Yao Ming, film directors Feng Xiaogang and Zhang Yimou, and actress Fan Bing Bing.
Earlam says that localization of entertainment venues is a key strategy of Merlin Entertainments' China expansion. "While our attractions are all based on the same proven global concepts, each one is tailored to ensure it is also very Chinese in its nature and appeal."
This is especially true of Madame Tussauds, he says, where each attraction is "the face of the place" with at least one-third of the figures chosen representing local Chinese celebrities, another third representing celebrities from the rest of Asia, and the rest international.
To achieve this, his team does a lot of local research to ensure the end products reflect the interests and culture of the local people, Earlam says.