Finland's SantaPark will get a twin in Chengdu to provide Chinese tourists with an authentic yuletide experience.
Finland's SantaPark will get a twin in Sichuan province to provide Chinese tourists with an authentic yuletide experience.
Santa Claus, that well-traveled old elf, not only has a home on the Arctic Circle, but also is about to get a vacation home in China.
SantaPark in Rovaniemi, in northern Finland, has been dubbed the "Official Home of Santa Claus", while 6,390 kilometers away, as the reindeer flies, a new SantaPark is under construction and is projected to open in June 2016.
The SantaPark in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan province, will feature attractions on 13 square kilometers based on the original design of Santa's home and will be run like SantaPark in Rovaniemi, which is in Finnish Lapland. The developers have provided no cost projections.
That includes Santa Claus' Office and Santa Claus' Main Post Office.
"It is very important that Christmas experiences be authentic," says Ilkka Lankinen, CEO of SantaPark, owner and operator of Santa's main digs in Finland. "It will the world's second and Asia's first authentic SantaPark, and it will set the mold for the others to come."
Upon completion, the Christmas-themed attraction is anticipated to be one of the biggest amusement parks in China.
The project is a joint endeavor by local developer Chengdu Floraland Tourism Investment, Finnish attraction specialist Lappset Group Ltd and SantaPark Ltd.
SantaPark will bring its expertise and know-how in creating Christmas experiences and services, company officials say. Lappset's creative team will be responsible for the design of the physical site and production of equipment for the new attraction. The park was announced on Nov 29.
"In Finland, Christmas is part of our culture, whereas in China it is still quite new," says SantaPark Experience Director Katja Ikaheimo-Lankinen.
SantaPark in Chengdu will concentrate on guests' personal experiences instead of amusement rides, according to plans. That means creating Christmas culture awareness and education in a magical way by using interactive technology and high-level experiences, which will "promote active learning and physical challenges in a magical Christmas environment", Ikaheimo-Lankinen says.
Aside from Santa's office and post office, the park is expected to feature Santa's cavern and elf workshops where visitors can master the skills of the big guy's elfin toy-makers and assistants.
The park is influenced by Chinese interest in Western culture - Christmas is celebrated in one way or another in many Chinese cities. Even though most Chinese people are not Christians, churches are crowded on Christmas Eve every year. As the holiday nears this year, Christmas lights lend a festive air along the fancy commercial streets and trees are decorated with paper flowers and lanterns in public places.
SantaPark in Finland has seen increasing Chinese customers in the past three years.
"Last year the increase in Chinese visitors was more than 20 percent, and we expect the trend to grow in coming years. We have also recruited Chinese-speaking staff," Ikaheimo-Lankinen says. "We see huge potential in Chinese market."
Families with children are also looking for the feel of an authentic experience, company officials say. "The demand for active holidays with both physical and emotional experiences is growing in the tourism industry. Particularly in China, parents prefer destinations, where children can learn through playful activities," says Tero Ylinenpaa, CEO of Lappset Group Ltd.
Chengdu culture also will be integrated into the Christmas theme park. Traditional Finnish Christmas food, for example, would be served along with Sichuanese delicacies, and different Chinese festivities would be represented in Santa's creative workshops.
"After the opening of the first SantaPark in Chengdu, we expect together with our partners to open another five or six Christmas-themed attractions in the future in China," Ylinenpaa says.
The amusement park represents an important Finno-Chinese cultural interaction. In 2015 there will be more cultural exchange events between the two nations in China, such as a concert series marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of legendary Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, says Minister Paula Parviainen from the Finnish embassy in China.