Despite a building boom, Chinese theme parks struggle to provide a fun experience to visitors

“Business should pick up next month, when children start their summer holidays…” The camel-keeper repeats this like a mantra as he surveys the nearly empty Egyptian exhibit at Beijing’s World Park on a Sunday in June.

Meanwhile, “I’m so bored that I’m about to fall asleep,” he complains. Indeed, even the camel beside him appears ready to nod off as she waits in her sand pit, droopy-eyed, for visitors to pose for photos at 20 RMB a pop.

Its collection of miniaturized world landmarks may seem kitsch and outdated to today’s well-traveled visitors, but Beijing’s oldest theme park has seen better days. The World Park’s 1993 opening attracted a respectable 20,000 visitors on the first day. It was a time when, according to Window to the Capital, a Beijing government news portal, “‘travel’ wasn’t in the vocabulary of ordinary Chinese, and ‘the world’ was someplace out of reach.”

This is subscriber exclusive content

Become a subscriber to continue reading

Wild Rides is a story from our issue, “Wild Rides.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Hatty Liu

Hatty Liu is the managing editor of The World of Chinese, and an award-winning communications researcher. Born in China, and raised in China, Canada, and the US, she leverages her cross-cultural identity to create more empathetic knowledge across national boundaries.

Related Articles