Will Universal Studios become Beijing's next tour landmark?
Deng Junfang

The Universal Beijing Resort (UBR) is certainly one of the most highly anticipated resorts and with the Chinese tourism industry showing signs of recovery from the COVID-19, good things are expected from its opening. 

As the fifth Universal Studios-branded theme park, the Beijing location will be the largest, covering an area of around 400 hectares. The construction project started in August 2018 and includes the theme park Universal Studio, Universal CityWalk entertainment complex, and two hotels. 

On track for spring trials, advance bookings sold out

A promotion photo from UBR website. /UBR

A promotion photo from UBR website. /UBR

So far, the main buildings of the resort have been completed and the overall construction is expected to be finished by the end of the year. Upon completion, 12,000 people are going to be employed, according to Tom Mehrmann, president and general manager of the UBR.

Previous reports said that it would start trial operations in the first half of 2021. A report from China Daily said that Universal Beijing will formally open in May next year.

The resort launched 10,000 "preemptive right" packages on October 21., which were sold out in just 131 seconds. Similar packages also sold out in seconds when launched on October 23 and October 28. Customers also have a chance to get a piece of the pie on November 1, when the company will launch another round of packages.

The customers who successfully get these packages have the right to buy tickets five days before other people and they can choose when to visit the resort.

Seven theme parks, two resort hotels

Design sketch of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. /UBR

Design sketch of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. /UBR

When the park opens, Chinese amusement park lovers will have their pick of Kung Fu Panda Land of Awesomeness, Transformers: Metrobase, Minion Land, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic World Isla Nublar, Hollywood and WaterWorld. 

Kung Fu Panda Land of Awesomeness follows the adventures main character Po on his quest to become a kung fu master. Set in "Legendary China" and entirely indoors, Kung Fu Panda Land of Awesomeness is world's first theme park land themed after the animated film series "Kung Fu Panda." Meanwhile, Transformers: Metrobase will be the world's first theme park dedicated to the Transformers franchise.

Universal Beijing Resort will also debut two hotels – The Universal Studios Grand Hotel and the NUO Resort Hotel - Universal Beijing Resort. As the world's first Universal-themed hotel and the first-ever resort hotel from NUO, one of China's first homegrown luxury hotel brands, these two hotels are poised to offer the best experiences to guests. Both hotels are expected to provide 1,200 rooms in total. 

To build it into a new nightlife landmark in Beijing, the CityWalk put together a multi-functional cinema, 15 restaurants, and eight stores.

The cinema has 2,000 seats and 11 screening rooms, including the biggest IMAX with Laser in Beijing. It will host the premiere of Universal films and other major films, as well as high-end VIP events.

Chinese elements highlighted

Design sketch of the Kung Fu Panda Land of Awesomeness. /UBR

Design sketch of the Kung Fu Panda Land of Awesomeness. /UBR

Unlike other Universal CityWalks, the design of Beijing's Universal CityWalk integrates the Chinese architectural style, such as cultural elements of Beijing Hutongs. Red and gold are used in the lights and ground decorations along the walk and meet at the signature Universal Earth statue, Chinese wash painting, armillary sphere are all immersed into the design. Over 500 designers and architects worldwide have participated into the design.

"Take the Kung Fu Panda Land of Awesomeness for instance, it's the first time a theme park about Kung Fu Panda is being built. We have no experience from others to learn from. The Jade Palace inside of it was inspired by Chinese ancient buildings. If you look into the details, you will see the great imagination our designers have," Fang Guowen, artistic director of the park said at a press conference in mid-October.

Meanwhile, according to Mehrman, Alibaba and Tencent – two high-tech giants in China also participate in the UBR construction in order to make it as digital as possible.

Official data show that Shanghai Disneyland received 11 million guests in its first year. As Disney's largest theme park rival, Universal certainly hopes to also benefit from the large base of Chinese visitors. Although it is the first Universal Studios resort on the Chinese mainland, it faces competition from Disneyland and popular Beijing theme parks, such as Happy Valley. 

Hu Yingchun, Vice-President of Marketing and Sales, is confident. "The Universal Beijing Resort will become a new tour landmark in Beijing, following the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. Visitors will have a pure immersive experience in the resort," said Hu.

Only time will tell if the theme park powerhouse will come out on top in China's capital.