China's richest man is looking to expand his gargantuan real estate empire by diversifying into the tourism industry. The first major step in this direction was taken during Mid-Autumn Festival, when Wang Jianlin (王健林), Chairman of Wanda Group, oversaw the opening of a multipurpose resort development in Yunnan's Xishuangbanna (西双版纳).
Construction on the Wanda International Resort Xishuangbanna began three years ago. Eventually it grew to cover more than five square kilometers of river valley just northwest of the city of Jinghong (景洪). Built at a total cost of 15 billion yuan (US$2.36 billion), the complex features several artificial lakes, an amusement and water park, IMAX theaters, Dai minority themed luxury villas, a Wanda shopping center, three resort hotels, a hospital and several schools.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Wang revealed his company will invest 95 billion yuan for further tourism and business development in the province over the next four years. Quoted by the South China Morning Post, Wang said with such a large outlay of funds, his company plans to "...revolutionize Yunnan's tourism industry".
The success of that revolution will definitely be aided by the money Wanda has already invested, but other factors loom large. Chief among these is a spur line on the oft-delayed Kunming-Singapore Railway. When and if is is built — some forecasts predict an opening date of 2018 — the high-speed railroad would connect Yunnan's capital to Jinghong in just over two hours. The city currently has no direct rail link to Kunming.
Currently, Xishuangbanna Prefecture receives an estimated 13 million travelers yearly. That number is expected to rise significantly over the next five years as under-construction and proposed infrastructure projects are completed. For its part, Wanda is banking on a surge in both tourism and investment, offering newly built villas and condominiums located inside the Wanda International Resort Xishuangbanna for between 4,500 and 6,000 yuan a square meter.
The development conglomerate is not only focusing on Yunnan and what is commonly called its "untapped tourism resources". This year alone, Wanda has signed other travel development contracts in Guangxi, Guizhou, Henan, Liaoning and Sichuan provinces worth 680 billion yuan (US$107 billion). Completing the circle connecting tourism and real estate, Chairman Wang has also hinted his company will soon delve into China's cutthroat airline industry.
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