Dancers perform at the opening ceremony of the Wanda City project in Hefei, capital of Anhui province, last year. (Photo provided to China Daily)
Wanda to provide hotel, botanical garden in pit, stadium and mall
An abandoned limestone mine in Dalian, Northeast China's Liaoning province, will be built into a tourism complex by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin's Dalian Wanda Group Co, an official with the Dalian municipal government said on Monday.
Construction of the project will kick off within this year, said Dalian Tourism Bureau Director Li Jingping.
Covering an area of three square kilometers, the project will include a hotel cluster featuring parts of the old limestone mine, a big-sized botanical garden in the pit, a stadium with capacity of 60,000 seats and a Wanda shopping mall.
This tourism complex is also Wanda's latest commitment in expanding in the entertainment industry. According to Wanda's top management, the company will have rolled out as many as 20 Wanda Cities nationwide by 2020.
Li said the project was expected to attract 12 million tourists annually when it is completed.
"In the long run, it could be possible," said Ben Cavender, the principal of China Market Research Group.
He said the site of an abandoned mine could be an interesting concept and people were interested in going to new places.
As a mix of a shopping mall, hotel, stadium and park, it offered many options, making it attractive.
"China's theme park market is still at the early stage and has great potential," he added.
According to Euromonitor International, China's annual visitor numbers to theme parks nationwide is forecast to hit 282 million in 2019, more than double the figure in 2014.
The abandoned limestone mine is located at an area linking the new and the old urban district of Dalian.
Opened in 1929, it was once a large open-pit mine rich in nonmetallic mineral resources, including limestone and silica. It had an annual production of three million metric tons but was also a major source of pollution.
The mine resulted in the formation of a giant pit of about 2,600 meters long and 600 meters wide, with a maximum depth of nearly 50 meters.
In 2015, Anshan-based Ansteel Group, which was operating the mine, and Dalian municipal government signed a contract under which the company applied for the cancellation and closure of the mine in September 2015.
At the same time the Dalian government had the land use rights and was responsible for the overall planning, renovation and comprehensive utilization of the site.
According to a 2017 government report by Dalian Mayor Xiao Shengfeng, Dalian wants to target improved tourist service facilities and promote tourism on both ends of supply and demand.
The city is aiming to speed up overall development of culture, tourism, caring for the aged, health and sports, to boost its economy.
Dalian Tourism Bureau Director Li Jingping said, in addition to the Wanda project, in the pipeline were 44 tourism projects each with total investment of more than 100 million yuan (.5 million).
"These new projects will cope with market demand and stimulate tourism consumption," Li said.
Last year, Dalian's tourism sector made revenue of 113.5 billion yuan, up 12.5 percent year-on-year.
The number of tourists reached 76.34 million, up 11.8 percent from a year earlier.