Splendid China Again Changing Its Market Focus

Reed Travel Features

KISSIMMEE -- For the second time in a year, Splendid China, the 76-acre theme park owned by China Travel Service Investments (CTSI), is reinventing itself.

This time, park officials hope to attract more families and children with twice-daily exotic-animal shows, according to Scott Shaw, vice president of CTSI, who is overseeing the park's operations.

Shaw also is the assistant general manager of the Days Inn Maingate West, also operated by CTSI.

The shows, which began Feb. 1, are held daily except Wednesday and feature such specimens as the snow tiger and the Florida panther, some of which are endangered.

"These animals will not be jumping through hoops," Shaw said. "Instead, we will present an educational show.

"Guests will be right there and can see what will be the dinosaurs of tomorrow. Years from now, the snow tiger and the Florida panther are likely to be extinct."

The park, which opened in December 1993 with miniature versions of Chinese landmarks, never caught on with Central Florida's core market, which is drawn to parks with thrill rides, cartoon characters and special effects, such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Florida.

In fact, sources reported that the daily attendance has been very low on some days, although the park has garnered a following among senior travelers and school groups.

In an earlier effort to attract more visitors, the park was split into sections last year, retaining the original attractions, which had a separate admission.

The front portion of the park was renamed Chinatown, and visitors were admitted at no charge to shop, eat and watch open-air performances.

A nighttime show with a separate admission was added and presented in the 800-seat Golden Peacock Theater.

Shaw said that the Chinatown concept will be retained. He added that the park's management has diversified its marketing strategies.

"We have moved away from the mentality that if we build it, they will come," he said.

Another element under consideration is the addition of Chinese artisans who can carve cities from ice.

Barry Woods, formerly a sales manager with Varig Airlines in St. Louis, joined the park as assistant director of sales, focusing on the corporate and convention markets.

New prices that cover the animal show and other daytime features are $26.99 for visitors age 13 and older and $16.99 for those ages 5 to 12.

The nighttime show costs $14.95 and $9.95, respectively.

Tax is additional.

For more information, call (800) 244-6226.

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