Wonderla’s Arun Chittilappilly sees park industry riding high on growth of experience economy

Arun K Chittilappilly, who heads the amusement park chain established by his father Kochouseph Chittilappilly, pins his hopes on an expanding market and a change in people's attitude. Photo: Special arrangement

The amusement park industry is only going to thrive in the coming years as the ‘experience economy’ keeps growing all over the world, said Wonderla Holidays Ltd managing director Arun Chittilappilly.

A little over 20 years since joining Wonderla, a key player in the theme park sector in India, Chittilappilly said the past two decades have been more or less like a ‘roller-coaster ride’ for him. “There have been a lot of ups and downs, but mostly ups,” Chittilappilly told Onmanorama.

Wonderla, which has amusement parks in Kochi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad and a resort in Bengaluru, is all set to add two more parks to its portfolio. It has also received invitations from several states to set up parks, he said.

Chittilappilly, who heads the amusement park chain established by his father Kochouseph Chittilappilly, is pinning his hopes on an expanding market and a change in people's attitudes.

Arun says Wonderla has fully recovered from the pandemic-induced crisis. Photo: Special Arrangement

“When we started operations in Kochi, the amusement park industry was in its nascent stage. We faced a lot of hurdles. Governments and people didn’t understand what an amusement park was. Now, I think, that phase is over. But still, in India, I think, it's (the park sector) in a very early stage because the cost of capital and land for such ventures are very high. The returns can be low if you are not careful. But having said that the market is much bigger now. I think the addressable population who are interested in going out for entertainment has increased dramatically. The amount of money one keeps aside for entertainment is much higher than what it used to be. Hence, I think there's a lot of scope to grow,” he said.

Pointing out the people’s aspiration to go out and have new experiences, as well as to share them with the world through social media, Chittilappilly said the experience economy has been growing.

He said Wonderla has fully recovered from the pandemic-induced crisis, thanks to the boom in tourism especially domestic tourism in India. On the company’s focus on non-ticket revenue, Chittilappilly said it was imperative for an entertainment destination.

“We are now focussing on events and activities. We are an entertainment destination. So in addition to doing amusement park activities, other forms of entertainment like music or dance should also be part of it. Our main audience is children and they like any form of entertainment. Five years back our non-ticket revenue was only 20 per cent of our total revenues. Now it is almost 35 per cent. We hope in 2-3 years it will be 40 per cent,” he explained.

Arun Chittilappilly with actor Arjun Asokan during the launch of a new ride at Wonderla, Kochi recently. Photo: Special arrangement

Other projects
Wonderla is set to open a park in Bhubanewshar in two months while its fifth park will come up in Chennai next year. The company has got an invite to set up a park in Ayodhya and it is also looking at Greater Noida. Other regions under Wonderla’s potential expansion include Gujarat, Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Mumbai-Pune region of Maharashtra, and Goa. 

Wonderla has no plans to open more parks in Kerala. “It will cannibalise our own brand. People from Kasaragod to Coimbatore and Thiruvananthapuram come to Kochi Wonderla. That's the market for one park. Kerala for us is one market. Later on, we can add one more park or resort here in Kochi. We have plans for that,” he said.

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