Universal Studios Japan eyes millions of new visitors with Harry Potter attraction

June 14, 2014

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

OSAKA--Universal Studios Japan expects its new Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction to bring in 2 million more visitors to the amusement park annually after it opens July 15.

USJ Co. said its newest addition will be spread across 4 hectares and include themed rides and other amenities taken from the best-selling Harry Potter book series created by British author J.K. Rowling and movies produced by Warner Bros.

The park will be the second in the world to showcase a Harry Potter attraction after the Universal Orland Resort in Florida.

The main feature is a flyover above Hogwarts Castle and the village where Harry spent his childhood. Intricate details such as snow on rooftops and lights in windows are also being made possible due to new cutting-edge imaging technology, officials said.

The new addition cost the company 45 billion yen ($442 million), more than half of its annual sales.

The Japanese version of Harry Potter’s world also includes unique features not found at its Orlando counterpart.

Black Lake, the lake that sits below Hogwarts, has been added, as have real owls.

Visitors can also take photos inside a recreation of the train that Harry Potter first boarded to take him to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Even a restroom designed to look like the one used by Harry and his fellow classmates has been included.

To avoid long wait times, visitors will be issued numbered tickets with specific entry times. Customers who do not want to wait can purchase an express pass.

USJ and the travel agency JTB Corp. started offering accommodation plans, which include express passes.

“Some plans during the summer vacation period have almost sold out,” said a public relations official at JTB.

Hotel Keihan Chain Co., which operates two hotels in front of USJ, said its rooms on and around the opening day of July 15 have been almost fully booked.

West Japan Railway Co. is also set to sell from June 15 a Shinkansen bullet train package that includes a round-trip ticket and park entry.

USJ estimates the new addition featuring Harry Potter will increase the ratio of visitors from outside the Kansai region from 40 percent to 60 percent, annually.

The park's main competitor is Tokyo Disney Resort, which attracted 31.3 million visitors in fiscal 2013. USJ saw 10.5 million visitors during the same period.

That was the first time the number of visitors exceeded 10 million since fiscal 2001, its first year of operation.

USJ has been attempting to increase visitor numbers by introducing rides and shows based on Hollywood movies and Japanese comics.

“Their strategies have fallen short and have failed to fully appeal to consumers,” said Yuji Yamaguchi, a professor of business management at J.F. Overlin University. “But from now on USJ can hail itself as Harry Potter’s amusement park.”

USJ is now scouting possible sites for another park to follow the Harry Potter park.

Tsuyoshi Morioka, an executive officer at USJ, said: “Our potential partners are closely following how the new Harry Potter attraction and business goes. If it achieves great success from the start, we will be able to move to the next step this autumn.”

(This article was written by Akihiro Nishiyama and Saki Mizorogi.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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