China has been loving, coveting, and buying French luxury wine at record-breaking prices in recent years. But some Chinese entrepreneurs have decided that the middle-class market is ripe for even more Frenchifying – with a theme park, where they will learn to eat, drink, shop and even live, “a la française.”
"The Art of French Living Park" is slated to open less than an hour away from Shanghai in May, 2014, on the outskirts of Suzhou, a city of 10 million people.
"Luxury brands are not our target," said Wang Lei, president of Shanghai Golden Touch Investment Consulting, the company that is managing the project. Instead, the focus is on "products from quality small and medium-sized businesses that have history behind them."
Wang Lei presented the project on Thursday in Paris at the Planète PME, a forum for small and medium-sized businesses, in the hope of attracting French companies to set up shop in 102 boutiques that will each be about 135 square meters. There are also plans for an 18-story, five-star hotel with 480 rooms on the banks of China’s Grand Canal, according to representatives of the new park.
A third of the playground for all things French will be dedicated to food and dining, with an emphasis on products of French terroir, such as red wine and cheese. And the eateries will be “not just Michelin-starred restaurants, but also everyday restaurants," said Wang Lei. "We are going to develop French tastes in China, which is also our commercial goal.”
In between slices of foie gras and facials at a French-themed spa, visitors will be able to purchase French furniture, clothing, accessories and baby gear.
The theme park is expected to attract middle-class inhabitants of Suzhou, as well as Francophiles from the nearby Yangtse River Basin area, which includes Shanghai and Hangzhou – a potential market of 20 million people.
The 4.5 billion Yuan ($713,113,000) project, which was initiated five years ago, is being guaranteed by Wuzhong Urban Construction and Development, a public company backed by Suzhou’s local government.
-AFP with Wine-Searcher staff