Universal's Beijing Theme Park Adds Alibaba as Strategic Partner

Courtesy of Alibaba
From right: Comcast chairman Brian Roberts, Daniel Zhang, executive chairman of Alibaba Group and Duan Qiang, Chinese Communist Party secretary and chairman of Beijing Tourism Group

The Chinese internet giant's technology will power much of the theme park experience for visitors, including the use of facial-recognition technology to access meals, merchandise and attractions. The partnership was unveiled in China by Comcast chairman Brian Roberts.

The soon-to-launch Universal Beijing Resort has signed on Alibaba Group as a strategic tech partner. The Chinese internet giant's technology will be integrated throughout the resort to create what the two partners are calling a "next-generation theme-park experience."

The partnership was unveiled Thursday by Comcast chairman Brian Roberts and Daniel Zhang, executive chairman of Alibaba Group, at a splashy event in central Beijing. Also on hand was Duan Qiang, a Chinese Communist Party secretary and chairman of Beijing Tourism Group, the state-backed entity that is Comcast's joint venture partner in the Universal Beijing Resort.

Under the terms of the deal, Universal's Beijing Resort will be powered by Alibaba's Business Operating System, a suite of services and tools that will digitize the operations and management of the park and its guest experience.

Prior to arrival, guests will be able to buy tickets and book hotels through the Universal Beijing flagship store via Alibaba's online travel platform Fliggy, which simplifies such transactions into a few smartphone swipes. Once inside, visitors will have the option of using Alipay’s facial-recognition technology across the resort, using nothing more than their faces to achieve everything from park entry to paying for storage lockers, meals and merchandise, and even gaining entry to attraction express-lanes.

Alibaba's local service application Koubei also will provide food and beverage recommendations based on guests' preferences in the cloud, and enable online meal purchases to minimize wait times.  

“We put significant thought into the experiences we create for our guests,” said Roberts, who also carries the title of CEO of Comcast. “That experience is about more than our great rides and attractions. It's about making it fun and easy for our guests to enjoy their time with family and friends. Our partnership with Alibaba will help us do exactly that. Together, we can take the theme park experience to a new level.”

Other Alibaba services integrated into the Universal Beijing Resort will include Tmall, Alibaba’s online shopping platform, which will be the resort's e-commerce sponsor, and conduct co-marketing efforts for the park. A Universal Brand Zone will exist over the resort, which will utilize Alibaba’s digital marketing platform Alimama and Alibaba’s streaming service Youku to make Universal movies available to guests, as well as unique programming about the resort itself.

"Together with Universal Beijing Resort, we hope to offer a delightful experience that is unmatched anywhere to consumers in China and from around the world," said Alibaba's Zhang. "This partnership will also bring to fruition a multi-dimensional data-enabled operations management solution for the industry and create a truly digitized theme park."

Alibaba and Comcast said they are exploring additional technology solutions to "improve trip planning, parking and other pain points usually faced by theme park visitors."

Built for an estimated $3.3 billion, the Universal Beijing Resort will include a Universal Studios Beijing theme park, the Universal CityWalk Beijing retail, dining and entertainment complex, as well as Universal Studios Grand Hotel, the first-ever Universal-themed resort hotel.

The complex is scheduled to open in 2021. It will present the first significant foreign theme park competition to Disney's flagship Shanghai Disney Resort, open since 2016.