By Wendi Song
Photo by Huafa Sports
Huafa Sports Operation Management Co., Ltd., part of Huafa Group, was established in 2013 and is located at the center of Zhuhai Hengqin Free Trade Zone. With its own international first-class sports venue – Hengqin Tennis Center – the company currently operates major sporting events including the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, Zhuhai Open, Australian Open Asia Pacific Wildcard Playoff, China Bicycling Tour and a variety of amateur tennis challenge events.
Soccerex China 2018, held on 17 and 18 April, is Huafa’s latest effort to branch out into other sports.
HQR took the opportunity to sit down with Peter Lv, General Manager of Huafa Sports, to share his vision for the future development of sport in Zhuhai and specifically Hengqin.
HQR: Huafa Sports has been dedicated to bringing top class sports to Zhuhai and Hengqin. Why is that important?
Peter Lv: To Huafa Sports, it’s the company business, however for Zhuhai and Hengqin, the organizing of each sport event will greatly increase the influence and attention of the place. Meanwhile, it will also bring the linkage effect of relevant industries such as transportation, hotel and F&B. An internationally affiliated event like WTA will greatly enhance the influence of Hengqin and Zhuhai in the international, domestic and peripheral area.
But to enhance influence is just one aspect, our consideration is focusing more on the operation of the company. By bringing high-level, high quality games like the WTA, we want to sell more tickets and raise the tournament’s income. Just like Soccerex China, we’ve attracted many people willing to pay to participate and that is the guarantee of high quality. By doing high-end activities, we hope they can not only promote the development of the entire region but also bring in more new business for Huafa Sports and Huafa Group.
HQR: When these large-scale events are held, are the audiences mainly locals? And what is usually the major challenge when hosting those events?
PL: To run a sports business, the population of the area is the key factor. However, there are only around two million people living in Zhuhai and when considering how many of these would like sports, especially tennis or football, the number is even less. And there is no guarantee that even the people who do like sports will have time to watch the game during that specific time. Therefore, it is still difficult to attract the audience.
Of course, a good match will not only attract locals but also people from nearby cities, however, according to my experience in this area and some research data, the locals will be the main force of the audience because of the convenience. For instance, the price of a ticket may cost RMB300 to RMB500, plus there are meals and shopping, so the cost to watch a game could be around RMB1,000 for locals.
But for audiences from other cities, the cost can be double, so they have to consider seriously whether there’s enough attraction for them to come to the stadium to see the game. That is now the biggest challenge for us in running the tournament in recent years.
That’s why I really value the Macau market. Though the population is only 600,000 there, it is still important, because both Macau citizens and its tourists have very high consuming power. We also hope that after the opening of HZM Bridge, there will be more audience from Macau and Hong Kong to attend the games.
HQR: What are Huafa Sports’ future plans?
PL: Huafa Sports has only been established for a short time and is still in its growing period. Everything is gradually improving. What we do now will, of course, be part of our development strategy in the future.
At present, we are mainly doing stadium management, with our own international first-class sports venue – Hengqin Tennis Center. The stadium operation itself, as a multi-function venue, involves tennis and other types of actives such as concerts, free fights, Latin dances, badminton and so on. This also gives us opportunities to enter other fields.
The other thing we’re mainly focused on doing is to integrate high-end sports event operations and management. We have already been operating the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai, Zhuhai Open, Australian Open’s Asia Pacific Wildcard Playoff and that will continue in the future.
In addition, in the future, we may also try to run tennis clubs or other projects. For example, Soccerex is our attempt for a new field outside of tennis.
HQR: You’ve worked on the China Open for many years and have a in-depth understanding of the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon operations. In your opinion, will China soon have another top tennis player like Li Na?
PL: I remember when I worked on the Australian Open’s Asia Pacific Wildcard Playoff, I had a talk with the Australian side and they said they plan to find their next Grand Slam champion within the next 10 years. As big as Australia is [in the tennis world], they expected it to take a decade. So how long will it take China? I think the possibility is there but it is difficult.
At present, it is unlikely that China will find a Grand Slam champion among the existing players, but once there is one, the attention they bring to the local tennis industry will grow geometrically. For example, Li Na’s win at the French Open in 2011 still ranks as the highest rated TV audience of all time because so many Chinese were watching.
But to develop and train players like Li Na, it depends on the establishment of a tennis system throughout the country, including professional competitions, tennis training and management of the entire industry. When the foundation is laid, there is a greater chance of a Grand Slam player.
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