Barcelona When Barça opened the Barça Experience in Haikou (China) in November 2018 under the presidency of Josep Maria Bartomeu, they expected to bring in 100 million euros in the best case scenario until 2027 thanks to this project. That is, about 10 million per year. But the expectations of the former Barça president could not have been further from reality. In the 2021-2022 academic year (the club has not yet made public the numbers for the 2022-2023 financial year), Barça lost 1.2 million due to this adventure, which did not start on a good foot because it did not excite the Chinese public and that was touched to death during the coronavirus pandemic. Afterwards, Laporta’s board failed to revive the commercial and sports project and, according to ARA, decided to close it during the last fiscal year despite the fact that the club has not yet issued any statement to announce this.
The Barça Experience in Haikou was created almost five years ago through a joint venture (the first in the club’s history) with Mission Hills Group, a Chinese conglomerate dedicated to the Asian country’s sports and leisure industry. The Barcelona entity invested 4 million euros (50% of what the facilities cost) to build an interactive museum of 4,000 square meters and a large club store, in addition to a Barça Academy with six fields of football. “A business plan was created (created by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the same consultancy that carried out the internal audit of Barçagate) very focused on tourism and everything that was foreseen has not happened”, explains to the ARA a person who hold a high position in the Barcelona office in Hong Kong. “It was located in the north of the island, where there is high class tourism that plays golf, and mass tourism is in the south”, points out a second source from the offices of Arístides Maillol. The interactive museum, the large store and the Barça Academy are no longer in operation.
Hainan is a city of two million inhabitants located north of Haikou Island, the largest and most populous in China. In fact, it is the only place in the country that has a beach where the Chinese can go without the need for a visa. In addition, in Hainan city the average annual temperatures are around 25 degrees, which leads to an ideal climatology to attract local tourism. On Haikou Island, Mission Hills also has three resorts, an amusement park and a shopping center, precisely where Barça’s facilities were located. But the business in this region was extremely affected with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic. Precisely, during this period the Barça Experience in Haikou and Mission Hills collaborated with the Barça Foundation to send 50,000 masks for medical use to Barcelona which were distributed among several hospitals in Catalonia and the College of Doctors of Barcelona.
Haikou is only 1,500 kilometers from Wuhan
Beyond the errors in the preparation of the project on the part of Barça, any forecast of growth was swept away by the sudden appearance of the covid. Hainan is only 1,500 kilometers away from Wuhan, the origin of the pandemic. Thus, the impact it had on the island at the beginning of 2020 was very rapid in every way and, as is clear, the Barça facilities that were there had to close. But the Barça Academy already reopened at the end of April 2020 and became the first of the 53 academies that the Blaugrana club then had distributed in 20 countries on the five continents to be operational again at that time. In addition, the Barça Academy in Haikou was not just any other. It was one of the four Barça Academy Pros (international academies located in countries and strategic points for the club both sportingly and commercially) that the Blaugrana entity had. Now, after the closure of this one, there are only those in New York, Miami and Sao Paulo.
Losses in all exercises
The initial forecast of Barça, which remained with 15% of the income of the joint venture and 50% of all the net profits of the Barça Experience in Haikou, was to achieve up to 100 million in revenue during the 10-year period marked in the contract with Mission Hills, which was to end in 2027 and which provided for a possible extension by in 10 more years. But none of this has happened or will happen. From its inauguration in the 2018-2019 financial year to its closure in the 2022-2023 academic year, the project has only had losses: 1.2 million euros in 2021-2022; 944,000 euros in 2020-2021; 1.3 million in 2019-2020, and 633,000 euros in 2018-2019. Thus, in the absence of knowing the results of the past financial year, in total it has totaled 4.1 million losses since its opening. “Haikou was supposed to be the Chinese Hawaii. But the profitability of the whole space has not been what was expected, not just that of the Barça Experience”, says an executive of the Bartomeu stage.
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