“Actually, anyone can make snow and snow machine was built in various types long ago by engineers in Japan and other countries. I and my company only researched, innovated and created a model that keeps the snowflakes unmelted at room temperature – about 20 degree. To prevent snow from melting at this temperature, we calculated many factors, including building structure and materials, wind circulation… I am just the calculator and keeper of this technology”, he said.
He is Kotaro Maru, Director of Snow Town & Ice Rink, a company under Showa Holdings – the multi-industry corporation listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (Code: 5103) with capitalization value of JPY12 billion (USD120 million).
Showa Hodings is launching projects in Vietnam in various fields, from finance, publishing, rubber to digital contents and entertainment....
At the end of March, the Snow Town model was launched and operated at Snow Town Saigon in The CBD Premium Home in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City through the franchise to a Vietnamese partner.
Kotaro Maru is the in-charge person of this “Biggest Snow Town in Southeast Asia”.
Kotaro Maru, author of the Snow Town model (Photo: CPV)
From the story of birth rate decline in Japan
According to Kotaro Maru, Snow Town Saigon is the second franchised Snow Town outside Japan after the first one in Gateway Ekkamai shopping mall, Bangkok, Thailand.
“We are negotiating the contract and preparing to export the Snow Town model to Indonesia, Taiwan, China, Malaysia”, he revealed.
Reporter: What led you to the idea of Snow Town?
Mr. Kotaro Maru: Previously, there were about 500 ski areas across Japan. Japan was also the world leader in the number of skiers. Skiing demand was huge even in non-snow seasons, such as summer.
This gave rise to the research and development of artificial snow technology in Japan. However, as the number of children born each year in Japan has decreases, the demand for ski areas is also decreasing.
Seeing that, I wanted to improve this snow-making technology for use in indoor play areas in other Asian countries where the number of children is increasing. That was the origin of the idea of Snow Town.
Reporter: Don’t you just provide snow machine?
Mr. Kotaro Maru: This business model is not limited to snow-making equipment. It also includes other technologies used in children's recreational areas in Japan, such as ferris wheel, ice rink, children's playground ... But as I said, these products and technologies in Japan are decreasing due to birth rate decline.
Inside Snow Town, we integrate restaurant for families, night bar for youths, music and super-vision for events.
In 2015, we exported and operated the first Snow Town model in Bangkok. I was the founder, supplier of equipment, designer of architecture and icon, and named this business model “Snow Town”.
In March this year, the next Snow Town opened in Ho Chi Minh City. Snow Town Saigon was perfected, innovated and optimized from our experience in Bang Kok.
Snow at 20 degrees Celsius
Reporter: But Vietnam is a tropical country where snow is not available. Thus, most of Vietnamese people do not have snow culture and necessary skills to play snowy sports?
Mr. Kotaro Maru: The climate in Vietnam is similar to Thailand. The Snow Town model in Bangkok has operated for two years with very positive results. The number of visitors have increased and remained high.
Snow Town Saigon has also produced satisfactory results since opening. At the holidays, we estimate that there are usually 6 to 7 thousand customers coming to visit and play at this amusement park.
Initially, the idea of Snow Town was aimed at children. This model is different from those requiring experience and sports skills. Customers coming to Snow Town do not necessarily have to skate or ski.
There are many snow games that require no experience or skill. It can be simply walking in the snow and relaxing with snow. Snow Town will help residents of tropical countries have temperate experience in their own countries.
Especially, you don’t need to wear winter clothes in Snow Town. With our technology, snow is kept at room temperature (about 20 degrees Celsius). And inside Snow Town, air temperature is always maintained at 18 degrees Celsius, not too cold.
That is why you see, customers coming to Snow Town still wear shorts, or summer clothes. Snow Town customers can enjoy playing with snow and eating food at 18 degrees Celsius for a long time. This offers an important advantage to owners, increasing the average sales per customer from using other services in the amusement park.
In all the other snow facilities in the world, customers feel cold and cannot stay long.
Photo: CPVReporter: Snow in Snow Town does not melt at room temperature, do you put any chemicals in these snowflakes?
Mr. Kotaro Maru: In terms of composition, snow in Snow Town is no different than normal snow so it is very safe for customers and those who touch. With no chemical ingredients, Snow Town achieves the natural hand feeling of snow event in an ordinary air conditioned space…
The secret lies in the fact that we minimize water and moisture to create micro dry snowflakes that contain only 5-8% moisture, while snow produced by other ice machines typically contains a moisture content of 20% or more.
Therefore, snow of Snow Town is the lightest in the world, 30% lighter than others. It is also the most unmelted snow. When we conducted the melt test by putting a container of Snow Town artificial snow outside at 20 degrees Celsius, snow kept up to 80 %.
With these characteristics, Snow Town makes the system available that keeps snow under normal air condition. You do not need to install extra chillers or freezers to keep snow. This offers tremendous advantage in terms of saving initial cost and running cost for owner.
As can be seen from our projects, owner only pays initial cost of 60%, and running cost of 10% compared to the application of other technologies or models.
Reporter: Showa Hodings is aiming to franchise Snow Town, so who is your target partner?
Mr. Kotaro Maru: Snow Town does not only bring benefit from its services but also helps in attracting residents and customers to the place where it is located.
Customers will not only go to Snow Town and use only its services. Accompanying services and shops around Snow Town will also benefit.
In the past, owners of residential areas or shopping centers used to integrate cinemas, parks…to attract customers. But now, they are no longer unique features because they are available everywhere. Snow Town is very different. It is suitable and meets the needs of many types of customers.
In fact, since the operation of Snow Town Bangkok in 2015, it is estimated that the revenue at Gateway Ekkamai has grown an average of 63% per year.
The greatest value of Snow Town lies in its ability to create a unique feature and attract customers to boost sales in shopping centers and the place where it is located.
Reporter: How much does it cost to invest in a standard Snow Town model?
Mr. Kotaro Maru: The cost to invest in a Snow Town snow-making system is about JPY100 million (USD1 million).
In addition to the cost of design, construction, ... the total cost for a standard Snow Town project is about JPY300 million (USD3 million).
Reporter: What is your plan to develop Snow Town model in Vietnam?
Mr. Kotaro Maru: In the near future, we are going to launch two more franchised Snow Towns in Hanoi and Da Nang.
We aim to develop our projects at the center areas where Snow Town achieves its best performance.
Showa Holdings is a multi-industry cooperation, including finance. Are you willing to provide financial solutions for Vietnamese investors with limited capital?
That is also an idea. If there is any partner with financial demand, we will discuss in detail.
Reporter: Thank you very much!