When he joined his family’s real estate business after university, Edwin Pun could not have predicted that, just over ten years later, he would be overseeing the opening of a new Hello Kitty theme park. One of six children in the Pun clan, the 35-year-old has risen to become director of the family’s half-century-old business, Keyestone Group, founded by his father Benson Pun in 1970.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Edwin Pun is often seen rubbing shoulders with the city’s tycoons at galas, product launches and art exhibitions. Despite a social diary that would exhaust most, Pun’s primary focus is his work, which luckily incorporates some of his greatest passions.
“I am fascinated with architecture and interior design, and these two disciplines are an integral part of real estate development, which is what I do. I am quite outspoken about my appreciation for these design disciplines and maybe that’s how I mislead people into thinking I am either an architect or an interior designer,” says Pun, who gained his undergraduate and master’s degrees in the US before joining Keyestone and sinking his teeth into major construction projects in Asia.
After segueing from the garment industry to property a decade ago, Keyestone’s latest venture is a US$620 million resort and entertainment project in Sanya, a city in southern China’s Hainan province, an island into which the company has already invested more than HK$7 billion. Sanya’s pristine beaches and duty-free shopping malls have made it a major tourist attraction: visitor numbers were rising year on year before the pandemic and topped more than 83 million people in 2019—a demand the Puns have already tapped into as the owners of the Grand Hyatt Sanya Haitang Bay Resort and Spa.
With construction beginning in December 2020, the 21-hectare resort will include a 250-room luxury hotel, shops and amusements. It will be the second Hello Kitty park in China, after the brand’s owner Sanrio debuted the first in Zhejiang province in 2015 to celebrate Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary. Despite launching in the Seventies, the cartoon cat, who emerged from Japan’s kawaii culture to become an international icon, still generates more than HK$50 billion a year, mostly from the 50,000 product lines sold worldwide.
The bow-wearing feline won’t be the only character visitors interact with in the park, which has licensed 400 of Sanrio’s other characters, including Badtz Maru, Cinnamoroll and Gudetama. As foreign visitors are currently barred due to the pandemic, the new park will serve China’s considerable domestic tourism industry.
Pun’s brother Jeffery, the CEO of Keyestone Group, hopes the park will become one of the “most Instagrammable places in China” once it is open for business. Though there are many other theme parks in the country, including Shanghai Disneyland and a soon-to-be opened Universal Studios, Six Flags and Legoland, the brothers are confident that the project, which is projected to create more than 3,000 jobs and attract up to 2 million tourists per year, will be a major draw to Hainan and boost domestic spending.
“We’ve put together a team of star architects and designers from all over the world to conjure up this unique destination. Some of these designers have been our friends for more than ten years but we never got the chance to work together [until now]. The fact that this project has allowed us the opportunity to create something special together is amazing.”