HENGQIN, China (Reuters) – Just a stone’s throw across a narrow waterway in the world’s largest gambling hub Macau, a former oyster farming island has been transformed into China’s latest tourism haven. Dubbed by some as China’s response to Florida’s Orlando – a global tourist magnet with its cluster of big theme parks – Hengqin has seen property prices more than double over the last two decades. While still a dusty mass of construction websites, Hengqin now brings millions annually to its anchor attraction, the “Chimelong Ocean Kingdom” theme park, with a slew of hotel, malls and sprawling residential developments being built nearby. Spanish soccer club, Real Madrid, announced last week they would start an interactive “virtual reality” complicated in Hengqin, in partnership with Hong Kong-listed programmer, Lai Sun Group (0488. HK). The metre venue, set to start in 2021, will include a museum and virtual reality amusement showcasing the club’s history. The transformation of Hengqin, which is three times as big as Macau, is part of Beijing’s efforts to bolster connections between Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in the Pearl River Delta area, or so-called “Greater Bay Area”, modelled after other dynamic worldwide bay areas such as Tokyo and San Francisco. “Hengqin is going to be the Orlando of China. Macau is Las Vegas (and) Hong Kong is New York,” stated Larry Leung, an executive with Lai Sun that’s helping build the Real Madrid complicated at its “Novotown” job in Hengqin. “Within an hour you can have them all.” The entertainment mix of Novotown will feature China’s first Lionsgate movie world with theme rides from a National Geographic educational centre, as well as movies such as Twilight and the Hunger Games. And luxury yacht manufacturers and high-end hotel chains are building a marina and hotels . Residential apartments are under construction at Hengqin Island September 13, 2017 adjacent to Macau, China. September 13, 2017 Picture taken. REUTERS/Bobby YipEXPANDING MACAU Officials see Hengqin helping Macau diversify into a tourism market that is more wholesome away from casinos. More than 80 percent of the public revenues of Macau come in the sector. Firms in Macau have been encouraged to invest with the government providing rent and tax subsidies in Hengqin. Galaxy Entertainment (0027. HK), Shun Tak (0242. HK) and Macau Legend also have allowed developments for Hengqin. Realtors expect property prices to keep climbing a sea bridge linking Hong Kong, and there are a top speed rail station completed. Slideshow (18 Pictures) Hoffman Ma, deputy chairman of Success Universe Group, which operates the Ponte 16 casino in Macau, said Hengqin could take some conference and exhibition business away in the former Portuguese colony. “It doesn’t make sense for Macau to do that, because of a consistent labor deficit,” he said. Wang Lian, from Wuhan in China, brought his daughter to watch polar bears at Chimelong Ocean Kingdom and whale sharks . Industry reports show 8.5 million people visited China’s top theme park last year, more than Hong Kong Disneyland’s 6.1 million, and nearly a third of the 28 million people who visited Macau last year. “China’s population is so big they need something like this nearby … its (Hengqin’s) economic ties will also help Macau develop,” Wang said. Additional reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Jacqueline WongOur Standards and James Pomfret:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.