Hong Kong Disneyland Celebrates its Birthday as Analysts Worry About its Future
Hong Kong Disneyland celebrates its 10th birthday this weekend, but even as the park announced new attractions to celebrate the occasion, analysts expressed skepticism about the park's near-term future.
Disney's 11th theme park opened September 12, 2005 to lukewarm reviews, mostly due to the park's small size and limited number of attractions. However, Disney and its partners invested heavily in expansion, adding the first Toy Story Playland in 2011, Grizzly Gulch in 2012, and Mystic Point in 2013 — home of the Theme Park Insider Award-winning dark ride Mystic Manor. Today in Hong Kong (which is tomorrow for those of us in the Western Hemisphere), Disney Parks Chairman Bob Chapek announced several new additions for the park's "Happily Ever After Celebration," which will begin in November, following the Hong Kong Disneyland's popular Halloween festivities.
Chapek, to the right of Minnie Mouse, at today/tomorrow's announcement
None of the additions will match the scale of the park's previous expansions. The new attractions include:
- Mickey and the Wondrous Book — a 25-minute musical that appears to be an adaptation of Disneyland's Mickey and the Magical Map show.
- Disney in the Sky — An enhanced fireworks show that will incorporate animation projections on the park's Sleeping Beauty Castle.
- Fairy Tale Forest — A walk-through attraction featuring topiaries and other landscaping themed to various Disney princess franchises. Fairy Tale Forest also will include a "Pixie Hollow" Tinker Bell meet-and-greet. Fairy Tale Forest will open in December.
In addition, a previously-announced new Iron Man-themed motion-base ride will open next year.
The additions come as Hong Kong Disneyland is suffering a decline in attendance. "Figures for July showed a year-on-year decline in visitor numbers of 8.4 per cent, a decrease that was reflected in retail sales, which have seen falls for six consecutive months year on year," according to a local report.
Hong Kong's currency is tied to the U.S. dollar, whose recent strength has made traveling abroad a bargain for Americans, but travel into the country relatively more expensive for foreign visitors. Those exchange rates have made it less attractive for outsiders to visit Hong Kong Disneyland, as well, where more than two-thirds of visitors come from outside the Special Administrative Region. (And the strong dollar makes it easier for Hongkongers to visit elsewhere, accelerating the attendance slide at the park.)
As for the future, a developing economic crisis in China, coupled with the planned opening next year of another, much larger, Disneyland in Shanghai, are leaving analysts skeptical whether Hong Kong Disneyland can reverse its declining attendance anytime soon.
"This time, it is different. It is not a slump. We don't know when it will bounce back," one local politician told the South China Morning Post, in regard to Hong Kong's tourism outlook.
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I would say that Disney will come out ok. Disney is going to put the time and money into parks to make them right. Failure is not an option!
Actually, DLP's attendance tanked last year, too, and even a well-reviewed new Ratatouille ride couldn't help WDS, which is shedding visitors, too.
I'd be interested to know how Ocean Park is going in comparison (which admittedly has more local attendance I understand), or how Hong Kong's tourism is as a whole. Unlike other places like Orlando, or LA (for me), HK Disney is not a reason in itself to go to Hong Kong.
It's definitely a Hong Kong problem foremost, with the currency issue driving that. But the weakness of the larger Chinese economy is what's driving the longer-term concern.
The 'Doom & Gloom' directed at international WDCo parks is always entertaining. When you ask the person spreading the Doom & Gloom, have you been to Paris or Hong Kong, most often you'll hear... No, I would never go!
Yes, it's definitely a Hong Kong problem. I make sure to read most stories I see about Hong Kong, because I'm so close, and still need to go for customs every few months. Mainlanders used to flock to HK for all of their luxury stores and goods, dragging their suitcases along behind them. But now mainland China has all of the same stores, and north Chinese are simply going to South Korea, if they really want to leave the country. Not to mention, the recent protests, and Hong Kongers feeling like Beijing is trying to force their culture upon HK, it makes for quite a lot of tension among many.
I've always been skeptical of the reported attendance for this park. Like all things in China, you never know what the real figures are. I've seen many trip photo reports of this park at different times of the year and it always seems relatively empty. And the business reports I've read generally state that Ocean Park is way more popular with the locals. My personal opinion is that this park will never do well, partly because of the issues Robert has reported, and partly because Hong Kong residents don't really have a passion for Disney. Disney is not necessarily the be all and end all in all countries. And the mainland Chinese are the same way. Shanghai may not be the long term success everyone is expecting. Maybe a big opening year, but then downhill like money pit Paris. China is not the juggernaut the pundits exclaim. I've been saying for many years that China's a paper tiger with lots of long term issues. Mark my words.
I've been to the Hong Kong Park - and ultimately the big problem it has is that it's just a very poor park - far too small, far too few attractions. Why anyone would want to stay at the few Disney Hotels around the park would make no sense to me. We went in July, peak tourist season, and the park was pretty empty. They have tried to address a few issues and add a few attractions, but the underlying problem remains. Even looking at the castle - something that should be the showpeice of the park - it's tiny and pointless. What i noticed is you had a fair few tourists in the park, and very few of the indigineous population. As someone mentioned earlier, Disney Parks aren't the be end of everything for people in South East Asia.
It's just not Ocean Park and Shanghai Disneyland that Hong Kong Disneyland has to contend with but also the theme parks across the border in Mainland China especially the ones in Guangdong Province.
If Disney wants more locals, then its needs to achieve a greater reach in the local media. Showing a Disney film once or twice a month on local TV is not going to work. We watched Japanese cartoons like Doraemon, Dr Slump, Gundam, Heidi, Little Creamy, Captain Tsubasa and Space Fortress Macross, etc growing up. We know the theme songs of each one. Mickey and friends, not so much.
I'll say it again why the WDCo decided to build in Shanghai when Hong kong and Paris have been struggling for years is a decision that boggles my mind. They could have built a whole second gate in Hong kong, which is necessary if they want to fill those hotel rooms. Disney is not embedded in other cultures like it is in Japan and the USA. Large population does not automatically equal success. People won't go just because it's Disney. Hong kong Disneyland is getting wooped by a Sea World knock off (granted a very good sea world knock off)! That's scary.
Nobody mentioned the other variable. Macau is also down from the China crackdown on high roller gamblers. Hong Kong is the gateway to Macau. Wynn reported significant decrease in Macau revenues. There are simply less Chinese tourists going to Macau that would bleed off a side trip to HK Disneyland. Having been there, I mainly feel the whole park doesn't fit the location. Poorly designed and themed. The layout and castle was borrowed from the Anaheim version. In a city with sky high skyscrapers, the tiny pink castle is weirdly small. The American main street feels out of place in a former British colony. It instead should have been Mary Poppins lane. Grizzly Gulch has no charm. Again, the flow doesn't work. They should have just kept the Adventureland theming throughout and towards Mystic Manor. This park is another Eisner legacy of bad design and planning. They need to do a California Adventure style makeover to get the park on track.
Universal Studios Singapore and Hong Kong Disneyland are parks with few attractions, little room to expand, and located in areas that just aren't worth visiting for theme parks. California Adventure's makeover only worked because it was located next to Disneyland, one of the worlds top five parks. Why Universal wants to make a park in Beijing and Disney wants to make a park in Shangai is beyond me when their other parks in the area are struggling so.
"This park is another Eisner legacy of poor designing and planning."
They want to make parks in China - as the economy is booming, movies are doing great business out there, capitalism is taking of there in a big way - and they want to be a part of it.
"California Adventure's makeover only worked because it was located next to Disneyland"
California Adventure was right next to one of the world's most popular attractions. Many people visited for just Disneyland but California Adventure with its makeover offered a multi day trip at Anaheim with a substantial Disney park
Someone mentioned the Hong Kong Disneyland opened after Eisner stepped down as CEO. Eisner was present at the park's opening and led the festivities.
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