So it will be in Japan. But in the meantime, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea face uncertainty. The parks have relied almost exclusively on visitors from Japan - about 96 percent of visitors to the parks have come from within the country, according to the New York Times. Effectively, Tokyo Disney functions more like a regional amusement park than a major international destination.
With so many Japanese looking to rebuild their lives, homes, businesses and communities, it's easy to envision that many of those potential visitors will instead choose to spend their money elsewhere over the coming months and even years, instead of at the Tokyo Disney Resort.
So how will Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea recover?
Perhaps this will be incentive that drives the Oriental Land Company - the owner and operator of the Tokyo Disney Resort - to step up its international marketing. Millions of new visitors to the resort - from Korea, from Singapore, from Australia and New Zealand, and even from the United States - would help offset a decline in domestic attendance, and bring the equivalent of billions of new dollars into the Japanese economy at a time when they'll be much needed.
Tokyo Disney's theme parks will face competition, should they choose to market aggressively outside Japan. Disney itself now has a park in Hong Kong, with another in Shanghai on the way. Universal's theme park in Japan has aggressively courted international visitors in recent years, and has prospered during the recent crisis thanks to its location in relatively safe and unharmed Osaka. A new Universal theme park in Singapore and one in development in Korea provide additional competition, as well.
But none of those competing sites offer an international transportation hub the size of Tokyo's. That gives Tokyo Disney Resort an inherent advantage in attracting international visitors.
Fears about radiation will subside. At least initially, low airfares and low rates at hotels eager to refill rooms with visitors will help draw tourists back to Japan. (For what it's worth, this week I can fly from Los Angeles to Tokyo for about the same as it would cost me to fly from here to Cincinnati.) Tokyo Disney also enjoys a international reputation among Disney fans for offering some of the brand's finest theme parks, as well as its most outstanding service (a reputation bolstered by the Tokyo cast's outstanding reaction to the earthquake and its immediate aftermath.)
Yet Tokyo Disney's no longer keeping pace with the improvements that Disney is making on the other side of the Pacific, at the Disneyland resort in California. Ten years ago, many Disney fans in the United States lamented the off-the-shelf carnival-style rides at the newly opened Disney's California Adventure, while reading longingly about the cutting-edge, immersively-themed attractions at the new Tokyo DisneySea. These days, it's California Adventure that's debuting all the hot new rides and shows - Midway Mania, World of Color and Cars Land - while DisneySea had little under development even before the disaster.
So a strong marketing campaign won't be enough. Oriental Land Company needs to entice Disney's Imagineers to deliver their most impressive best to Tokyo to support the resort's recovery effort. But Oriental Land's written big checks before. I have no doubt that it can do so again.
A great new attraction and a strong international market campaign can help establish the Tokyo Disney Resort as a leader in promoting Japan's recovery around the Pacific Rim, rather than simply as an amusement and diversion for the Japanese people, as it's too often been in the past.
I've only visited Japan briefly, but I can't wait to visit again. Here's hoping that Oriental Land find its way to offering millions of Disney and theme park fans around the world many more reasons to visit Tokyo and Japan in the years to come.
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Second, DisneySea does have Toy Story Midway Mania! and a new in-the-round version of Fantasmic! on the way. Plus an Aladdin spinner, which is off-the-shelf as you can get, but probably welcomed in a park with fewer kid-focused rides than its neighbor. Disneyland just opened Mickey's Philharmagic, and recently opened their Monsters, Inc. ride. While none of these attractions are unique to TDL, they are new to the local population, and are likely to be embraced.
Today, Disney has two parks open or under construction in China, in addition to the two Tokyo parks and two parks in Paris. Disneyland in California has become more of a regional park, drawing fewer fans from outside Southern California than it did 10-20 years ago. Most importantly, the earthquake and tsunami has changed the dynamics of travel in and to Japan.
This is the sort of situation that causes parties to change deals, modify contracts and adopt new strategies. I'm suggesting that an increase in international marketing could be a huge help not just to Oriental Land and Tokyo Disney, but to all of Japan, if the Disney and OLC want to make that happen.
Heck, maybe two weeks, given all that. Anyone else have a guess?
I'm disgusted that Disney put artificial limits on the marketing of TDR outside of Japan. They deliberately handicapped the OLC. That's shameless and cynical market manipulation. We would know little or nothing about TDR if it wasn't for sites like this one, and You Tube.
Clearly, Disney wants North Americans in the east to go to WDW, and those in the west to go to DLR, and that's it. And they don't want to be under pressure to make improvements to the stateside resorts, when more and more people compare them (often unfavorably) to TDR.
Since the plane ticket alone puts Tokyo out of reach for a lot of people, TDR needs affordable on-site hotels and tickets deals and packages similar to the ones that WDW has. Only then can it start to call itself a true resort.
Yes, it might be time to change some contracts and allow OLC to advertise more outside of Japan if the locals don't come back as often...but I think we might be surprised.
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I have been following your website for almost a decade now, lurking as I do, from Taiwan but never once have I submitted a comment on this site or any other. I could not lurk any longer or pass an oppurtunity like this with out mentioning something about this article. It is one fantastic piece of writing.
Keep up the great work Mr. Niles