SCMP Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Locals want classic-style Disneyland


Local and mainland tourists want an American-style Disney - rather than one with Chinese characteristics - with English the language of choice for the park, a conference heard yesterday.
Hong Kong Tourist Association chairwoman Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee said that while it was too early to discuss detailed designs, an association survey showed a US-style park was more appealing to Hong Kong people and mainlanders.
"For them only this would be the real thing," Mrs Chow said in closing remarks to the two-day Preparing for Disneyland conference at the Convention and Exhibition Centre.
"It would be of vital importance to ensure Hong Kong Disneyland is an English-speaking venue, presenting programmes and music in [English] and served by English-speaking staff."
But she said Hong Kong would need a Disneyland with the right dose of Chinese characteristics and international appeal. "The Tourist Association notes that Hong Kong needs a Disneyland which is different from the Tokyo model, where foreign visitors in Japan account for less than three per cent of its annual attendance," she said.
Paul Pressler, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said research in Hong Kong and the mainland showed a strong desire for classic Disney characters and themes.
While Mr Pressler said it was too early to discuss admission fees, there would be a variety of ticketing available, including annual passes allowing residents to visit as often as they liked.
Mr Pressler gave a vote of confidence to the Hong Kong Government in maintaining a stable environment for tourism development. "We came to Hong Kong because we're very confident in its Government's ability to make sure there is a quality environment for tourists and we believe they are going to be able to create that environment on a long-term basis," Mr Pressler said.
He said he was not worried that pollution would deter visitors and was confident of the Government's commitment to improve the environment.
A survey of 590 tourists in Hong Kong by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University found that overall 72 per cent of respondents were aware of the Disney project and 82 per cent would see the SAR as an attractive destination when the theme park opened in 2005.
But the Hong Kong Tourist Association poll found most visitors from countries that already have a Disney theme park would not bother visiting Hong Kong's version if they were in the SAR. Only 13 per cent of people from France said they would include Disneyland in a visit to Hong Kong, compared to 30 per cent of Americans and 42 per cent of Japanese.
However, 93 per cent of mainlanders said they would visit Disneyland if they came to Hong Kong, the association survey revealed.
The Polytechnic University poll found that 70 per cent of respondents regarded Hong Kong as one of the leading destinations in Asia, but 45 per cent said the SAR lacked suitable attractions for children. The survey was conducted by Polytechnic University's hotel and tourism management associate professor, Dr John Ap.