Shanghai Disney park casts shadow over Hong Kong

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 Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger reveals details of Shangai Disneyland today at Shanghai Expo Center. (Photo: Shanghai Daily/Dong Jun)

The highly anticipated Shanghai Disneyland, scheduled to open next spring, will put further pressure on Hong Kong's already struggling tourism industry while pushing up Shanghai's revenues, according to experts.

Disney chairman and CEO Robert Iger gave details of the theme park's main areas and attractions at a major unveiling in Shanghai on Wednesday.

The $5.5 billion park, Disney's first on the Chinese mainland and second in China, will have six themed areas including Mickey Avenue and Tomorrowland. There will be a section where visitors can interact with characters from the Star Wars and Marvel movies.

The theme park will be part of the Shanghai Disney Resort, where two hotels-the Shanghai Disney Hotel and the Toy Story Hotel-will serve visitors.

The project is Disney's largest foreign investment and a big bet on the growth of middle-class consumers in the world's most-populous country. At present, Disney fans on the mainland tend to go to Hong Kong, where a Disneyland park opened in 2005.

Lam Chi-ting, secretary-general of the Federation of Hong Kong Trade Unions in Tourism, believes the opening of the Shanghai resort will result in a fall in the number of high-spending tourists from the Yangtze River Delta region traveling to Hong Kong.

Some 330 million of China's 1.3 billion-plus population live in the Yangtze River Delta. The region is a three-hour drive or one-hour high-speed train ride from Shanghai, a city with a population of 24 million. The two factors together give the new park a huge potential audience.

Visitors from the Yangtze River Delta are a huge revenue source for Hong Kong's retail, hospitality and tourism sectors as they generally have more buying power than other tourists traveling under the "one trip per week" rule, Lam said.

A hostile attitude toward mainland visitors deters many from visiting Hong Kong, and the opening of Shanghai Disneyland may further reduce the city's appeal, added Lam.

Hong Kong has seen a 10 percent drop in mainland visitors traveling under the individual visit program in the first 28 days of June compared with the same period last year. The decline in arrivals accelerated from a 5 percent fall in May.

The new attraction is expected to give a significant boost to tourism in Shanghai and could turn the sector into another pillar industry in addition to finance and shipping, local experts said.

The park is expected to attract 10 million visitors in its first year, according to the management committee of the Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone, where it is located.

Shi Kaifeng, a spokesman for Chinese online travel agency International, estimated that the number of tourists from the Yangtze River Delta visiting Shanghai in the year after the resort opens will increase by 10 percent.

"It will also appeal to foreigners who stay in Shanghai for the 72-hour visa-free transit period as well as many residents in the central and western regions of the country, since it's their easiest option to enjoy a world-class Disney attraction," he said.

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