Shanghai Disneyland Sets Stage for Bigger Disney Presence in China

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With China forecast to be the top source of tourism by 2015, the construction of the world’s sixth Disney amusement park is being closely watched, particularly as it pits two key Chinese cities against each other in a bid to “own” the Disney brand with the country’s population.

The third Disneyland in Asia after Hong Kong and Japan, Disneyland Shanghai park is slated to open in five years, part of a $4.4 billion Disney resort that will include hotels, a commercial and restaurant complex, a lake, and two subway lines into the city. 

As much as it’s a huge branding opportunity for Shanghai, it’s an even bigger opportunity for Disney, whose CEO Bob Iger tells today’s Wall Street Journal that the company’s ambitions in China extend far beyond the Shanghai theme park.[more]

“We’d love to develop multiple other businesses in China, certainly in television,” Iger tells the Journal. “We’re growing our games presence. We’re growing our retail presence. We’re growing our English-language learning presence. None of it is directly connected to this development, other than we view China overall as a great market.”

As the WSJ notes, Disney “considers its theme parks the epitome of the Disney brand, offering experiences and rides that can’t be replicated, even in a piracy-saturated market like China. Disney’s parks and resorts division accounted for nearly 27% of the company’s revenue in the most recent quarter, second only to a television and radio division that includes ABC and ESPN. Shanghai Disneyland is to be its sixth park world-wide.”

Hong Kong, which gets a major economic boost from mainland Chinese visitors to its Disney theme park, is trying not to appear concerned about the looming competition from a sister city. The smallest of Disney’s parks, it’s now being expanded to add three new themed “lands” to boost its appeal to locals.

The Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong downplays the threat, saying the region’s allure as a tourist destination “remains attractive and competitive, due to its broad tourist market that ranges from the Chinese mainland to Southeast Asia.”

Dong Yaozhong, the lead tourism official in Hong Kong, commented on CCTV (below): “I’ve been stressing that Hong Kong’s prosperous tourism doesn’t rely on Disneyland. Disneyland, as one of Hong Kong’s travel scenes, could help us make the travel agenda more perfect.”

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