Hong Kong Disneyland shows disappointing numbers on second anniversary

Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2007 9:16 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Hong Kong Disneyland, a major showcase of Disney entertainment for mainland China, celebrated its second anniversary Wednesday amid disappointing attendance and alleged labor problems. The park, which opened on Sept. 12, 2005, drew 5.2 million guests in its first year, 400,000 short of its target of 5.6 million. Local media reports estimate that up to 4.8 million visited the park in its second year.

Read more from AP via CNN.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007 10:07 AM
4.8 million sounds pretty good to me, it surpasses most parks in the US for a given year. I guess though when you've forecasted on more it could be a huge dissappointment to the bank. This park is open year-round, correct?
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 11:46 AM
Now does that also count the children thrown over the fences to get in too? :)
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 11:50 AM
That's a lot of people, but a drop of .4 million people or more from year 1 to year 2 is not good.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 12:18 PM
Not surprising. Compared to other Disney parks, the Hong Kong version looks absolutely lame.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 12:26 PM
It was a park with too little to offer when the gates opened; more proof Eisner and company didn't really understand the Disney Theme Park concept, nor why people attend them. The management and marketing problems just add more negatives to a flawed product.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 12:32 PM
Did Eisner really have a lot to do with this park?
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 1:12 PM
Probably, since it was designed during his tenure and opened before he resigned. It sounds like the Asian version of Disney Studios Paris.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 5:19 PM
Hong Kong Disneyland was conceived of before 1998. So, yes, Eisner had a lot to do with the park. I worked on different parts of it in '98 and '99 when it was still under a "code name". I don't think it sucks, it's just new and needs time to flourish.
Thursday, September 13, 2007 9:22 AM
But what was the reasoning behind opening the park with so few major attractions? I know hardcore Disney afficianados are quick to point out the lack of major attractions at Disneyland in 1955, but this is five decades later and people- even those living in Hong Kong- surely have much higher expectations. Did Disney underestimate their competition (Ocean Park, is it?), or did they think that no one would notice that Pirates, Splash Mountain, BTMRR, the Haunted Mansion, Small World and a half dozen or so darkrides were missing? Seems that the only major rides are Space Mountain and Jungle Cruise.

Not starting a fight... I'm sincerely interested in hearing about the planning of that park.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 9:29 AM
I think the problem is that the initial expectations are too high, not that the initial attraction lineup is too small. Opening a park with a big lineup seems like a bad idea to me because it's expensive if you get a lot of it wrong and haven't adjusted to local tastes or market realities. Animal Kingdom got a lot of flack when it opened, but in the long run it has evolved and appears successful. That seems like the right strategy, to roll stuff out in phases. But keep the attendance expectations grouped in phases as well.
Thursday, September 13, 2007 10:31 AM
Yeah, the key is to open with just "enough" attractions. If the quality is there, and the overall experience is good, people will return. They will complain that there "wasn't enough to do", but won't have anything bad to say about what WAS there. Then, as you market the h3ll out of new attractions, people will come back and the park will flourish. Jeff made a great comparison with Animal Kingdom. Although I thought the opening of the park was insanely awesome, lots of people said there was nothing to do. But, with all the new attractions since 1998, the park is doing great. It's still my favorite of the Florida parks (even though I'm a little biased towards DAK).
Thursday, September 13, 2007 10:58 AM
But didn't Animal Kingdom maintain decent numbers throughout its first few years? The same can't be said for Hong Kong Disneyland, according to the article.

I can understand why Disney wouldn't want to build a complete park from the get-go, but a common complaint about the park (and not just according to those borderline-pyschotic Disney fanatics) was that there wasn't enough to do. Building new rides in the future and being able to market them makes perfect sense, but shouldn't there be enough at the park in the very beginning to warrant repeat business? It seems like a lot of people visited the park because it was something new and then realized there was very little reason to go back.

The average Disney park adds a moderate attraction every couple of years and a major ride once every four to six years, yet people visit the parks on a yearly basis because there's enough to do even without the new attractions. It seems like potential Hong Kong Disneyland guests are sitting back and waiting for something new, which does nothing to help matters right now... and once Small World (or whatever's coming next) opens and people flock to the park, will they continue to stay away until something else opens? Small World is a step in the right direction, but that and a few other things should have been there on opening day.

*** This post was edited by Rob Ascough 9/13/2007 10:58:58 AM ***

Thursday, September 13, 2007 1:47 PM
Well, part of the reason a lot of the other parks maintained attendance despite weak openings (DCA, AK come to mind) is because they're attached to other big name parks. If people are already there, there's a decent chance they'll head to the "bastard child" park anyway. If it's a stand alone...no such luck.
Thursday, September 13, 2007 3:34 PM
Hong Kong Disneyland is going to have WAY more than what is there now. They've only built like phase 1 so far. Maybe the lack of attendance is reason to accelerate the build-out of the resort? But, I have faith it will turn around.

Animal Kingdom wasn't nearly as successful at the beginning as was planned. They have done tons of changes around the park based on guest comments including adding new attractions way faster than they ever had planned. Asia opened ahead of schedule, Chester and Hester's opened early and Expedition Everest was created as a response to the "not enough rides" complaint from guests. Also, if you've attended the park from opening day, you'll notice the signage is completely different now. The park was meant to be "explored" and "discovered" in the beginning. But, the general public apparently doesn't like to explore and discover things at parks. So, now there is massive signage all over the park. It's still my favorite park though. I cherish ever day I get to spend there. :)

Friday, September 14, 2007 9:00 AM
I was thinking that about AK... how it is part of the WDW complex and would survive even if it was a horrendously medicore park (which it is not). Hong Kong Disneyland doesn't have that advantage, which makes it all the more surprising why the park was built with so few attractions. It would have been nice to see more Disneyland/Magic Kingdom attractions at the park when it was built with future expansion focused on new stuff that has yet to be seen, but maybe people in Hong Kong aren't expecting all that stuff that's found at the U.S. park?

I'm sure Disney has a plan to make this park something special, I just find it odd that it debuted with so few attractions. It's not like a few staples were missing- it was pretty much an entire box of 'em.


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