[ Disney Vacation Planner
Disney plans to open park in Hong
by Richard Verrier of The Sentinel Staff, Published
in The Orlando Sentinel on November 2, 1999.
A new Disney theme park, complete with a Sleeping
Beauty castle and a Main Street USA, will be built in Hong Kong,
Disney officials announced Monday night.
After months of negotiations, Disney and the Hong
Kong government agreed to jointly develop a 310-acre Disney theme
park on Lantau Island near the new Hong Kong International Airport
in China. The project, which will be Disney's third international
theme park, is expected to open in 2005.
original Disneyland theme park is one of the cornerstones of the
Disney heritage, so the decision to build a new Disneyland is
among the most important decisions our company can ever make,"
Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner said in
Overlooking the water at Penny's Bay, Hong Kong Disneyland
will consist of six themed lands -- including Adventureland, Fantasyland
and Tomorrowland -- and will be patterned after Walt Disney World's
Magic Kingdom. Main Street USA will include special events celebrating
the local culture, and the icon of the park will be a Sleeping
The project also will include up to 2,100 hotel rooms,
and guests will be able to access the park by rail, highway and
Disney estimates the park, which will employ more
than 18,000 people, will have an annual attendance of 5 million.
The theme park gives Disney access to one of the world's
biggest and fastest-growing markets, one with a population of
1.2 billion people.
"Following an extensive worldwide review, we came
to recognize Hong Kong as a unique city in an extraordinary nation
at a remarkable time," Eisner said.
The new Disney resort furthers the company's push
into the global marketplace. It will be the third overseas park
for Disney and the second in Asia after the successful Tokyo Disneyland.
Disney also has a park outside Paris, which opened in 1992.
The latest project is subject to approval from the
executive and legislative councils in Hong Kong and the Walt Disney
Board of directors.
Under terms of the deal, Disney and Hong Kong will
be equity partners in developing the park, with Disney investing
up to $314 million. The Hong Kong government would invest $2.9
billion to cover the bulk of the project's cost -- including roads,
transportation and other services.
Hong Kong, a city of 6.8 million people, has been
eager to entice Disney in hopes of boosting an economy battered
by 15 months of recession.
"We are excited to have this opportunity to bring
the Disney theme-park experience to one of the most exciting locations
in the world," said Judson Green, chairman of Walt Disney Attractions
and executive in charge of the project. "The agreement . . . represents
an important investment in the future of Hong Kong tourism."
The site also could accommodate a second theme park
and an entertainment district similar to Downtown Disney, said
a source familiar with the project.
Disney officials also have not ruled out the possibility
of opening a similar theme park in Shanghai, but those plans are
Hong Kong officials first announced they were negotiating
with Disney in March. The government already has agreed to rezone
and reclaim the site for the proposed theme park.
Analysts have welcomed Disney's push into Hong Kong,
over which China assumed control from Britain in 1997. Despite
political risks, opening a theme park is in the company's long-term
interest because China represents an untapped market with a rising
standard of living, said Linda Bannister with Edward Jones in
St. Louis. "China offers a lot of possibilities for Disney," Bannister
said last week.
Still, the project carries some political risks for
Disney, which angered Chinese officials in 1997 for distributing
a film about the life of Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader.
More recently, Chinese officials complained that Disney's animated
feature Mulan, released earlier this year in China
to weak ticket sales, was "too foreign-looking."
[Posted 11/02/1999 0:08 AM EST]