September 08, 2005

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Marx said the history repeats twice: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. More proof he was right (for once):

The opening day crowds, expected to number up to half a million visitors, failed to materialise, however, and at close of the first day barely 50,000 people had passed through the gates.

The first phase of development (the theme park, hotel complex and golf course) had gone massively over budget, and had eventually cost 22 billion French Francs to complete. Over the next few months attendance figures failed to improve much, and by May the park was only attracting something like 25,000 visitors a day, instead of the predicted 60,000. Combined with the realisation that only 3 in every 10 visitors were native French, the Euro Disney company stock price started a rapid downward spiral, losing almost four fifths of its value. Combined with incredibly optimistic over-pricing of hotel rooms, meals and merchandise, the Park was headed for a disaster...The situation was worsened by the fact that the cheap dollar was persuading more and more people to forego Europe in favour of holidays in Florida at Walt Disney World.

EuroDisney was also over-populated with hotels, especially for a park that could be reasonably well explored within a full day. Coupled with high prices for food and souvenirs, the EuroDisney company started to close hotels during the winter months and even consider the seasonal closure of the Park itself.

All taken from this brief history of EuroDisney.

HK Disney is experiencing a variation of the problem: too many initial visitors rather than too few. More than 30% of those visitors wouldn't visit again. Phil has a first hand report of his visit to the park, detailing lengthy queues, overcrowding, few amusements and transport problems. After a charity day on the weekend that turned into a debacle, Disney has refused to lower the park's capacity of 30,000 despite being 17 times smaller than EuroDisney but similar attendance figures. They have also managed to annoy local residents with overly loud fireworks, have a cull of local dogs, ham-fisted (pun intended) attempts to offer shark-fin soup, and of course various environmentalists to boot.

It doesn't bode well. But why should I care? Because HK Disneyland has been primarily paid for by Hong Kong's taxpayers to the tune of over US$3 billion! A while back I posted on all the economics and numbers of Hong Kong Disneyland and it is even more disquieting reading now. Unsurprisingly, we've got a dud. What's worse is the likely ongoing increased costs of the park for HK taxpayers for a marginal increase in tourists in a city that has record tourist arrivals.

Alan Zeman of Ocean Park is beaming...and why wouldn't he smile? While the rest of Hong Kong suffers, it's good to know that there's at least one winner.

posted by Simon on 09.08.05 at 06:54 PM in the Hong Kong Disneyland category.


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It's a bit like the invasion of Iraq - people warned it wouldn't work, but they were ignored. Fortunately, the death toll at Disney is unlikely to climb into the tens of thousands, and disaffected tourists probably won't blow themselves up on the MTR.

By the way, have you actually read Karl Marx? You might find he was right about more than just one thing. Francis Wheen had this to say after British radio listeners chose Marx as the greatest philosopher:,,1530250,00.html

posted by: cat on 09.09.05 at 09:12 AM [permalink]

The Euro Disneyland fiasco was extensively covered in the DISNEYWAR book. However one thing that the book also showed was Disney's determination to get it right and to not walk/run away from the disaster. Today EuroDisney is still in business and mildly profitable. My expectation is that we will see the same in Hong Kong and that they'll probably get things vaguely right by the time Shanghai Disneyland opens.

posted by: spike on 09.09.05 at 11:41 AM [permalink]

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