HK Disney hopes Chinese will be all ears
HONG Kong Disneyland plans to hold induction programs in its theme park to educate mainland tourists about Mickey Mouse and Winnie The Pooh after a slow first year.
Bill Ernest, managing director, said that a lack of familiarity of Disney characters in China contributed to the park's failure to meet its goal of attracting 5.6 million people in its first year of operation.
"We realised we needed more education materials out in the market place," Mr Ernest said. "If you haven't grown up with the brand, the characters, the stories or the theme, you are not quite sure what you are walking into," he said.
To help Chinese tourists understand the background of Mickey Mouse and the history of the teacup ride, Mr Ernest said the park – the first Disneyland in China – was developing a "pre-show" to show to its visitors when they go to the park.
"When you go in to the park, you will go to an area for 10 to 15 minutes where we will tell you stories of the lands, the attractions, the characters, how they stand together and what is it that you are about to experience," he said.
Mr Ernest said the movie show, which has never been done in other Disney parks and will be launched in a few months, would allow Chinese tourists "to learn and catch up" with Disney's history.
He also said the company would work on its relationships with Chinese travel agents.
Hong Kong Disneyland, majority owned by the special administrative region's Government, is trying to win more Chinese tourists as it admitted for the first time that it would not meet its first-year attendance target when it marks its anniversary next Tuesday.
Mr Ernest said the park had received "well over" 5 million guests so far, and should be able to hit its 5.6 million goal this month or in early October.
"We had a slow start and there were some marketing glitches in the early days," said Mr Ernest.
Hong Kong Disneyland has suffered a series of hiccups since its opening last September. During Chinese New Year in February, the park was forced to close due to ticketing problems, which prompted ticket holders to force their way in by storming through gates and climbing fences.
Visitors to the park have also complained about mistreatment; that there are too few attractions; and that the park is too small.
"Like all new ventures there have been teething problems and adjustments," said Mr Ernest.
But he said the park's attendance had improved significantly in the past six months, thanks to the holiday period and a summer pass program. In July and August, the park attracted 20,000-30,000 people every day, with half coming from China.