Visitors swamp Disneyland on charity day

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 September, 2005, 12:00am

Park is stretched to the limit as some of its 29,000 guests queue two hours for rides and food

Disneyland enjoyed its biggest turnout yet when it held a charity day yesterday that raised $9.7 million for the Community Chest.

But it also raised the heckles of patrons who complained of long queues to get in and two-hour waits for rides and meals.

A thunderstorm warning was in effect when many of the 29,000 visitors - just short of Disney's capacity of 30,000 - were flocking to the theme park. But they were stopped short of the entrance gate as guards carried out security checks.

'It is shameful [that they searched my bag]. I've been to Tokyo's Disney and they do not impose such a practice,' said Mion Ng, waiting in the rain with her two-year-old daughter.

At the back of the queue, a scuffle broke out when a man was accused of jumping the queue.

More patience was required inside, with popular rides like the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters requiring a two-hour wait.

'I've only taken one ride the whole morning as everywhere is packed,' said Stephanie Chan Sze-wan, who doubted if the facilities could support so many people.

Many frustrated visitors left hours before the fireworks finale.

Hong Kong Disneyland group managing director Don Robinson said he regarded the day as just another challenge. 'This gives us an opportunity to practise for very busy holidays, so we understand what things we have to work out.'

A Disney spokeswoman said the park opened 15 minutes early to disperse the crowd, and the security inspection was essential for visitors' safety. She ruled out a covered footpath for the short walk from the MTR station. 'We have umbrellas and raincoats for sale.'

Some visitors complained the raincoats had sold out, and that at $40 each they were too expensive.

A Tourism Board spokeswoman said feedback from visitors would be monitored after the park's grand opening next Monday. Joseph Tung Yau-chung, of the Travel Industry Council, said Disney should consider reducing its capacity if its facilities could not cope.

Disney later issued a statement saying an extra 600 chairs and 100 tables had been added at the nine dining locations in the park, and there were 20 more food and drink carts throughout the park.

It said queuing time for rides and attractions were 'as expected'. Operating hours were extended to 9pm, when the fireworks show started.