Sea of people hit Ocean Park, but Disney sees low turnout

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2006, 12:00am

Hong Kong Disneyland rolled out a series of 'magic charms' yesterday aimed at attracting mainlanders to the Magic Kingdom and making them feel at home for the 'golden week' holiday.

It was a quiet and orderly day at the park, in contrast to the chaotic scenes at the Lunar New Year, when the gates were besieged by hordes of mainlanders unable to get in.

There were no queues yesterday before the ticket office opened at 8.30am, and inside the park guests had to wait no more than 10 minutes to get on a ride.

'Maybe the others were scared by the mainland flocks of public holidaymakers ... or they have all gone to Ocean Park,' said Hongkonger Jessie Fong, who enjoyed a family outing at Disney.

On Hong Kong Island, the Disney rival was packed, with delays of 30 minutes at top attractions.

Expecting large crowds, Disneyland opened an hour earlier than usual, but all visitors wanting a $380 day-specific pass were able to secure one in less than five minutes, if they had not bought an advance ticket online.

'It was great, there were no people ... I am not sure if it was luck or something else,' said Qian Jie, from Xian , who arrived early to find a surprisingly empty Main Street USA.

The lower turnout came as Disney unveiled features custom-made for mainlanders. They included 'festive golden week finery' worn by Mickey and Minnie in the grand parade, and the launch of subtitles in simplified Chinese at the two Broadway-style shows. Special information booths were also set up throughout the park to help visitors.

Executive vice-president and managing director Bill Ernest said the features were introduced after he made two whirlwind trips to the mainland in April to find out how the brand was perceived after the Lunar New Year incident. He said he acted according to feedback from mainland agents, government officials and park users.

'It is all about awareness-building' among mainlanders, who did not grow up with Disney, Mr Ernest said. 'We need to tell them the stories ... if they don't understand the stories, they don't understand the themes.'

The park hopes a partnership with mainland dairy giant Meng Niu as the official milk supplier and sponsor will help.

Under the deal signed last month, Meng Niu will provide themed snacks and beverage cartons, which could be on shelves as soon as next week.

'It is a really good brand that the mainlanders recognise,' he said.

Asked to comment on yesterday's turnout at the park, Mr Ernest said that it was only the beginning of 'golden week' and Disney had already started to see a steady build up in ticket sales for the rest of the week.