Irritation at reports of Disney park in Shanghai
A Hong Kong government source has revealed the administration's irritation at the recurring reports that another Disneyland is to be built in Shanghai - and their timing.
The source also laid out the government's bottom line for beginning any talks with Disney on providing further funding for the theme park.
The source, who declined to be named, complained that rumours of a Shanghai Disneyland resurfaced whenever the government was negotiating with the Walt Disney Company. 'Every time we have talks with Disney there are rumours that Shanghai will be building a Disney park,' the source said.
The source also said that strategies to boost attendance and add attractions had to be worked out before talks about putting more money into the Lantau park could begin.
'There are plenty of things we need to talk to Disney about before we talk about financing, such as the issue of operations - how they can improve their operation to boost attendance and reach the projected target. We also need to talk about expansion, how to add new games and attractions,' the source said yesterday.
Hong Kong Disneyland, which opened in September 2005, announced below-target attendance of 5.2 million in its first year; it has not released second-year figures. The government owns 57 per cent of it.
Officials have said the government will not spend any more on the park and that it must finance new attractions from operating income.
The park added new attractions this summer - Mickey's WaterWorks Parade and Animation Academy - and is scheduled to unveil It's a Small World in April.
Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Fredrick Ma Si-hang told legislators on Wednesday that building a park in Shanghai might boost attendance at the Hong Kong park since mainlanders did not know much about Disneyland.
Yesterday in Shanghai, he reiterated the benefits of having two Disneylands in China. Mr Ma was speaking after a forum on how to boost the cities' economic co-operation.
Mainland media reported this week that a Disneyland would be built on Shanghai's Chongming Island after the 2010 World Expo.
Later, a Chongming Island government spokesman said the island was keen to have a Disneyland. But Tang Dengjie, a Shanghai vice-mayor, denied Disney was coming soon.
Mr Tang, whose portfolio includes tourism, and Hong Kong and Macau affairs, said: 'Eventually is difficult to say, but we do not have [such a] plan.'
Asked if Disney executives had visited to discuss building a theme park, Mr Tang paused before saying: 'Enterprise discussion is normal but for the city government, we didn't put it on our agenda.'
Rumours that Shanghai will build a Disneyland have circulated for years, even before Hong Kong and the Walt Disney Company signed a deal in 1999 to build the city's theme park, and have resurfaced often. About a year ago, Chuangsha, near Pudong International Airport, was rumoured to be the site.
A Disney spokeswoman reiterated its position. 'Our focus is on the successful operation of our first theme park in China - Hong Kong Disneyland,' she said. 'China is a priority for the entire company, and we have a continuing dialogue about a variety of Disney initiatives ... of which theme parks are only a part.'