Disney campaign to lure mainland tourists
Walt Disney Company will launch a series of promotional programmes in major Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, before Lunar New Year in an effort to make Mickey Mouse a household name and boost flagging attendances at its Hong Kong theme park.
Potential visitors from the mainland will also be told that Hong Kong Disneyland will not impose peak season charges during the Lunar New Year holidays.
Featured in the mainland campaign - capitalising on the fact that next lunar year is the Year of the Mouse - will be a Mickey Mouse theme song, gadgets, limited edition silver coins and Vivienne Tam-designed clothes.
Stanley Cheung, executive vice-president of Walt Disney in Greater China, said he hoped the campaign would boost the popularity of Mickey and the Hong Kong theme park.
Walt Disney will kick-start a separate campaign, also next month, in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. The promotional drive comes amid negotiation between the Hong Kong government and Walt Disney on the park's expansion and financing.
The Hong Kong government, a major shareholder of the Lantau park, has demanded Disney come up with plans to attract more visitors, saying mainlanders were unfamiliar with Disney cartoon characters.
Attendance at Hong Kong Disneyland fell to just over 4 million in its second year, lower than expected and down from the opening year's 5.2 million - itself short of the target of 5.6 million.
The Walt Disney Company is expected to pour additional investment into the park, adding more rides to help draw more visitors.
Lance Diaresco, vice-president of Walt Disney in Asia Pacific, said: 'As next year will be the Year of the Mouse, we would like to seize the opportunity to promote Mickey, which is probably the world's most famous mouse. We will have promotions in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, but China is our main focus. Disney promotes family and respects Chinese culture.
'We would like to see more Chinese families visit our park and have fun there. We also hope there will be a deeper connection between Mickey and the Chinese families.'
Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said it was a case of better late than never.
'Disney has neglected Hong Kong and the mainland market. I hope it means Disney eventually understands the Hong Kong and mainland markets are very different from their home market in the US,' he said.