Shanghai asks Beijing for its own Disneyland

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2008, 12:00am

Shanghai has applied to Beijing to build a Disney theme park, the city's mayor, Han Zheng, says.

Mr Han's remark yesterday renewed the possibility there will be another Disneyland in China in addition to Disneyland Hong Kong. His words also ended years of speculation about Shanghai's ambition to host the American theme park, which has suffered several setbacks.

'We have applied to the National Development and Reform Commission, but so far we have not received any notice of approval. Any big-scale project of this kind has to receive central government approval, and Shanghai will of course abide by the central government's decision,' Mr Han said on the sidelines of the National People's Congress meeting.

The mayor also revealed the preferred site was Chuansha, a suburb in Pudong district which is about a 40-minute drive from the city centre.

In March 2006 and also in Beijing, Mr Han made a similar remark - that Shanghai had applied to the State Council to build a Disney theme park.

That revelation two years ago was the first official confirmation of Shanghai's ambition to host a Disneyland. Rumours of talks with the Walt Disney Company had surfaced from time to time since Hong Kong started discussions in 1999 about building a Disneyland.

Shanghai's plan was suspended following Beijing's assessment of its impact on the Hong Kong park and after then-Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu's role in a social security fund scandal was uncovered.

A Hong Kong government spokeswoman last night said Walt Disney had assured it that continued expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland was the company's top priority in the region and that it was fully committed to the park's long-term success.

'The government is not satisfied with the park's performance and has urged the park management to improve its operational efficiency and revamp its marketing and promotion strategies,' she said.

Hong Kong Disneyland was not available for a response last night.

Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of Hong Kong's Travel Industry Council, played down the impact of a Shanghai Disneyland on Hong Kong.

'Have you ever heard of anyone coming to Hong Kong because of Disneyland?' he asked.

'Disney is only part of Hong Kong. What is important is we continue to make Hong Kong an attractive place for visitors.' The struggling Hong Kong Disneyland is to add two themed 'lands' with more adult appeal as part of its expansion plans. It is also running campaigns on the mainland to boost attendance.

Residents of Chuansha welcomed the prospect of a Disney park.

'We have heard rumours about Disney coming here for years,' said a Mrs Hua. 'Government officials and some foreigners visited here before. We guessed it was about Disneyland.'