No snags in talks with city, Disneyland says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 April, 2008, 12:00am

The head of Hong Kong Disneyland said there were 'no difficulties' in discussions with the government on the theme park's expansion plans.

Dave Vermeulen, the theme park's managing director, said Hong Kong Disneyland and the government were working on a deal that was 'in the best interests of the joint venture and the people of Hong Kong'.

The government holds a 57 per cent stake in the theme park and the Walt Disney Company owns the rest. The theme park urgently needs to expand to improve attendance and business but must fund new attractions itself. The park previously said it expected its parent company to provide additional funding.

But if the shareholding structure is to be maintained, understood to be the government's wish, more taxpayer funding will be necessary.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who attended a ceremony to unveil the park's new 'it's a small world' ride last night, declined to comment. The ride officially opens today and is the first big addition to the park's attraction list since opening 2 1/2 years ago.

Asked about Disney's plans for the region, specifically Shanghai, Mr Vermeulen reiterated that no agreement had been reached. He declined to comment on reports about discussions for a Disney park in Malaysia, and elsewhere in the region, saying only 'we intend to grow over time'.

'Our experience in the US clearly demonstrates that two parks are very complementary,' Mr Vermeulen said. The US has Disney parks in the states of California and Florida.

The new ride, a standard feature of other Disney parks around the world, is expected to boost attendance and appeal to locals and visitors from Southeast Asia and the mainland, Mr Vermeulen said.

He described the HK$300-million ride as a major expansion of the theme park even though it does not change the park's capacity of 34,000. The park will stay open an extra 90 minutes, until 9pm, to give people more time to try the new ride.