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Park bosses will ensure surly staff smile

Jo Bowman

Hong Kong's reputation for surly shop staff, cabbies and waiters will not stop Disney putting smiles on the faces of its local employees, bosses say.

Walt Disney Attractions chairman Judson Green said the company's intensive training programme for workers would make the Penny's Bay theme park as cheerful as any other in the chain.

'Hong Kong is a very desirable big city, and big cities are perhaps different than others,' Mr Green said.

'But we anticipate being able to hire great cast [staff] here and being able to deliver a very high level of service.' Shoddy service in SAR shops and restaurants - often seen as a by-product of boom years when businesses flourished without staff having to try - has long been a source of consumer complaints.

Last year, the Hong Kong Tourist Association was so concerned about off-hand treatment of visitors that it launched the 'Be a Good Host' campaign in March. In September, a courtesy course for taxi drivers was launched.

Mr Green diplomatically rejected the suggestion Hong Kong residents were less friendly than many others, but accepted there might be special challenges here.

'Once we hire people, the training begins immediately and it doesn't ultimately ever stop because we're always doing more training.

'Maybe from the outside it looks like a challenging and impossible task, but we have a lot of experience doing this and it's one of our strong suits.' Disney plans an on-site 'university' for staff well before opening day and will rent temporary offices if development delays entry to the site.

Mr Green said some of the most senior recruits would go to the US for further training.