Hong Kong and mainland academics are embarking on surveys to assess public views about the Disneyland project and its tourism impact on the Pearl River Delta region. Researchers said the surveys should provide crucial planning information for Walt Disney and the Government. Paris Disneyland's initial problems several years ago demonstrated the risks of ignoring community concerns. Dr John Ap of the Polytechnic University's hotel and tourism management department said there were local concerns about the limited transparency and information about the theme park, which is scheduled to open on Lantau in 2005. He said the Government announcement of the Disney deal last year was made with considerable fanfare, with community reactions varying from welcoming to sceptical. 'The experience of Paris Disneyland, with its financial losses in the initial years of operation and development of ill feelings in the community, typify what could go wrong if the cultural sensitivities and concerns of the community are ignored,' Dr Ap said in a background paper. Knowing how residents perceived the benefits and costs of tourism was essential to developing a viable tourism industry. 'With this information, tourism projects can be designed and developed to accommodate perceived community concerns and opportunities, in order to minimise any negative impacts, whether real or perceived,' he said. A total of 500 people are being randomly polled in a telephone survey which will ask questions such as whether they believe the benefits will outweigh the costs, and if they will visit the theme park. They will also be asked what they think of the economic, social, cultural and environmental impact expected from the project. Lantau respondents are also to be asked if they will consider moving when the number of visitors increases. The results will be presented at a regional leisure and entertainment conference in Hong Kong in July. Officials project $148 billion worth of net benefit will flow from Disneyland's first 40 years of operation, based on a $22.45 billion government investment. Dr Ap said he would work on a second study by approaching key tourism players, such as operators, industry associations and tourism officials, to assess the perceived impact of the park. He also plans to target Macau, Zhuhai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou in the second survey. Dr Bao Jigang, director of the Tourism Research Centre, Zhongshan University in Guangdong, will help collect data from the mainland cities. Dr Ap said if more funding became available he planned to expand the survey on the mainland beyond Guangdong province to include cities like Shanghai and Beijing. He said the survey was important because 70 per cent of the visitors to Hong Kong Disneyland were expected to be tourists, mostly mainlanders. Dr Ap hopes to make the pioneering studies a long-term project to monitor public perceptions. The Government predicts the park will attract 5.2 million visitors in the opening year of 2005, including 1.9 million local residents. Among non-local visitors, 1.2 million will be tourists who come to Hong Kong primarily to see the park, and it is predicted that mainland visitors will account for 74 per cent of these extra tourists. Disneyland Paris experienced financial difficulties between its opening year in 1992 and 1994. Attendance levels fell below the expected 10 million a year and visitors spent less because of recession in Europe.