Hong Kong taxpayers will gain if Disneyland starts doing well

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 5:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 10:53pm

I refer to the letter from James Wong (“Why should Disneyland get taxpayer help?” May 7).

It is unfortunate that Mr Wong regards Disneyland as the sole beneficiary of the government’s investment of HK$5.45 billion.

As the majority (53 per cent) shareholder of Disney’s Hong Kong theme park and hotels, the government and taxpayers of Hong Kong stand to benefit should Disneyland’s profitability begin to improve.

Nor is it true that Hong Kong Disneyland has always been a money loser. Its profits increased steadily from 2011 to 2014, in tandem with the expansion of mainland China’s tourism in Hong Kong.

It dived into a losing streak after the government halted the multiple-visit arrangement for residents of Shenzhen in 2015.

In the three overseas Disney theme parks around the world (Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong), each government had to invest substantially by way of cash injection or construction of infrastructure to encourage Disney to bring its theme parks to its country or region. Hong Kong’s financing arrangements are no different. It should also be borne in mind that when Hong Kong courted Disney in the late 1990s, the city was suffering from high unemployment, especially among young people, as a result of the Asian financial crisis. Hong Kong was also in competition with Singapore in courting Disney. Our success at that time was hailed by the community as a shot in the arm and a reassurance of our attractiveness to a global creative giant.

Hong Kong Disneyland’s hotels have always been popular with visitors and locals alike. Although it is hard to put a finger on the precise net number of additional jobs created, if Disney shuts down or leaves Hong Kong, our reputation as a popular destination for foreign direct investment and our employment situation will no doubt suffer.

If Hong Kong is going to stop relying on large numbers of mainland tourists to fill our hotels or shops, it is about time we stepped up our investment in tourism attractions to enhance our appeal. All businesses need re-investment from time to time. If we throw in the towel, our investment since 2009 will certainly be money down the drain.

Regina Ip, chairperson, New People’s Party