Hong Kong Disneyland may lose visitors when Shanghai opens.
Alice Yan
Alice Yan

Mainlanders looking forward to Shanghai Disneyland opening

People in and around Shanghai look forward to visiting city's newest theme park in 2015, with many likely to prefer it to Hong Kong's

Mainlanders, especially those from the Yangtze River Delta, are eagerly looking forward to the opening of Shanghai Disneyland at the end of 2015.

It will set the stage for an intriguing fight for visitors between the Shanghai amusement park and its much-maligned Hong Kong sibling, which opened more than seven years ago and lost money until last year.

Shanghai residents' interest in the new park rose last week when the municipal government announced the details of an extension to the No11 subway line that will connect Disneyland to the inner-city Xujiahui area, with the trip taking only about 50 minutes.

An artist's impression of the Shanghai theme park, a 24.5 billion yuan (HK$30.5 billion) project mostly funded by the municipal government, was unveiled last month. The Enchanted Storybook Castle at its centre will be the tallest and biggest such structure at any Disneyland, Shanghai TV reported.

Internet postings also show that people from the neighbouring provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang are getting excited at the prospect of being just a two-hour drive away from a meeting with Mickey Mouse.

They said they would prefer to go to the Shanghai park rather than the Hong Kong one once it opens. They won't need to buy airline tickets or apply for permits to visit the special administrative region and will be able to save the thousands of yuan many spend on a night's accommodation at one of the two hotels at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. Many mainland tourists have complained that they are forced to stay at the park because it is too far from other hotels.

A survey by Shanghai-based news portal two years ago, when Shanghai Disneyland received the final nod from the central government, found that 30 per cent of people said it would become one of their choices for weekend leisure activities, 12 per cent regarded it as a place where they could recapture the joys of childhood and 35 per cent said they would go if ticket prices were affordable. The other 23 per cent said Shanghai already had enough theme parks.

The Shanghai park is likely to trump its Hong Kong counterpart in the eyes of tourists from hinterland provinces because the only mainlanders allowed to visit Hong Kong as individual tourists are the 270 million permanent residents of 51 "advanced" cities. Others have to visit as members of tour groups.

But the Hong Kong park will retain its appeal for tourists from Guangdong. Nearly half the 6 million visitors to Hong Kong Disneyland last year were from the mainland, with tourists from the Pearl River Delta accounting for half of the latter.

Although many of the Yangtze River Delta's 150 million residents have welcomed the development of the Shanghai park and view it as a must-see destination, that does not guarantee it will be profitable early on. Many people might decide to visit only once, due to high ticket prices and other expenses, and it will have to compete with dozens of other theme parks in Shanghai and neighbouring regions.


Mainland children are also not that familiar with all of Disney's animated characters and are bigger fans of domestic cartoon shows like . They might know of Snow White and Winnie the Pooh, but few have even heard of Peter Pan or Aladdin.

Mainlanders are also likely to refrain from buying expensive, franchised plush-toy souvenirs, preferring cheaper knock-offs.


This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Mainlanders can't wait for their Disneyland to open