Shanghai Disneyland trial run hit by lengthy queues
Thousands flock to the new resort even though most were not allowed inside the gates as the park starts six weeks of pilot operations
Wet weather in Shanghai on Saturday did not stop thousands of visitors flocking to the US$5.5 billion Disneyland resort on the first day of trial operations even though most were not allowed inside the theme park.
Disney kicked off its six-week pilot run of park ahead of its official opening on June 16, putting final touches on the mega project that is expected to draw 25-30 million visitors a year.
The US media and entertainment giant said on Friday that only invited participants would be allowed to experience a number of attractions. Only staff, their family members and selected partners were granted to the exhibits and rides.
The anointed few sang high praises of the first-class facilities and services. But even some of them still complained that because of the huge crowd, it could take an hour to queue for a single attraction.
“Long queues were the main scenes inside the park,” visitor Gu Zhiyi said. “It was still worth the long wait, though, because the attractions were fun.”
Local media said about 10,000 visitors were allowed in through tight security checks.
The first phase of the Shanghai Disney resort covers an area of about 4 sq km and is the US company’s sixth such theme park worldwide.
The mega project, a joint venture by Walt Disney and the Shanghai government, was cited by President Xi Jinping as an example of an expanded Sino-US relationship that would help deepen mutual understanding between the two peoples.
At a meeting with Walt Disney chief executive Robert Iger on Thursday, Xi said the Shanghai Disney resort could serve as a bridge for Sino-US cultural exchange.
Meanwhile, visitor Wang Ming said that crowd control issues would become a major issue when the park officially opened. “Obviously, the number of visitors was limited today but I still waited in queue for more than an hour for a boat ride,” he said.
Analysts expect about 15 million people to visit the resort this year, based on the estimation of 25 -30 million visitors per year.
This translates into daily attendances of more than 600,000 – six times the foot traffic on Saturday.
“The attractions were much more exciting than those in the Shanghai World Expo,” said a relative of a Disney employee who experienced some of the rides. “As a visitor, I will definitely come back to experience more.”
The six-month Shanghai World Expo in 2010 attracted more than 70 million visitors, with authorities deploying thousands of security guards and volunteers to ensure safety and order.
Iger said last year that the Shanghai project would employ about 10,000 staff.
“The business will easily hit the jackpot,” said senior citizen Ren Ronggen, 71, who paid to visit the resort without entry to the theme park. “This is a highly populated market where people are keen for anything elegant and eye-catching. The castle inside the park looks gorgeous and I believe it’s worth a visit.”
A daily ticket to the theme park will cost 499 yuan (HK$595) for peak periods such as holidays and weekends and 370 yuan on ordinary days.
About 330 million people live within a three-hour drive of the resort.