Shanghai Disneyland’s first 100 days: crowds, queues ... and some complaints after theme park’s opening

Visitors flocking to the attraction, but concerns over queues and high costs worry some tourists

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 2:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 September, 2016, 10:47pm

Shanghai Disneyland has been officially open 100 days and Heather Slaughter is one satisfied customer.

The American, who lives in China’s commercial capital, has visited the theme park “multiple times” and says it gets better and better.

“It’s good as it’s adapted to Chinese culture and has a lot of elements tailored for this country,” she said.

Slaughter was among the thousands of visitors at the US$5.5 billion attraction earlier this week as it marks its 100th formal day of opening on Friday.

Other visitors, however, were not so impressed, with particular complaints in recent weeks about queues of two to three hours to get on popular rides.

Yan Qi, a visitor from Shenyang in northern Liaoning province, said employees at the park were also unfriendly, making him feel unwelcome and questioning whether the expense of getting in was worth the money.

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Weekday tickets cost 370 yuan (HK$430), rising to 499 yuan at the weekends. The average monthly per capita disposable income in China is less than 2,000 yuan a month.

Zhang Yan, a migrant worker visiting the park with six members of his family, was also concerned about high prices.

To save money on food, they brought sausages and cooked dumplings for their lunch, but were told by Disney staff they were not allowed to bring in their own meals. A set menu at restaurants inside the park can cost at least 70 yuan.

“I am not interested in Disneyland, but I came here to accompany my daughters,” said Zhang. “Most people in my hometown in Henan don’t know about Disneyland,” he said.

Bob Iger, the chairman of Walt Disney Co, said this week the park had performed well since its opening.

He told a conference on Wednesday the attraction had delivered higher attendances than other Disney parks in their initial opening, but did not provide detailed numbers.

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“From our guest satisfaction survey, people love this park and they love their experiences,” he said. “They stay longer per visit than we expected. By a lot, by almost two hours.”

He Jianmin, a director at the tourism management department at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said Disney had easily become the most popular theme park in Shanghai since its opening.

The most popular used to be the Happy Valley amusement park, but Disney was now pulling in about 20,000 visitors a day, three times more than the other attraction, according to He.

The number of tickets sold for Shanghai Disney by Ctrip.com, an online travel agency, are 20 per cent down compared with the peak summer vacation months in July and August, according to Shi Kaifeng, a public affairs manager of the firm. The sales performance of the park at the website, however, was “better than expected”, said Shi.

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Visitors commenting on the attraction on the tourist website Lvmama.com have also given it the thumbs up.

Some 6,392 tourist comments have left comments about the resort and 97 per cent were favourable.

However, the jury is out on whether the Shanghai resort can keep attracting a steady flow of visitors amid fierce competition from other local theme parks.

Billionaire Wang Jianlin, the head of the Dalian Wanda Group, has said he is determined to challenge Shanghai Disneyland by opening the firm’s own theme parks.

“A strong tiger can’t win the fight against a group of wolves,” Wang, China’s richest man, said on Chinese state television in May.

Wanda opened a 20 billion yuan tourist theme park in Nanchang, about 800km away from Shanghai the same month and plans to develop more.

Wanda is just one potential competitor for Disney, with dozens of theme parks jostling for tourist attention in the Yangtze River Delta alone.

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Among the top ten biggest theme park developers in the world, four have a presence in China, according to a report released by the property firm Colliers International.

The most successful in terms of visitors in China is Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Zhuhai in Guangdong province. It received 7.49 million visitors last year.

A theme park developed by the US firm Six Flags is expected to open in Zhejiang province neighbouring Shanghai in 2019.