Hong Kong Disneyland records loss for second year in a row, as mainland visitor numbers dwindle

Park chief blames regional tourism slump, dismissing idea that new Shanghai Disneyland has drawn visitors away

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 February, 2017, 3:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 1:44am

Hong Kong Disneyland has reported its second straight year in the red, with a HK$171 million loss for 2016, as it grapples with fewer mainland tourists visiting the city.

The figure was worse than the HK$148 million hole the park posted in 2015.

Visitor numbers at the theme park on Lantau Island dropped 10 per cent to 6.1 million during the year ending in October, dragged down by a 21 per cent slump in the number of visitors from the mainland, which stood at 2.2 million.

The park’s new managing director, Samuel Lau Wing-kee, blamed the poor performance on the mainland’s economic downturn, unfavourable currency conditions, cold and wet weather and stiff regional competition.

But he stopped short of attributing the mainland visitor decline to competition from Disney’s Shanghai park, which opened in June.

“China’s market is big enough to accommodate two Disneylands,” he said.

The news was not all bad however, with Lau saying the park’s performance showed a gradual improvement in the past six to eight months.

The park hosted more overseas visitors, who tended to be bigger spenders, and introduced Hollywood-blockbuster-themed attractions including Star Wars and Marvel superhero rides – a world-first for the park.

“We have seen signs of a turnaround in the past few months, but the environment is still challenging,” Lau said.

The theme park has posted losses for eight of the last 11 years since it opened, according to its financial filings, only recording profits at the peak of the city’s tourism boom from 2012 to 2014.

Mainland visitors, who used to account for half of Disneyland’s total attendance at their peak in 2012 and 2013, represented only 36 per cent of visitors last year. The number of local visitors exceeded their mainland counterparts for the first time since 2009, accounting for 39 per cent.

Visitors from Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand recorded growth of more than 20 per cent last year.

Lau said overseas visitors tended to stay longer and spend more at Disneyland. Last year, spending per head at the park grew four per cent.

To boost its hotel business, Lau said Disneyland would further pursue the market for meetings, conferences and exhibitions, and invite companies to hold activities at the park’s hotels.

Polytechnic University academic Brian King said Disneyland’s poor performance reflected the overall economic situation in Hong Kong, and there had been “similar disappointment at Ocean Park”.

The legislator for the tourism sector, Yiu Si-wing, said he hoped the park would do better this year.