I have incredible timing: I was in Hong Kong just in time for the WTO riot, an hour ahead of the anti-Japanese protests and recently headed for the ferry station while foot traffic stalled for a post-new year’s parade on the way back from Disneyland. It was a good thing I wasn’t too tuckered out from my amusement adventure–It is hard, after all, to get too tired at HK disneyland as it is an incredibly small world.
Last week government officials and park managers announced that profits were disappointing this year. Guangdong tourists are still behaving like, well, Guangdong tourists: They are cheap!
They are frugal because it is in their blood as well as a survival necessity: the whole world reveres the business acumen of the Cantonese: The “mainland” yearly income still averages only $875 U.S. Dollars. And Disney anticipates that 1/3 of its visitors come from outside Hong Kong.
They had hoped, and in fact expected, that most visitors would spend an extra couple of days in Hong Kong, but folks are still taking buses down and back on the same day. And get off of rides and, instead of buying expensive computer images, take a digital shot of the digital photos on display.
There are two things you virtually cannot do to a Guandong native: force one to get less than their money’s worth of fun or have them pay one Yuan more than they have to for anything! They now stay in the park (2% the size of Disney world in Florida) for an hour longer on average than an American does in Florida. They then ride the bus home in the evening to save on hotel fees. Rates were just lowered, but a hotel at Disney still costs an average of one to two month’s salary in the mainland.
The first words a Guangzhou woman learns are 多少钱 Doashaoqian “HOW MUCH?” If you give an American woman flowers on Valentine’s day she will coo and thank you because you have proven you are not the insensitive pig Cosmo’ says you are. In China she will IMMEDIATELY ask you what you paid. And if you parted with too much money, you are in BIG trouble.
The Hong Kong Government, betting like they were in Macau, plowed millions of dollars more into the park than did Disney. They expected, acording to some bogus study, that the mainlanders would spend about 2.3 days (2.3???) in Hong Kong for their visit. Nope! Most are hightailing it back to Shenzhen, and Guangzhou with a few Yuan still intact. Fact: The cost for 2.3 days in a Hong Kong hotel would pay for a half year of University education in mainland China.
The Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners’ executive director Michael Li said last year that the hotel occupancy rate hovers around 60 to 70 percent and that the opening of Disneyland has not affected the rate. What a shock. He said that the local government and the theme park should discuss related ways of getting the tourists to spend more time in Hong Kong. I think that unless you up their pay in the mainland there is a problem. And Hong Kong Disneyland may yet hemorrhage some serious money like France did/does.
Li said, “They should get them to visit more scenic attractions as this will be more economically beneficial to Hong Kong,” Ya, after having to apply, and pay for, a special visa just to GET to Hong Kong and nine hours dodging vendors at Disneyland, I am sure they will be up for a trip to the zoo.
Hong Kong Disneyland’s management has been blasted on the local radio for arrogance and arbitrary decision making (they made food inspectors take off their hats and badges going into the park and the fireworks are a few decibels above city allowed levels–like Hong Kong is a quiet place anyway), bad planning on high-volume days and they have challenged the management to appreciate and accept local culture. The park responded with the death-defying answer that their motives for things are “commercial secrets.” When did Mickey and the crew join the CIA?
It will be interesting to see how the whole thing pans out. Two percent of the space, longer park stays, impoverished/tight fisted poor tourists, a watered down fireworks display at 7 PM to pacifycranky neighbors, and a dearth of good attractions. Now, there is a formula for monetary success!
The up side? Lines are incredibly short for venues (10-20 minutes maximum), the whole park can be covered in about six hours, there is nothing much edible to spend money on and the place closes early enough that you can make it home for the evening news.
But, I am still a kid at heart:
Long Live Chaiman Mouse!!