16,000 visitors flock to Hong Kong Disneyland on its opening day
By Channel NewsAsia's Hong Kong Correspondent Steven Jiang
Disneyland Hong Kong - AFP PHOTO
HONG KONG : Thousands of visitors queued to be among the first to enter Hong Kong Disneyland when it opened its doors to the public on Monday.
The US$3.5 billion theme park is the second Disneyland in Asia, after Tokyo.
Amid the deafening sounds of drums and gongs, lion dancers ushered the Magic Kingdom into the Middle Kingdom - China's city of Hong Kong.
And it's not just Hong Kong residents who are delighted by the theme park, even top Chinese leaders welcome the arrival of Mickey Mouse and Friends.
Said Chinese Vice-President Zeng Qinghong: "The fun-filled Disneyland will be a perpetual carnival for the people of Hong Kong."
The 16,000 visitors who snapped up opening day tickets would certainly agree.
After six years of constructions and US$3 billion worth of investments, Disney has finally turned the once-remote corner of Hong Kong's Lantau Island to what the company hopes to be the happiest place on earth, not just for Hong Kong residents but also for the 1.3 billion mainland Chinese next door.
But mainlanders are increasingly becoming more sophisticated in their tastes.
"This one is more compact but it's so hot and crowded here today," said a visitor from Guangzhou who has been to the Disneyland in Los Angeles.
Hong Kong Disneyland is the smallest of the Disney theme parks but despite the opening day crush, visitors appreciated its design.
"The way they organise the park, you can take pictures anywhere and everywhere," said a Filipino tourist.
Comforting words for Disney officials as they look forward to more than 5.5 million visitors in the park's first year, and creating US$20 billion in economic benefits over four decades.
But amidst the first day festivities, controversies continue to dog the attraction - from environmentalists decrying pollution from nightly fireworks to labour activists accusing the company of relying on sweatshops for its merchandise.
Said Susanna Lee, co-founder of Disney Hunter: "We don't want Disney to disappear, we just want Disney to improve."
For this day at least, the crowds here are just happy to focus on improving their chances of securing an early spot on their favourite ride.
- CNA /ls