Exclusive Interview with executive vice president Bill Ernest
As a newcomer, Hong Kong Disneyland
still has a lot to learn to acclimatize itself to the Chinese market after the unpleasant ticketing chaos during the Chinese Lunar New Year, the theme park's executive vice president Bill Earnest admitted in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Wednesday.
Calling it "an unfortunate incident," Earnest said "we (will) make sure we will not repeat that next year."
For two days continuously, Feb. 1 and 2, hundreds of visitors, mainly from the Chinese mainland with tickets valid for 180 days, were shut out of the park, which witnessed daily maximum reception shortly after opening.
The incident drew great concern from the Hong Kong government and the public. The park was heavily criticized for its cultural arrogance and lack of common knowledge of the Chinese market.
Earnest said the park was longing to adapt itself to the Chinese market. "We definitely want them (visitors from the mainland) to come back."
It has done something in this respect. For example, a good majority of members here speak three languages -- Mandarin, Cantonese and English. Guide maps and general information are also trilingual. Jungle River Cruise has already offered trilingual service. It is in the process of adding Chinese subtitles in screens around The Golden Mickey and Festival of the Lion theaters.
The park's food and beverage team is always ready to listen to guests' ideas. "I personally spent two weeks traveling throughout southern China, looking at different ways food was presented, quality of the food, as well as where the food came from in our park, to make sure our mainland guests really want to eat," Earnest said.
What's more, a special team strolled around the park watching guests' behavior: what they eat, what they play, what they like or dislike. Survey is another usual conduct in the park. Based on those researches, improvements are made to the Disneyland products.
But that's not enough. "To China, and to the specific market of Hong Kong, we have more to learn," Earnest said.
After the ticket incident, Hong Kong Disneyland executives have met with their Travel Industry Advisory Board, leaders of the Travel Industry Council, inbound operators and individual wholesalers in Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland to seek their counsel.
In response to the overwhelming demand, the park is exploring the option of adding more Special Days, which require date-specific tickets, for expected high-demand periods, such as the upcoming Golden Week in May.
The park also promised to refund tickets for those shutouts in the incident who could not return to the park during the six-month validity period.
Having 12-year working experience in Disneyland, Earnest admitted the current work is challenging. China is a huge market beyond comparison, he said. "This is a chance to share stories of Disney and bring the Disney magic to families in this part of the world, which for me is the highest compliment that I can give to my career."
He tried to learn Cantonese in the last year and half, "but I'm not doing very well," he laughed. "I'm a bit of an adventurer. To me, new challenges, new experiences."