Is Iger's Disney Losing Its Magic In Hong Kong?
Forbes - 11/22/05

Is Iger's Disney Losing Its Magic In Hong Kong?

LONDON - "We can tell you it's been very, very strong...we are very happy with the way things are going."

The emphatically positive words of Roy Tan Hardy, vice president of marketing and sales for Hong Kong Disneyland, perhaps hint at the challenges that the $3 billion theme park is trying to overcome, just two months after it was constructed.

Poor attendance is the latest issue to swipe the magic kingdom of The Walt Disney Co., after local journalists tallied the numbers of people entering the park. In two days they counted an average of 12,185 visitors--the local government expects a daily attendance of 15,342.

Roy Tan Hardy promptly came on local radio to dismiss the claims. "We are actually very happy with the attendance over the last couple of weeks," he said, "so we are not at all concerned." He declined to reveal the actual attendance figures, though.

If attendance really is a problem, then it perhaps comes as no surprise. Remember the challenge of Euro Disney back in 1992--and the cries of "cultural imperialism" that roused hundreds to employees to walk off the job? The Chinese public doesn't seem to be too accommodating either--a recent survey found a quarter didn't like the park. The local press, meanwhile, has disclosed titillating accounts of enraged pop stars, antagonized labor leaders and a disgruntled employee who threatened to jump off of Space Mountain.

It could certainly be a long haul for Disney's Chief Cxecutive, Robert Iger. At the park's opening on Sept. 23, 2004, Iger stood grinning for a photo op and was flanked by a motley crew of costumed Disney characters and Chinese dragons. The image of the striking contrast of western and eastern culture might be at the heart of Iger's challenge in collaborating with the local government, which owns a 57% stake in the resort.
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