Disney's Mobbed Kingdom
Business Week 2/6/2006

Disney's Mobbed Kingdom

Besieged by would-be patrons, Hong Kong Disneyland had to turn many away. A PR debacle, it also has execs eyeing a second park in Shanghai

The folks at Hong Kong Disneyland can't seem to catch a break. For months, the problem was that there were too few visitors at the new theme park, Disney's (DIS ) first in Asia outside of Japan. Now there are too many. With China on a week-long holiday to celebrate Chinese New Year, tens of thousands of visitors from mainland China have descended on Hong Kong for a "Golden Week" of eating, shopping, and getting their picture taken with Mickey, Goofy, and the rest of the Disney gang.

The Hong Kong park, which opened in September, measures just 100 acres, making it Disney's smallest. But local officials -- the park is joint venture between the Hong Kong government and Disney -- hope that it will eventually grow to rival that of the original Magic Kingdom in Anaheim, Calif.

SELF-INFLICTED TROUBLES. To keep crowds from spilling out of Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Adventureland, and Main Street USA, Disneyland officials have set a maximum capacity of 30,000 visitors for the Hong Kong park. Until recently, that wasn't much of a problem. But during the Chinese New Year "Golden Week," the park has maxed out after just a few hours.

That's turned into a public relations disaster for Disney, as furious tourists denounce the Mouse. The top official of the park tried to control the damage on Saturday. "Unfortunately, because of the high demand, we were not able to accommodate everyone who came to the park," Bill Ernest, executive vice president and managing director of Hong Kong Disneyland, told a news conference. "No one is more disappointed about this than we are. And we apologize to those who have been inconvenienced."

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