Disneyland in Shanghai: A Second Try in China
Up until now, Disney's foray into China has been anything but magical. Its Hong Kong theme park, opened in 2005, has had a bumpy ride due to early missteps and competition — in its first year, attendance fell 400,000 short of an initial 5.6 million target. The following year, the number of visitors dropped to 4 million. To add insult to injury, the company in 2007 discovered an amusement park near Beijing that was filled with knockoff Disney characters.
But you don't throw in the towel in a market with 1.3 billion potential customers. After more than a decade of negotiations, Disney has received clearance to build its second Disneyland in China, this one in Shanghai. The company announced on Tuesday that China's top planning agency had approved plans to build the new theme park, which will join the existing parks in Anaheim, Calif.; Orlando, Fla., Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong.
Disney officials wouldn't say when the park will open or how much it will cost. The company stated in a press release that the Shanghai park will include "characteristics tailored to the Shanghai region," but a spokesperson declined to elaborate on what types of rides or attractions might be on offer. The Shanghai government has already reserved an estimated 1,000 acres near Shanghai's international airport in the city's Pudong district.
Some speculate that the Chinese government's sudden announcement that Disney could go ahead may be timed to precede U.S. President Barack Obama's first visit to China Nov. 15-18, which will include a stop in Shanghai. "It's a huge investment," says Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group in Shanghai. "By allowing this now, it gives face to Obama and really shows that China and the U.S. need to work together to get out of this financial malaise."