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Shanghai Disney to do well: experts

By Amy He in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2016-01-14 12:15

The new Disney theme park in Shanghai set to open in June should do "extremely well," according to industry analysts, who said that the park will attract massive audiences despite upcoming competition from other theme parks set to open.

"Considering the number of people that can feed into Shanghai just from a local basis - within a three-hour drive, there are millions of people around Shanghai that can feed into there, not to mention the Shanghai international airport - they'll do gangbuster business," said Josh Young, a theme park industry analyst and editor-in-chief of Theme Park University, a website that analyzes theme parks.

Disney announced on Tuesday that the park - at 936 acres three times the size of the Disneyland in Hong Kong - will open in June after a 2015 debut was delayed. The park has been in the works for a decade, and Disney has been looking to build a park in Shanghai since the 1990s, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Shanghai Disney to do well: experts

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse interact with onlookers at the unveiling of the Shanghai Disney Resort model last year. Gao Erqiang / China Daily

The Shanghai Disney Resort is opening at a time when the Chinese economy is slowing down and as more and more companies are looking to open theme parks in China. There are more than 60 theme parks being planned in China, according to International Theme Park Services Inc.

Universal Studios will open its first park in China in 2020, and construction began in November last year. Viacom's Nickelodeon announced in December that it will open a "branded attraction" in China also by 2020. Wanda Group opened a new theme park in Yunnan in September, and announced last year that it will open 100 mini theme parks across China in addition to resort-style parks.

"Because these parks are so spread apart, I can't see Universal cutting into Disney's profits. I don't see it being a competition like it is here in Orlando," Young said, referring to the Disney and Universal parks in Florida.

"But the Happy Valleys and the other smaller parks that have been around for a long time, I'm sure they won't lose loyal customers, but a lot of people are going to have to choose between one or the other and they will definitely start to be pulled to those bigger projects. The smaller mom and pop parks, those will definitely start to suffer," Young said. Happy Valley is a chain of amusement parks in China.

Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc, echoed Young's comments, and said he is more concerned about the Chinese parks than the American ones. The Universal park is in Beijing, and the local parks "aren't going to compete," he said.

Interest in the Disney park is already so high that people who purchase tickets for the park within the first several months of the opening will get dated tickets, which means they can only go to the park on those days, according to Young. This practice is unusual for Disney because park attendees in other countries can buy tickets and use them whenever they want.

"In Shanghai there will be tickets for particular dates to make sure that the parks won't have overcrowding and have to turn people away and get that bad press," Young said. "They're actually concerned that it's going to be too busy, as opposed to worrying that nobody will show up. They're highly optimistic."

Speigel said that he recently visited the Disney park in Shanghai.

"I saw the vastness and the level of quality that they're investing in that park and it's going to be second to none," he said. "Everyone's building in China, just like they are in the Middle East. But Disney sets the bar for our industry in terms of product and guest experience. They chose the right market to spend $5 billion in."

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