Shanghai Disney’s new rules against outside food irks locals

By Wang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/22 17:58:40

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

Shanghai Disney Resort recently announced that its visitors are no longer allowed to bring in any outside food, alcoholic beverages or soft drinks (larger than 600 milliliters). Previously, anyone could bring their own unopened snacks and drinks into the resort.

This news has raised heated discussions and debates on Chinese social websites, as it goes directly against local tradition and official policies. "The food inside Disney is overpriced and awful! I can't change the rule, but I can choose not to go," one netizen commented.

Supporters of the new policy noted that all the Disney resorts worldwide prohibit visitors from bringing in outside food, so China should not be any exception. Other proponents believe the new rule will help relieve the workload of the resort's sanitary workers, as many Chinese tourists tend to litter.

Shanghai Disney Resort is not the only amusement park in China to forbid outside food and beverages. Guangzhou Chimelong Tourist Resort made news back in 2016 for a similar policy, which resulted in condemnation among its visitors.

The primary reason why any commercial amusement park would prohibit outside food and beverages is to sell their own concessions at marked-up prices, which are huge sources of profit for such places.

But this sort of compulsory purchase results in extra financial burdens to average Chinese park-goers, who already spend heavily on admission tickets, rides, games and souvenirs. Forcing them to buy ridiculously expensive snacks only serves to dampen their enjoyment.

Disney is infamous for its steeply overpriced food and drinks. According to previous media reports, the lowest dining expense for an adult visitor at Shanghai Disney Resort is 100 yuan ($15.09) per day - if they only eat hot dogs and soda. As most visitors choose to spend an entire day inside the resort, this means the lowest possible dining cost for a family of four is 400 yuan.

However, if a family of four chooses to dine at one of Disney's restaurants inside the resort, one single meal will cost at least 1,000 yuan. Considering the fact that the average monthly salary in Shanghai (one of the most developed cities in China) is only 6,504 yuan in 2016, spending 400 yuan to 1,000 yuan on just one daily meal is outrageous.

The new policy also neglects the needs of visitors with special dining requirements, such as vegetarians or anyone with diabetes (who must strictly control their blood glucose level by avoiding oily and sweet foods). Since most if not all food sold inside Disney contains high amounts of sugar, diabetics will find themselves literally starving.

Previously, in order to optimize their visit to Shanghai Disney Resort, which includes more rides, activities and events than can possibly all be completed in a single day, Chinese visitors were saving time by bringing their own food to munch on while waiting in the park's long lines.

The new no-food rule will severely cut down the number of rides and attractions each visitor can enjoy, as it will force them to take significant time off just to eat. My friend Lisa, who visited Shanghai Disney Resort in 2016, said she and her husband preplanned their day by bringing a bag of quick, easy snacks to eat while queuing. This helped them maximize the number of rides they could enjoy.

She said the new policy has dampened her enthusiasm about returning to Disney in the future, as it will be even more expensive and time consuming than it already was. Yes, the park will greatly profit from the new rule, and maybe also keep the grounds cleaner, but those are advantages only for Disney, not ordinary family.

It is simply unfair for Disney to impose this Western custom on Chinese visitors. China has long had an open policy about allowing people to bring their own picnics into parks, resorts, movie theaters and even restaurants.

Thus, I can't see this helping Disney improve their already sagging reputation and brand perception among the Chinese. On the contrary, it is going to drastically reduce the number of low-income families and students who might have wanted to visit the new resort. Mickey Mouse might want to reconsider!

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

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