Shanghai Disney Resort to boost local tourism, regional economy

By Yu Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2016-1-18 21:38:01

Shanghai Disney Resort, the first Disney theme park on the Chinese mainland, will open in June. The theme park is expected to attract millions of Disney fans to Shanghai, giving a boost to the metropolis' tourism industry. Experts say the resort will bring many opportunities to local businesses, which will increase the economic growth in the city as well as the adjacent Yangtze River Delta. But they also warned the resort will add to the stress on the city's environment and transportation system.

Workers continue construction on Shanghai Disney Resort in December 2015. Photo: CFP

When you talk about a Disney theme park, it brings to mind Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Children love it, sure, but also adults born in the 1980s and 1990s, who grew up on Disney's fairy tales.

For now, Chinese mainland residents still have to travel to Hong Kong or Japan to relive the stories of their childhoods. The good news is that Shanghai Disney Resort, the first Disney theme park on the mainland, will open its doors on June 16.

"I will bring my two daughters to Shanghai after the resort opens," Shao Liang, a 34-year-old housewife living in Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province, told the Global Times on Friday.

"It only takes about half an hour to get to Shanghai from Suzhou by high-speed rail," she noted.

 The long-awaited resort will be the third Disney park in Asia. Disney opened the first on the continent in Tokyo in 1983, and its second in Hong Kong in 2005.

The resort is a big deal for Disney fans. But it's also a big deal for Shanghai's economy. It is expected to bring millions of tourists to Shanghai.

Experts also say the Shanghai resort will not have negative impacts on tourism in Hong Kong and Japan, due to individualized characteristics of each park.

Also, there won't be much competition between Disney and other domestic theme parks, because the theme park market is huge in China, said Zhu Zhengyu, an analyst at consultancy Analysys International.

Boosting tourism

The Disney resort  will be good for local travel agencies that develop short tours, Zhu said.

"These short-term tourism products are usually for one or two days, which will attract local residents in Shanghai as well as tourists from the nearby cities like Suzhou," Zhu told the Global Times on Thursday.

The theme park will also help bring foreign tourists to the city. As of November 2015, nearly 7.4 million foreign visitors went to Shanghai, up 0.6 percent year-on-year, according to data released by the Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration on January 5.

To keep foreign tourism growing, Shanghai extended the time it allows foreign travelers to stay in the city on its visa-free transit policy in December, 2015 to 144 hours from 72 hours. Along with Shanghai, the new policy also covers East China's Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces.

While visiting the Disney theme park, foreigner travelers will also have the opportunity to visit Shanghai and its neighboring cities, Zhu said.

Burnishing the city's image

Disney theme parks are among the best in the world, said Wang Fude, a professor specializing in tourism at Beijing International Studies University.

"They have a great brand and provides great services," Wang noted. "The Disney theme park will help increase the tourism in Shanghai, which will also help boost the city's image," Wang told the Global Times on Thursday.

When asked about the impact the Shanghai resort will have on local tourism, the administrative commission of the Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone said it didn't have any relevant information.

The zone includes the area where the Disney resort is built. In a press release sent to the Global Times on Thursday, the commission only said the infrastructure for the resort was "basically ready."

The government thinks highly of the resort, Zhu said. It won't just burnish the city's image, but it will also create a lot of jobs for the locals.

Major construction of the resort has been completed, the resort said in a note sent to the Global Times on Wednesday. In the interim period before the resort opens, it will continue to hire and train employees to join its current staff of nearly 2,000 people.

Bolstering the economy

Shanghai Disneyland is composed of six themed lands: Adventure Isle, the Gardens of Imagination, Mickey Avenue, Tomorrowland, Treasure Cove and Fantasyland, according to the press release. The last is home to the Enchanted Storybook Castle.

It is only part of the resort. The resort also has two hotels, a shopping district and 40 hectares of gardens, lakes and parks.

An estimated 10 million to 20 million people will visit Shanghai Disney Resort each year, Zhu said.

With tickets priced around 500 yuan ($76.08), the resort will generate 5 billion yuan to 10 billion yuan in annual revenue just from admission.

The resort is a joint venture between Disney and Shanghai Shendi Group, a State-owned company that has a 57 percent stake in the resort.

It's still unclear how the local government will share revenue with Disney, but the resort will have a trickle down effect, boosting business for restaurants and hotels in the city, which will ultimately contribute to local economic growth, Wang said.

The resort will also help boost economic growth in the surrounding region, the Yangtze River Delta.

With 22 cities and about 100 million people, the delta has become one of the most prosperous economic regions in China, said Jing Linbo, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The region's total retail spending was more than 2.8 trillion yuan in 2014, Jing said on Monday. He predicted it will reach 3 trillion yuan in 2015 and 5 trillion yuan in 2020, accounting for nearly one-tenth of the total retail spending in China.

Like any massive commercial project, the resort will have an effect on the city's infrastructure and environment. Wang is concerned that the millions of visitors will stress the city's transportation system and the local environment.

The Shanghai government needs to take steps to deal with these potential problems in advance, Wang said.

For instance, the Shanghai government needs to better develop public transportation to reduce traffic and cut down on pollution caused by additional cars, he noted.
Newspaper headline: Mickey comes to the mainland

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