Shanghai Disneyland visitor numbers fall short of expectations

Popular rides like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure’ cause long queues. Pic: Disney Parks Blog

AFTER close to four months of operating, Shanghai Disneyland’s magic could be wearing off.

The US$5.5 billion theme park is having a tough time living up to some analysts’ expectations. The park has averaged about 20,000 visitors a day, making up an estimate of about 7.3 million a year. Overall, the figure is less than half the 15 million Nomura and other experts had projected.

According to the Themed Entertainment Association, it would also leave Shanghai struggling behind similar Disney parks in California and Tokyo, which drew in 18.3 million and 16.6 million visitors respectively last year.

The short visitor numbers could be attributed to high admission fees, long queuing times for popular rides (sometimes touching the four-hour mark), and expensive food and drinks.

The Enchanted Storybook Castle at Shanghai Disneyland. Pic: Disney Parks Blog

Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group told South China Morning Post (SMCP) that Disney made a “big mistake” in not better handling long queues, which generated negative word of mouth that forced consumers to adopt a “wait-and-see attitude”.

On high admission fees, Ken Wong, Asia equity portfolio specialist at Eastspring Investments, said, “[These prices] are making it difficult to attract more visitors. Disneyland might need to readjust them.”

Admission prices are not any higher when compared to Disneyland parks in Los Angeles and Hong Kong, but a lower monthly per capita disposable income in China means less accessibility for those below the middle class bracket.

In defense of early numbers, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Bob Chapek told Fortune, “The recent report speculating about our attendance is meritless.”

A young Chinese girl has a princess makeover at Shanghai Disneyland. Pic: AP

He added, “Our financial results during the first 100+ days of operation have exceeded our expectations, and guest feedback has been extremely strong, establishing a solid foundation upon which to grow.”

Shanghai Disneyland was 17 years in the making, and opened in June with an extravagant ceremony complemented with a performance by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

By far, the park is Disney’s biggest foreign investment and features the biggest Disney castle in the world.

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