Disneyland Expansion Loses Out to COVID-19 Quarantine Facility

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What future for Hong Kong Disneyland?

Hong Kong Disneyland

Hong Kong government nixes plans for major expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland. The decision was made owing to ‘current economic conditions’, the government says.  Will the site will be used for a COVID-19 quarantine facility instead?

Why Did Disneyland Expansion Lose Out?

There was a  20-year option to develop a massive site next to Hong Kong Disneyland into an expansion of the park. And it was signed in 2000. But it was set to expire on 24 September 2020.

So what happened? Has Hong Kong Disneyland’s long-awaited expansion lost out to a quarantine facility?

In a surprise announcement, the government says it has decided that rather than selling the 60-hectare site to Disney, it would use the land to built a COVID-19 quarantine facility instead.

Such a facility would most likely not be permanent. It might just last a few months. Or a few years …

But it would give the government time to consider how best to develop the Penny Bay site, while meeting a more urgent and immediate need.

After all, nobody know how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last. A few months? Several years?

Certainly, a theme park can wait. Especially when attendance is down.

Are Financial Difficulties an Issue?

It has not been a happy year for the Happiest Place in Hong Kong.

As early as January, Hong Kong Disneyland was forced to close its gates owing to the coronavirus pandemic. And that coincided with Chinese New Year, the park’s most lucrative period.

Not only do locals usually flood the park. In addition, there is always a deluge of crowds cascading across the border from mainland China.

Simply put, the park is awash with Disney enthusiasts.

Unfortunately, shortly after the park re-opened its gates a few months later, a second wave of infections rocked Hong Kong.

And the park was forced to batten down the hatches yet again.

Add to that the social unrest last year, when attendance at Hong Kong Disneyland was reduced to a trickle.

Talk about a recipe for disaster!

Moreover, the park has been awash in red ink for most of its existence. In fact, it has recorded an annual profit only three times since it opened.

So why didn’t the government decide to cut the theme park some slack?

Apparently, the reason why the Disneyland expansion lost out was because the company didn’t have the financial ability to develop the site in the short term.

Consequently, the government’s Commerce and Economic Development Bureau suggested the company focus on developing and expanding the current site.

Translation: don’t bite off more than you can chew.

“We are extremely disappointed with the Hong Kong government’s decision not to extend the Phase 2 land expansion option,” Disney told Nikkei Asian Review.

However, the theme park will go ahead with its current expansion plans at the existing site.

In fact, several new attractions are in the pipeline. And at least one new attraction will be added each year through 2023.

Just Who Owns Hong Kong Disneyland?

Ownership of the Disney theme park is a bit complicated. And this is something that many outsiders  don’t understand.

In fact, the Walt Disney Company does not own the park outright. The park is owned and operated by a joint venture: Hong Kong International Theme Parks (HKITP).

To clarify, Walt Disney is a minority HKIP shareholder, holding a 47% share.

And it is the Hong Kong government that is the majority shareholder of HKITP, owning a 53% share.

So guess who calls the shots!

“HKITP’s strategic direction is to focus on the ongoing multi-expansion plan featuring a series of new attractions that will continue to position Hong Kong Disneyland as a premier tourism destination in the region,” a spokesperson for the body says.

“The government continues to fully support the existing expansion plan for the resort despite the prevailing worldwide tourism downturn.”

In other words, the government wants to focus on maximizing the potential of the current plot of land rather than taking on an additional piece of land, which could possibly be put to better use.

Is Housing an Issue?

Whether the government would consider selling the land to Disney at a future date is anyone’s guess. In fact, stranger things have happened.

However, Hong Kong is suffering from a severe land shortage. Consequently, real estate prices are astronomical.

Most importantly, residential property prices are the world’s highest.

So there would likely be considerable pressure to earmark the land for housing instead of an expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland.

As for Disney fans, well, when you wish upon a star …

Hong Kong Disneyland’s 15th Anniversary

Hong Kong Disneyland is preparing to celebrate its 15th anniversary later this year.

And the highlight will be the official launch of The Castle of Magical Dreams, a re-imaging of Sleeping Beauty Castle.

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