【明報專訊】DISNEYLAND will settle in Shanghai as expected. Hong Kong decided to invest about $5.9 billion in Hong Kong Disneyland's expansion just a few months ago. Now Disney has started a competing project, it will be even harder for Hong Kong to recoup its investment. It is a foregone conclusion that Shanghai will boast a Disneyland theme Park, and Universal Studios Singapore and the Lion City's casinos have opened. Therefore, the SAR's tourist industry will be faced with stiff competition. Hong Kong must strive for its own wellbeing. It must try to become more competitive and improve its tourist infrastructure and supporting facilities so that its established reputation as a tourist destination will not die out, and its tourist industry, a pillar of its economy, will not decline.
The backdrop against which Shanghai has decided to have a Disneyland theme park is quite different from that against which Hong Kong began its Disneyland project. Hong Kong took it for a lifesaver. The SAR was at a disadvantage when it had talks with Disney. Was there any reason why the company should not seize the opportunity to squeeze as much as possible out of Hong Kong? However, Shanghai has been developing in leaps and bounds. Its economy is thriving. A Disneyland theme park is to the city what a flower is to a piece of brocade, and the lack of it is no big deal. The financial tsunami has caused economic downturns. According to a report of Disney's global results that came out towards the end of last July, its earnings dropped 19% in the third quarter. The Shanghai Disneyland project may well be a lifesaver to Disney. Things are different with Shanghai, which has now advantages. It should have concluded a better, fairer deal with the company.
Normally, such a deal includes an exclusive period clause that stipulates that no similar facilities should appear in any neighbouring place for a specified period. We do not know whether Hong Kong raised such a demand at its negotiations with Disney. If it did not, the officials who negotiated with Disney were not up to the job. If it did raise it and Disney rejected it, Hong Kong was so eager to have a Disneyland that it was at the company's mercy.
Commenting on Shanghai's announcement, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Rita Lau has said China can support two Disneyland theme parks. She takes the view that Shanghai's Disneyland and Hong Kong's may cooperate with and complement each other. She is confident that Hong Kong Disneyland will remain attractive and competitive. As she handled the government's plan to invest big money in Hong Kong Disneyland's expansion just a few months ago, it is totally understandable for her to say so. Nevertheless, it is independent of man's will how the two Disneyland theme parks will compete with each other. They cannot but compete with each other. This being the case, we believe the government ought to lead Hong Kong in fighting well and winning the imminent war of tourism.
Over the past few years, Ocean Park has greatly strengthened and changed itself. It has already outdone Hong Kong Disneyland, on which high hopes were once pinned. Ocean Park's success shows that Hong Kong must first strive to do well what is within its control when it is faced with competition from mainland cities. Only if it does so can it find and establish its position in the surging tide of national development.
We must not stake Hong Kong's tourism just on Hong Kong Disneyland. Hong Kong must have better tourist resources, tourist infrastructure and supporting facilities and offer better services so that visitors will feel comfortable here as if they were at home. Only if it does so will it remain ahead of any mainland city in tourism. In that event, a flourishing Hong Kong Disneyland would be to Hong Kong tourism what a flower is to a piece of brocade, and the success of Hong Kong's tourism will not depend on it.