Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng once described the relationship between Shanghai and Disney as that of "two lovers, still in love but having a hard time deciding when to get married". Today the uncertain couple have finally decided to tie the knot.
After years of toying around, Beijing has finally given the nod for Walt Disney to begin constructing their theme park in Pudong, Shanghai, and while the date has not yet been set, at least there’s a ring.
Investors were already counting on consummation: Shares of Shanghai Jielong Industry Group, a paper company that owns large portions of the land where the proposed park will be built, rose 39% in October. Shanghai Developer Shanghai Lujiazui Finance & Trade Zone Development rose 8.9% on the news.
The plan doesn’t come without doubters and critics, however. In Zhaohang, a village on the site of the future park, residents concerned that they would be left out of plans for compensation protested for two days in August. Their alleged leader actually died of a stroke on the second day. There are also some qualms about the success of the park. Hong Kong Disney’s attendance has been disappointing since it opened in 2005, and out of the 400 amusement parks already on the mainland, scores have fallen into disuse due to a lack of investment, poor maintenance and weak marketing and branding strategies.
However, the Chinese, who have long been infatuated with Disney and Disney products, often have difficulties getting approval to travel abroad and the park will be located within two hours of 300 million customers. Building and maintaining the park will also bolster the economy in Shanghai, which has not weathered the economic crisis as well as some of the other areas of China.