CASSANDRA ACQUAH | LEGAL JARGON WRITER
Long-term plans to expand the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort have been put to a stop by the city’s government due to current economic conditions. The option to use the 60-acre plot of land next to the theme park, which is also near the city’s international airport, was agreed 20 years ago and expired on Thursday 24th September, with the government announcing their decision to not extend this option.
Hong Kong’s Disneyland Resort is owned by the joint venture company, Hong Kong International Theme Parks Ltd (HKITP) of which the local government owns 53% with The Walt Disney Company owning the rest.
A spokesperson for the city’s Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said it would be more “prudent” for the theme park to focus on the development of the existing resort in the upcoming years rather than aim for a geographic expansion. They went on to mention the importance of continuing to “position Hong Kong Disneyland as a premier tourism destination in the region”. This comes after its tourism sector was particularly badly impacted by the anti-government protests last year and the coronavirus pandemic.
Unused for years, activists had been pushing for the land to be used as space on which public housing could be built. During the rise of coronavirus cases in the city, authorities had also used the plot of land to set up a temporary quarantine centre.
A representative for Walt Disney Company announced they were “extremely disappointed” with the decision to not extend the option, however have gone on to reveal plans to open the Hong Kong park on 25th September, after closing in mid-July for a second time. It will be open on limited days with reduced capacity, and visitors will be required to wear face masks along with other enhanced health measures.
The park first closed at the end of January, reopened and then closed again mid-July, having a significant financial impact on the business. This expansion plan aimed to help boost business opportunities in the area with the regrowth of tourism. It will be interesting to see the park’s development plans for its existing area without the expansion.
The park has only recorded a net profit three times since its launch in 2005. This new limit on the number of visitors and Hong Kong’s travel restrictions will continue to impact its income and the overall business, especially as it is the smallest Disneyland resort in the world.
One must consider the wider impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the tourism sector and how other companies’ growth plans may have changed.
Consider the terms of the agreement giving Disney the option to use the 60-acre plot of land for expansion, only for the government to deny a renewal of this agreement after its expiration. The shares owned by each of the shareholders involved should also be considered- the local government owns 53% of the joint venture company with The Walt Disney Company owning the rest.
Political leaders in Hong Kong have faced pressures for a long time, to alleviate the city’s housing shortage. This provision of land will potentially provide urgently needed affordable housing for the population.
CASSANDRA ACQUAH Cassandra is an aspiring solicitor with interests in retail and media, as well as the steps being taken to increase diversity at all levels within the legal sector.
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