Sat, Feb 04, 2006 - Page 11 News List

HK legislators blast Disney for chaos

BLOOMBERG

Hong Kong legislators yesterday accused Walt Disney Co's theme park of damaging the city's international image after Lunar New Year tourist crowds were turned away or faced long queues.

The accusations came amid three days of ticketing confusion at the Lantau Island park.

Yesterday, several visitors said they were able to buy tickets at the gate hours after the park broadcast messages -- at the site and at the inner-city train station that serves it -- saying it could take no more visitors.

On Thursday, hundreds of ticket-holders were turned away from the park after Disneyland said it had reached maximum capacity.

Local media broadcasts showed angry tourists pushing past security guards and attempting to climb the park's tall gates.

"This is just outrageous," Emily Lau (劉慧卿), a legislator with the Frontier Party, said in an interview yesterday. "As the majority shareholder, the government needs to demand the management clean up their act. This is harming Hong Kong's international reputation."

Disney spent HK$2.45 billion (US$315.8 million) for its 43 percent stake in Hong Kong Disneyland, its first park in China.

Hong Kong's government, which owns the remainder, invested HK$3.25 billion. It spent another HK$13.6 billion on roads and other infrastructure, and extended a HK$6.1 billion loan.

Yesterday's broadcast was made "based on our experience in the past few days and based on our forecast of the day," said Jennifer Liu, spokeswoman for Disneyland in Hong Kong.

Thousands of Chinese tourists came to Hong Kong during the weeklong holidays on the mainland. Yesterday, visitors began waiting at the front gate as early as 5:30 am. By 7:30 am, more than 1,000 people were queuing, Cable TV news reported.

The Legislative Council's Economic Services Panel may hold a special meeting to demand explanations from Disney management, said Choy So-yuk (蔡素玉), a lawmaker with the pro-government Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong. The party has written a letter to panel chairman James Tien (田北俊) "to request the meeting to be held as soon as possible," she said.

The party will ask for a "full explanation on the chaos and Disneyland's assurance that it will not happen again," Choy said.

Yesterday, not all those who made it in were pleased by the experience. One tourist, from Shande in China's Guangdong Province, left the park after a little more than two hours.

"There are just too many people and too few facilities," said the man, who gave his last name as Tam.

"I'm pretty disappointed. We had to wait more than an hour for each ride. If I knew it was going to be like this I'd rather go to Ocean Park," he said, referring to Hong Kong's only other amusement park.

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