Hong Kong government ends Disney's option for expanding theme park

Reuters
Washington DC, USA Published: Sep 24, 2020, 10:53 AM(IST)

Disney Shanghai Park Photograph:( Twitter )

Story highlights

The Asian financial hub has relaxed its coronavirus restrictions, including reopening theme parks, after the testing of nearly two million people in a programme organised by the Chinese government found 42 cases.

Walt Disney Co. will lose its option to buy a plot of land next to its Hong Kong theme park that was to allow for future expansion after the city`s government said on Wednesday it would not extend the option due to current economic conditions.

The announcement comes as the Chinese-ruled hub tries to bolster its flagging economy and badly hit tourism sector, which was impacted heavily by anti-government protests last year and more recently, the coronavirus.

Hong Kong`s Disneyland resort is owned by a joint venture, Hong Kong International Theme Parks Ltd (HKITP), of which the local government owns 53% and Walt Disney Co holds the rest. It has been closed for +months this year.

The government said it was prudent to focus on the development and expansion of the existing resort in the coming few years rather than a geographic expansion, according to a statement on its website. ''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 spokesman for the city`s Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said.

The option to buy the land, which is nearby the city`s international airport, was agreed 20 years ago and expires on Thursday. A Walt Disney Company representative said that the company would continue investing but was "extremely disappointed with the Hong Kong government’s decision not to extend the phase 2 land expansion option."

The land earmarked for Disney has been unused for years and activists had advocated that public housing be built on it. As the city experienced a renewed rise in coronavirus infections, authorities set up a temporary quarantine centre.

Disney said on Tuesday it would open its Hong Kong park on Sept. 25 to a reduced number of visitors and limited days, with enhanced health measures. It had closed again in mid-July for a second time.

The Asian financial hub has relaxed its coronavirus restrictions, including reopening theme parks, after the testing of nearly two million people in a programme organised by the Chinese government found 42 cases.
Gatherings remain capped at 4 people and all guests inside the park must wear masks. 

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