Mickey Mouse operation or scapegoat?
After three months, Hong Kong Disneyland is struggling to meet the city's hopes for an economic shot in the arm, with some retailers and politicians complaining the US$1.8 billion theme park is luring too few tourists.
Customers, on the other hand, have complained of long queues and too few attractions. Local media have seized on every misstep, airing the complaints of disgruntled employees and a local pop star's account of rude treatment by park staff.
"It's too small and too expensive," said Maurice Wong, a 22-year old violinist from Taiwan who visited Disneyland with his orchestra during a tour to Hong Kong. "A lot of people told us before we came that this Disneyland is not good enough."
Scrutiny is itensified by the fact that the local government paid US$2 billion to build infrastructure to support the park.
Hong Kong Disneyland's vice president for marketing, Roy Tan, said expectations were too high when Hong Kong was recovering from an outbreak of the SARS respiratory disease in 2003.
"We were supposed to be the silver bullet for all the issues Hong Kong faced - unemployment, the economy, service culture," Tan, a former Hong Kong professional soccer player, told Reuters.
"But we have always said we are part of the destination of Hong Kong, not the destination. People don't come here just to see Hong Kong Disney and fly out."
Last Tuesday, the 30,000 capacity park said for the first time that all available tickets were sold on a day when schools were closed while Hong Kong hosted a World Trade organization meeting. It did not say how many tickets had been sold.
But a visitor that day told Reuters he saw none of the hour-long queues for the rides common when Hong Kong was abuzz with Disney fever in mid-September.
"It was quite busy, but not exactly crowded. We didn't have to wait more than a few minutes," said Aaron Barguss-Smith.