Walt Disney Co, facing slower earnings at theme parks in the US, has begun work on its $2.9 billion Hong Kong Disney-land, the first step in the US media company's push into China.
Disney is banking on record tourist arrivals in Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule five years ago. Disney is competing with Vivendi Universal SA, which is planning parks in Shanghai, for a slice of the Chinese market.
Tourism from China surged last year, when 6.1 million Chinese visited the former British colony in the first 11 months, a gain of about 50 per cent from a year earlier. That made China, the world's most populous country, the city's biggest source of visitors, accounting for two-fifths of the total.
"This area of the world is possibly the most important growth area for Disney in the next few decades," said Jordan Rohan, an analyst at SoundView Technology Group in Old Greenwich, Connecticut.
The entertainment company isn't limiting its China ambition to Hong Kong. It also plans a park in Shanghai, to be built after 2010, giving Chinese visitors a choice of Disney destinations close to home.
"This area of the world is possibly the most important growth area for Disney in the next few decades."
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