As the scheduled June opening of Shanghai Disney Resort nears, hospitality firms gird up their loins

Hotel companies in the Yangtze River Delta area have been planning years in

advance to cash in on anticipated surge in visitors to the area in whose heart Shanghai Disney Resort will open in June.

Such plans took the shape of new hotels, renovation and expansion of properties, and conversion of existing rooms into affordable family suites. Now, as June nears, they can't wait for action to explode.

Xu Weiluo, branding executive of Homeinns Co Ltd, a leading budget hotel group headquartered in Shanghai, says: "We've developed a strategy in anticipation of the opening of the Disney resort many years ago."

Homeinns and other leading hotel chains chose locations close to the rail stations on subway lines 2 and 11 that connect the Disney resort to Shanghai city. Subway line 11 will extend to Shanghai East Station and Pudong International Airport while line 2 will extend to Shanghai Wild Animal Park.

About 30 percent of the 2,600 hotels of brands such as Yitel, Homeinn Plus, Motel and Fairyland are located near the Yangtze River Delta. Hotels that can be reached in an hour or two from Shanghai are also coming up, to serve as backups for visitors to the Disney resort, says Xu.

Some hotels have even become licensed sellers of Disney entry tickets, which they intend to package with hotel and pick-up services.

On Jan 21, seven Douhao youth-oriented apartment hotels comprising 600 rooms, funded by Homeinns and Sequoia Capital, were launched in the Chuansha area.

The Douhao brand will expand to first-tier cities like Beijing, Guangzhou and Xi'an in future.

And to think the Shanghai Disney Resort itself has two hotels with Disney themes - the 420-room Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and the 800-room Toy Story Hotel, located next to Shanghai Disneyland.

Zeng Guang, chief analyst of Guosen Securities, told media the Disney theme park opening in June is just as well because the run-up to the summer, when visitors are expected to peak, will act like a warm-up period.

Hotels plan to cash in on theme parks

The Yangtze River Delta and its neighboring provinces are China's most prosperous region. Thanks to high-speed express trains, most provincial capitals are just one or two hours away.

Expected visits by families are raising expectations of repeat trips. Families are expected to boost all-round consumption in the area through longer/overnight stays, says Zeng.

Jiang Yiyi, director of the China Tourism Academy's International Tourism Development Institute, says the Shanghai Disney Resort will also likely lure foreigners, especially from neighboring countries, given its unique attractions and Chinese characteristics.

Chris Yoshii, vice-president and global director of Leisure Asia AECOM (Hong Kong), a US-based consultancy group, says the theme park market in Asia had a good year in 2015 with tourism and domestic consumption continuing to increase.

"We would expect the Chinese mainland to have a GDP growth of around 7 percent this year, although Hong Kong may show a slight decline due to falling traveler visits. We would expect Japan and South Korea to be relatively flat since few new attractions opened there.

"The outlook for 2016 is positive as the opening of Shanghai Disney Resort will likely be the big event in Asia," says Yoshii.

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Hotels plan to cash in on theme parks

(China Daily European Weekly 02/05/2016 page26)

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