Hong Kong Disneyland, the first of its kind in China, officially started construction in Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon.
Covering 126 hectares on North Lantau Island, Hong Kong Disneyland, the eleventh Disney park in the world, will comprise of a theme park, two hotels as well as retail, dining and entertaining facilities. It is scheduled to open in 2005/06 to estimated 5.6 million annual visitors.
Against the backdrop of Lantau Island's mountains, the waters of Penny's Bay, Hong Kong Disneyland is praised for the spectacular surrounding and is the first to recreate many of the exact designs of the original Disneyland in California, United States.
The groundbreaking ceremony of the project, a venture of the Walt Disney Company and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, were attended by Tung Chee Hwa, chief executive of the HKSAR government, and Michael D. Eisner, Walt Disney's chairman and CEO, and Robert A. Iger, president of the company.
Tung noted in his speech that Disney's choice of Hong Kong is "a vote of confidence in our city and in our future."
Tung made clear that tourism is a core sector and an important economic driver for Hong Kong in that it is one of the few sectors that have registered growth during the present economic downturn.
According to Tung, the World Tourism Organization has forecast that China will lead the world in tourism by 2020, and Hong Kong will take fifth place, partly because of its close connections with the Chinese mainland.
"We have never been more confident in Hong Kong or the potential success of Hong Kong Disneyland," said Iger, adding that "Hong Kong is an even stronger tourism market than it was back in 1999, when we first announced this project, and its potential of growth is outstanding. We are thrilled to be a part of Hong Kong's future as we begin to bring to life Disney's first theme park in China at this one-of-a-kind setting on Lantau Island."
Commenting on the economic slowdown Hong Kong is currently experiencing, Eisner noted that "entertainment is resistant to recession" and that they had the experience of performing "super well" in weak economy.
On the other hand, Hong Kong Disneyland is estimated to create 18,000 jobs at opening and generate a benefit of 148 billion HK dollars (19 billion US dollars) with the first phase of the project.
Eisner pointed out that China is a huge market for entertainment industry, but currently they are focusing on Hong Kong Disneyland to ensure its success. They won't consider opening Disney in other parts of China until 2010.
Over the past 18 months which ended in December 2002, HKSAR government had been completing land reclamation and building the preliminary infrastructure and road work to support the project.
A set of four special stamps were issued on the same day to commemorate groundbreaking of Hong Kong Disneyland.