Lessons Learned from Three Years of Shanghai Disney Resort
On the eve of the attraction’s third anniversary, Joe Schott, president and general manager of Shanghai Disney Resort, shared the many ways Disney’s commitment to being “authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese” have come to life at the company’s newest park during the Leadership Breakfast of IAAPA Expo Asia 2019.
“Before we put a shovel in the ground, we did extensive research about customs, culture, and traditions of our host country,” he said. “We then combined our newfound knowledge with what experience we had around the world to create a magical place.”
That approach is playing out at the attraction in numerous ways:
n An opportunity for innovation. Creating the first Disney park in mainland China was an opportunity for the company. “It was also a great responsibility, as we were tasked to break our industry scripts for the world’s most dynamic marketplace,” Schott said. Disney took on the challenge by creating an immersive experience with a new way for guests to become a part of the story. “By bringing guests into our stories, we’re not only making a stronger connection with our brand, but they made a memory that lasts a lifetime,” he said.
- Holiday spirit. Disney prioritized blending Chinese culture with its classic magic. This resulted in the celebration of both local Chinese festivals and international holidays, including Christmas and Halloween.
- A comprehensive digital presence. Chinese guests heavily use mobile devices in everyday life. Disney ensured guests would have a seamless experience on site by creating a comprehensive digital experience on the resort’s app—including one of the first iterations of a completely digital legacy Fastpass. The app is bilingual as well.
- Encouraging repeat visitation. Disney uses limited-time activities to encourage first-time and repeat visits. These activities include seasonal events, special events like a run, and seasonal food and beverage. Disney recently rolled out annual passes based on the success of seasonal passes. After watching Chinese guest visitation habits, it also introduced a pass that allows for early access into the park.
- Social media first. It’s important to Chinese guests to be able to share their experiences on social media. “This means everything we create and offer must be designed with a picture-worthy image in mind,” said Schott. From food to merchandise, design priority is placed on how well an image will transfer to social media platforms.
- Be the employer of choice. Disney has a majority of local cast members to fill the 500 roles at the resort. The company creates opportunities for cast members to work and play together, and focuses on creating an inclusive atmosphere, encouraging diversity.
- Commit to the community. Disney is also working to promote happiness and well-being in China. The company has pledged to build therapeutic play centers in children’s hospitals across the country over the next five years.
Schott concluded with an encouraging word to the global attractions industry gathered for the event. “Our collective participation in the conference represents our shared commitment to the tourism and attractions industry across China and across Asia, and delivering the best-in-class offering for our guests,” he said.