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The Cast of Characters Behind the Scenes of Mickey’s Newest Hotels – 
the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Hollywood Hotel

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By Steve Shellum, Publisher/Editor, HOTEL Asia Pacific, September 2005

Build a better mousetrap, so they say, and the world will beat a path to your door. While Disney is aiming for a captive audience for its two Hong Kong hotels, opening in September, 2005 the rest of the market is going all goofy about getting a slice of its massive, all-American, pie. 

When it comes to doing business, the world's largest purveyor of dreams and fantasies does not play games. The pure power of its brand, coupled with its immense marketing muscle and worldwide reach, means Disney is almost guaranteed year-round occupancies that will see its 1,000 guestrooms in Hong Kong bursting at the seams. 

And the price is non-negotiable. There will be no discounted room rates, no special deals, no low-season "giveaways" - the rates published on its website (www.hongkongdisneyland.com) are set in cyber-concrete. It's every hotelier's dream, and one that Hong Kong Disneyland VP of sales and marketing Roy Tan Hardy says will have a powerful knock-on effect for other hotels in Hong Kong.

It's a message that is not lost on the market which, in an almost comic-cut zeal, is busy turning a portion of its inventory into "Disney-friendly" rooms. And while it may not be a simple case of taking candy from a baby, Tan Hardy says there's plenty of overflow business to be snapped up. 

Existing hoteliers in Hong Kong are divided into two camps about the opening of Disneyland: one sees it as a threat that is out to take its business; the other sees it as a blessing to the industry that will make Hong Kong a better tourist destination. 

"Look at the facts," says Tan Hardy. "We have 1,000 rooms onsite, and let's assume an average occupancy of three per room - that's 3,000 people, and we cannot fill the theme park with 3,000 people. There's going to be requirements for a lot more people coming from overseas - and this is where other hotels in Hong Kong can really switch to being more family friendly. 

"Also, we already know from the wholesalers we've talked to that there's a percentage of visitors who want to stay in the city because, besides visiting Disneyland, they also want to do the things that Hong Kong is famous for - shopping, eating and visiting other attractions.

"So I think that apprehensions from some hotels are really just perceived apprehensions. The emergence of Hong Kong Disneyland is going to give Hong Kong a totally new tourism dimension that it didn't have before - and that is family tourism. As we know in other parts of the world where we operate Disneyland, family tourism is very, very different and very, very lucrative. 

"We're talking about chief executives in khakis and polo shirts who are totally defenseless against the whims of their children in terms of wanting this, wanting that. If you look at it from that perspective, it's very different and really an opportunity for all Hong Kong hotels.

"Hong Kong is about adults, while Disney is all about family. We connect families, we bring families together. They come to Disneyland in pursuit of their number one goal - happiness. And staying at a Disney hotel allows families and guests to visit a theme park, to never have to leave the magic. Our hotels are very heavily themed - just like the "lands" in our theme parks - and we immerse people in those experiences. 

"When you come in alone on business, the requirements are different, and the way people want to be served is very different. The hotels that will benefit are those that are able to capture this new trend and provide the little differences to cater to families - and we're not talking here about massive capital expenditure as with a business hotel which has to be rewired for broadband. It's really more of a mindset and the willingness to change the way service is delivered. 

"We've built this great theme park and hotels that are going to be different from what the Hong Kong hospitality industry has seen in the past."

It's a difference that several downtown hotels have noted. The really switched-on ones are converting a few rooms to family rooms, replacing double rooms with double beds and bunks, allowing accommodation for three or four people in a room and providing kids' amenities. 

"We're talking here about very low-cost amenities, but they have a very high perceived value," says Tan Hardy. "We hope more and more hoteliers will do this, because it makes Hong Kong a very much more family-friendly destination, which is good for everyone.

"It's about being strategic and being long-term in the way you view things. We tend to look at our relationship with our guest on a very long-term level, as apposed to a transactional level. Our long-term marketing goals are to build a lifetime relationship with our guests. In the US, we are into the third, fourth and even fifth generations of guests. 

"One of the reasons why we have been able to transcend the test of time is because we are timeless with our service attitude - it's a sort of passport between generations."

But Tan Hardy believes some of the more traditional Hong Kong hotels will have a difficult time convincing their owners to change direction. "It's going to be tough because, even though the GMs may see the opportunity, they have to convince their owners, many of whom have a perception that corporate guests equal high revenue.

"I've worked with owners before, and this can be a difficult subject. But the truth is, the corporate guests want the lowest rate, they want a whole bunch of stuff thrown in like laundry, late check in and check out, special deals, special treatment, free breakfast ... I mean, how much more can you give in to these guys?" 

Disney's no-nonsense business approach means it is uncompromising on rates. "Our website has our prices posted, because we are very transparent and open on our rates. Our published rates are our selling rates, which is very different from many hotels. One of the reasons we give all our rates - peak, medium and low - is that guests can pick the day, the hotel and the room type and that rate will be the same whether they book direct through us or through any other medium. 

"The preservation of rate integrity is of paramount importance to us, and we are not going to subscribe to the 'let's make a deal' mentality. That's the way Disney works all over the world, and it's been communicated to all our distribution partners. I think that sets us up to be more guest friendly."

Besides being high yield, the family market can also help boost the corporate market, says Tan Hardy. "If they have such a great time when they go on the family vacation, then next time they'll be back for a conference or business, because you've just sold something to them that they've never seen." 

Apart from the lucrative family market, other hotels stand to gain from increased MICE business. According to Tan Hardy, Disney has been receiving strong inquiries for local and regional events ranging from 50 people up to 1,000, while the biggest inquiry to date is for about 20,000 people for a European incentive group. Advance inquiries stretch as far ahead as 2008. 

"These are huge numbers compared to what Hong Kong has traditionally been able to handle," says Tan Hardy. "There's a huge opportunity for MICE, but we haven't done any major marketing for this yet."

General inquiries are coming from all over the world, especially China. There is also great interest from India, but there is a problem with lack of air capacity. "Once that is resolved, then India will be an exceptionally strong market for us. People there know Disney, and they are very excited about Hong Kong Disneyland, because it's so much closer to home compared to having to travel to California."

Hong Kong Disneyland's two hotels, Disney's Hollywood Hotel and the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel - both managed by veteran hotelier Peter Lowe, former GM of the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong - are world's apart in architecture and style, and are designed to appeal to different market segments. 

Disney's Hollywood Hotel will have a larger component of leisure groups, predominantly from the mainland near Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, while the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel is aimed more at the northern part of China, particularly Shanghai and Beijing, as well as "the more affluent segment of the Southeast Asian market" and the "kangaroo route" between the UK and Australia. 

"There's probably a million passengers a year travelling the kangaroo route, and a lot of airlines and wholesalers are already putting in two- or three-day stopovers at Hong Kong Disneyland to break the journey. 

"Whatever the target markets, they will all be predominantly family. And everything, from the moment you step into the hotels, exemplifies the themes that the hotels represent - grand-Victorian for the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, and art-deco for the Disney's Hollywood Hotel, evoking the 1930s-40s when motion pictures were in their heyday. 

"The thing you will find when you walk into any Disney hotel is the casualness of the environment. People who come for a dream holiday with their family want to be relaxed. They don't want to be put into a formal situation, to be put into an environment where there is a lot of pomp and ceremony."

Besides the hotels' restaurants, the F&B team - headed by Klaus Mager - will look after all the outlets in the theme park, as well as convention catering. 

Tables at many of the hotels' restaurants have been booked for months before the park's opening on September 12. "We have a captive audience for our restaurants, but they will also be good enough to attract people from outside to come in for lunch and dinner. A major advantage for us is that we are located in the remote north of Hong Kong, yet are less than 30 minutes from the Central business district. 
"We've had people walk in and say, 'This doesn't feel like Hong Kong', which is exactly what it's meant to be - not Hong Kong."

Cast members learn the magic

Salaries at Hong Kong Disneyland are slightly above the city's industry standard, and several staff - known as cast members - have joined from other hotels. But Tan Hardy doesn't believe they joined for the money.

"For many of them, it's the chance to be part of the magic, and they're trying to enrich themselves with something they can't get from other hotels," he says. 

"We are determined to deliver the Disney standard, so we have found people who want to be part of that, to help make that magic.

"We have to deliver on our promise, and that comes back to training, with the focus on guest delivery. For us, if you don't have a predisposition to being customer friendly, then you get washed away with the tide - it can't be faked. 

"We've refined the training to several elements, which we call the "DNA of magic". This, essentially, breaks down that magic experience into deliverable, identifiable and trainable components so - in fact - it doesn't happen by magic. 

"There's a difference in the way that guests from different parts of the world perceive good service, so we will twitch, improve and review until we develop a much better understanding of what is consistently perceived as something that the guest appreciates. 

"We've just completed the mass hiring of about 3,000 cast members, including front office, restaurant, housekeeping and guest-service members. We look for people who are predisposed to interacting well with people. They don't necessarily need to have experience in hotels - they're relatively young, but we will train them and immerse them in the industry. 

"We sent 500 cast members to the US, to Walt Disney World, for training in a theme hotel, for periods of up to five months. Those 500 are now team leaders, who will pass on their knowledge to new cast members. 

"Every cast member goes through the training to learn about the Disney tradition, the characters and the personalities of the characters before they go into service. We also look at the top-10 most difficult situations in terms of handling the guest [Tan Hardy declined to reveal what these are] and, like all companies, we are constantly updating, revising and reassessing. 

"We have a very clearly laid-out company manual that covers such matters as how much jewellery can be worn, hair styles [no Mohican cuts], acceptable length of sideburns, etc. It's a look and style that all the cast members must adopt. 

"I even asked whether, if I dyed my hair black, I would be in default ..."
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Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel features 400 rooms in a lush and relaxing landscape of gardens, offering a choice of park view, sea view or even sea view rooms with balconies. This world-class hotel will offer a variety of dining experiences featuring local and international cuisines, a wedding gazebo where Disney’s Fairytale Weddings will be held, a Victorian Spa and a Mickey-inspired botanical maze.  The Hotel will also boast a sophisticated convention center featuring one of Hong Kong’s largest and most spectacular ballrooms.


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Disney’s Hollywood Hotel is designed in the Art Deco style of architecture with whimsical Mickey Mouse-inspired motifs. It includes dining, shopping, a lounge, a piano-shaped swimming pool, and an expansive lawn that unfolds like a map of Los Angeles with popular and well-known Hollywood streets, landmarks and icons. It offers 600 rooms with garden views, park views and sea views. 
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Disney's Hollywood Hotel: 
Facts at a Glance

Design - Disney's Hollywood Hotel pays tribute to the golden age of movies,  with art-deco style architecture with whimsical Mickey Mouse-inspired motifs,  in a U-shaped building arranged around an expansive lawn. 

Guestroom amenities - 
Complimentary minibar 
Bed time TV stories
Mickey wake-up calls 
Kids' bathroom amenities

Website: www.hongkongdisneyland.com

Transport - Guests can choose to arrive at Hong Kong Disneyland  via private car, taxi, coach, MTR train or ferry

Guestrooms: 600
258 Garden View 
116 Park View 
225 Sea View 
1 Suite

Dining

  • Chef Mickey, A casual international buffet restaurant featuring a series of show kitchens, with a special buffet for children set out on miniature tables. 
  • Studio Lounge, with views of the garden through floor-to-ceiling windows, serving speciality cocktails and mocktails.
  • Hollywood and Dine , a child-friendly eatery that accommodates 100 seats. 
  • Sunset Terrace, a 100-seat outdoor eatery, located by the piano-shaped swimming pool. 
  • An 80-seat bowl-shaped piano pool bar offers a selection of tropical drinks and snacks. 
Leisure and Recreation
  • The expansive garden unfolds like a map of Los Angeles, with well-known Hollywood streets, landmarks and icons. The pedestrian walkways are modelled after the Hollywood Freeway (complete with interchange), Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards and Mulholland Drive. 
  • Grand piano-shaped outdoor swimming pool with slide featuring "Hidden Mickeys"
  • Outdoor heated whirlpool
  • 20 acres of lawn and landscaped gardens overlooking the South China Sea
  • Children's playground
  • Two speciality shops featuring Disney-themed gifts and souvenirs


Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel: 
Facts at a Glance

Design - The hotel recalls the "elegance and romance of hotels at the turn of the 20th century, but with all the advantages of 21st century living" 

Guestroom amenities -
Complimentary mini bar 
Bedtime TV stories
Mickey wake-up calls 
Kids' bathroom amenities

Guestrooms (400)
44 Fantasia 
50 Park View 
84 Sea View 
171 Sea View rooms with balconies
36 Kingdom Club Rooms (concierge floor)
13 Suites
2 Presidential Suites

Dining

  • Crystal Lotus, the signature Chinese restaurant with 220 seats; designed by Adam Tihany
  • Grand Salon, adjacent to the lobby, with chaise-longue chairs
  • Sorcerer's Lounge, light snacks and refreshments will be served, as well as continental breakfast and high tea. 
  • Enchanted Garden, a Victorian-style garden conservatory complete with tall potted palms and a high-arching glass ceiling; Disney characters will join guests  for breakfast and dinner 
  • Sea Breeze Bar, located by the pool and seating up to 35 guests
  • Kingdom Club, a 74-seat lounge and bar exclusive for guests staying on the concierge floor.
Leisure & Recreation
  • Mickey-inspired botanical maze
  • Victorian-style wedding gazebo
  • 20 acres of lawn and landscaped gardens
  • Feng shui rock and garden feature
  • Children's playground
  • Fitness centre
  • Victorian Spa, measuring 1,240sqm
  • Indoor swimming pool, outdoor swimming pool with slide and outdoor heated whirlpool
  • Two floodlit tennis courts
  • Convention centre
  • Dedicated function space of 1,500sqm and the 903sqm Cinderella's Ballroom



Copyright: HOTEL Asia Pacific. The lastest edition of the multi-award winning HOTEL Asia Pacific can be downloaded in full, in PDF format, from www.hotelasiapacific.com. It is free to hospitality professionals, and requires a simple, one-time registration. 
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Contact:

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Subscription Information
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Hotel Asia Pacific
Steve Shellum
158 Wong Uk Tsuen
Yuen Long
New Territories
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2882-7352
Fax: +852 2882-2461
http://www.hotelasiapacific.com
steve@hotelasiapacific.com

 
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