China’s Dalian Wanda has hired former Disney executive Andrew Kam Man-ho to a senior position in its expanding theme park division.
Kam was previously managing director of Hong Kong Disneyland between 2007 and 2016. He resigned citing personal reasons in March this year.
After a six-month period of “gardening leave,” he has been appointed as VP of Wanda’s Cultural Industry Group and president of Wanda Themed Entertainment Company.
Wanda has announced plans to build a string of theme parks — possibly as many as 15 — around China by 2020. It aims to compete fiercely with the international groups such as Disney and Comcast that are now entering the Chinese theme park sector.
Disney opened its Shanghai Disney resort in June this year and was greeted by stinging criticism from Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin. On the eve of the Shanghai Disneyland opening, in a CCTV interview, Wang suggested that “a tiger has no chance of beating a pack of wolves.” He also criticized the high entry price of Shanghai Disneyland and its location as subject to inclement seasonal weather.
Wanda opened a large theme park in Xishauangbanna in Yunnan province late last year and in May this year broke ground on a $2.4 billion (RMB16 billion) park in Guilin. It suffered a setback in its parks division, however, when it temporarily closed its indoor theme park in Wuhan.
Financial analyst Richard Huang at Nomura recently said that Shanghai Disneyland was attracting only an estimated 20,000 visitors per day, or an annualized 7.2 million. That would be significantly lower than the 10-12 million forecast by Shendi, Disney’s partner in the venture.
Disney did not respond to Variety’s requests for visitor data. However, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Bob Chapek issued a media statement. “The recent report speculating about our attendance is meritless. Our financial results during the first 100+ days of operation have exceeded our expectations, and guest feedback has been extremely strong, establishing a solid foundation upon which to grow,” he said.