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Disney's biggest competitor in Orlando, Universal Studios, has not announced plans to build in China, giving Mickey a relatively significant, if temporary, boost.

Disney’s theme parks had a terrific year worldwide. Attendance at Disneyland in Anaheim, Disney World in Orlando, Tokyo Disney Resort, and Hong Kong Disneyland all hit record highs in 2013. And new attractions and technology innovations are in the works for 2014.

Despite this global good news, Disney is gearing up for entrance into what could become one its most important, and difficult, markets. The $4.4 billion Shanghai resort that Disney broke ground on in April 2011 is now expected to open in late 2015. And Disney still has a far way before Mickey’s famous ears are recognizable by every child and parent in China.

Disney executive chairman and CEO Robert Iger addressed the issue during the company’s fourth-quarter call Thursday. Disney’s total revenue for fiscal year 2013 totaled $45 billion, up 7 percent, from 2012.

According to Iger, the company has relied more on its mobile and online platforms than TV due to national restrictions. The company is planning to increase marketing once park attractions based on cultural or media interests are announced.

Retail will also help Disney build a buzz before the 2015 opening:

“We’re also opening or developing our first big store in China and that is actually in Shanghai, which will be used before it opens sort of a quasi visitor center to let people know more about the park itself,” said Iger. “Once the park opens we actually believe that we’ll have a significant halo effect on the brand. There will be a lot more interest in and appreciation of Disney stories and characters.”

Disney’s cruise line represents another opportunity for tapping into the Chinese market. Iger says the company currently has no plans of adding to its fleet or expanding itineraries; however, it could become an option when Asia opens up to the family cruise business.

“…My guess is that it won’t open up in the very near term,” opined Iger during the call.


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Tags: china, disney, disney cruise line, theme parks

Photo credit: A photo shown on the current landing page of Shanghai Disney Resort. Shanghai Disney Resort

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