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Shanghai Disney Resort rings in 'happiness tourism' for scores of visitors

By ZHENG ZHENG in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-15 09:10

Elderly visitors seen at the Shanghai Disney Resort. CHINA DAILY

Chinese travelers are increasingly seeking emotional enrichment and joyful experiences, and Shanghai Disney Resort is attempting to deliver that to its guests, according to a new report.

The 2024 Shanghai Disney Resort Happiness Travel Trends Report, released on Thursday, takes the resort as a sample to look into travelers' growing desire for emotional fulfillment amid a rebound in tourism, and seeks to offer new insights into ongoing trends and changes within the tourism industry.

The report, put together by the China Tourism Academy (Data Center of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism), says Shanghai Disneyland welcomed over 13 million visitors in less than one year leading up to Dec 20, 2023 — an all-time high since its opening nearly eight years ago.

The resort's live entertainment was viewed 40.99 million times by guests in 2023, including over 10.21 million for the Mickey's Storybook Express daytime parade in particular, according to the report.

"Over the past eight years, Shanghai Disney Resort has offered high-quality entertainment experiences that blend Disney storytelling and creativity for tens of millions of guests around the world," said Joe Schott, president and general manager of Shanghai Disney Resort.

"As we commemorate the important milestone of our eighth anniversary, we are extremely honored to be the partner of China Tourism Academy in their in-depth studies about China's happiness tourism, reaffirming our commitment to delivering happiness. And we are proud to share the best of our practices and experience with the industry through this comprehensive report to further advance the development of the industry," he said.

While families remain a vital audience seeking to strengthen bonds through travel, the report identifies the emergence of two rising guest segments — solo adult travelers and the elderly — both actively pursuing emotional value from their vacations.

In 2023, Shanghai Disney Resort's guest mix was equally split between families and solo adult parties without children. Additionally, the resort witnessed a 75 percent surge in 2023 in visits from elderly guests with 1-day and 2-day tickets compared to 2019 levels.

The resort's efforts to provide new experiences have also played a vital role in attracting guests, according to the report, with 97 percent of surveyed visitors aware of the Zootopia-themed land before arriving, and one-third citing it as a key reason for their visit.

Previously, the resort introduced its seventh themed land, the Disney-Pixar Toy Story Land, less than two years after opening.

Shanghai Disney Resort offers rotating seasonal events and celebrations on some 300 days annually, with 85 percent of guests in 2023 expressing a willingness to revisit, and the percentage of guests willing to recommend the resort to others increasing by 11 percent compared to the levels in 2019, according to the report.

The report also said consumers exhibit strong self-expression. Statistics from the report show that headwear, including headbands and hats, ranked as the top five most popular merchandise categories by sales volume in 2023.

The accessibility enabled by the resort's location and transportation has allowed it to tap into diverse markets, according to the report. The Yangtze River Delta region remained the primary source market in 2023, while visits from the Pearl River Delta region experienced the most significant year-over-year growth. Shanghai locals holding annual passes formed the highest proportion of weekday guests in spring and autumn.

Beyond detailing the resort's experience, the report also examines how Shanghai Disney Resort utilizes its practices to shape lifestyles and deliver happiness through sustainability initiatives, community outreach programs and international exchanges.

The new report builds on the 2019 Happiness Report collaboration, recognizing an opportunity to revisit the study of happiness in travel as consumer patterns evolve, said Murray King, vice-president of Public Affairs and Communications at Shanghai Disney Resort.

"Leveraging multiple research methods, including in-depth guest surveys, the 2024 report interprets Shanghai Disney Resort's practices for creating happiness and emotional value for guests amid their growing pursuit of higher fulfillment from their travels," he added.

"I believe that even as an individual guest, they can fulfill different emotional needs through diverse visit choices," said Rong Jing, director of Consumer Insight Measurement and Analytics at Shanghai Disney Resort. "The core is to excel in content, experiences, and service quality, which can subtly influence everyone and ultimately drive substantive change."

Dai Bin, president of China Tourism Academy, emphasized the pivotal role happiness plays in developing tourism and enabling a better life for all.

"The most crucial goal of developing tourism is to create a good life and meet people's needs for a better life, in which happiness is a vital element," Dai said.

"As a globally renowned cultural enterprise and resort operator, Disney has a successful experience. We hope to explore the 'happiness gene' in travel by studying Disney as a model, learning from their experience of creating happiness to enable more travelers to enjoy a good life."

Dai further highlighted the report's key observations, including happiness transcending gender and age barriers, the spillover effect of happiness created at Shanghai Disney Resort inspiring more industry players to adopt similar models, and its evolving capability to meet diverse happiness needs.

"We came to Disney hoping to find its gene and provide more cultural momentum for China's modernization efforts," he added.

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