Asia is often perceived as a region playing “catch-up” with the urbanised West, battling lower wages, longer working hours, and enjoying less leisure time. However, while this was true a decade ago, recent years have seen a significant development in the Asian market. The emergence of an affluent middle-class that is keen to enjoy its wealth has encouraged governments and international entertainment companies to invest heavily in Asia's leisure and attractions industry. In 2012, Asia accounted for one-third of the world's total theme park ticket sales (US$103.3 million), second only to North America (US$127 million). Attendance at Asia's top 20 parks rose 4.9 per cent to 122.5 million in 2014, compared with 2.2 per cent and 138.1 million for the 20 largest parks in the United States.
The evolution of the Asian region is also evident from Disney's recent expansion activities. Since its success with Tokyo Disneyland in the 1980s, Disney has realised the vast potential of the Asian market and started its expansion in Asia. In 2014, Disney announced plans to invest $4.6 billion to expand and improve the two theme parks in Japan over the next 10 years, which is the largest expansion in Tokyo Disney's history. Disney has been one of the major participants, opening Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005 and its $5.5 billion Shanghai Disney Resort in 2016, which may become Disney's most-visited park.
Disney in Japan
Tokyo Disney Resort, located next to Tokyo Bay in Urayasu, Chiba, Japan, started on 15 April 1983. It opened as a single theme park, Tokyo Disneyland, which was the first Disney theme park to be opened outside the United States. Much has changed around the resort, with several resort hotels and even a companion theme park, Tokyo DisneySea, operating from 4 September 2001 to satisfy the needs of the millions who visit each year. Now the resort has two theme parks, three Disney hotels, six non-Disney hotels and a shopping complex.
The Tokyo Disney Resort is fully owned and operated by the Oriental Land Company (OL), which licenses Disney's characters. In fact, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are the only Disney parks not wholly or partially owned by the Walt Disney Company (WD). The partnership between OL and WD floundered when differences in management philosophies and decision-making techniques created tensions.