Disneyland To Open In Sri Lanka?

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While a US Disneyland opening in a Belt & Road Initiative – or even a Communist country – would not be a first, the choice of Sri Lanka under consideration for hosting South Asia’s first operational base for Mickey Mouse and Co is.

This isn’t to say it’s a done deal however – despite regional, and especially Indian newspapers suggesting it is, all that has actually happened is that Disney executives will be visiting Sri Lanka next month and are due to hold talks with the islands Minister of Tourism, Diana Gamage. There is a long way to go before any deal is struck, and when reality bites, it’s not the optimum destination either – the island is over US$50 billion in debt, while previously heralded construction projects, including up-front investments from countries such as China, India and Japan have failed to meet delivery timeframes. Many are in a state of abeyance while financial restructuring can be negotiated.

Sri Lanka itself wouldn’t be the prize, it has a per capita income of about US$4,300. To compare, to visit Hong Kong Disneyland for 1 day for a family of four costs an average US$275, or nearly three weeks wages for the average Sri Lankan.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s total debt amounts to roughly ten months of Disney Corp’s 2021 operating income.

The prize though would be India, with a population of about 1.4 billion and a middle class of about 400 million. Sri Lanka is relatively nearby, as are countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

Disney know this of course, and in the unlikely event Sri Lanka became the preferred location, would do so purely on the back of negotiating to keep 100% of the profits and with zero tax payable concessions from as many single items of knock-on tourism they could get their hands on. Pretty much everything would go to Disney – airport shuttles, train services, hotels and the tie-ins Disney has with everything from food to soft drinks.

Disneyland in Sri Lanka? It’s a nice piece of news to lift the gloom that has otherwise descended upon the nation, where petrol is still rationed, and the electricity is cut off for hours each day. Unless Disney have plans to keep children occupied while stuck at the top of a Ferris Wheel for hours when power cuts strike, it’s going to remain a pipe dream.

Disneyland in India? Now that is a more likely proposition.

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