Pride was on the line for Hong Kong Disneyland when it hosted a gala dinner for some 400 plus delegates of the Asian Attractions Expo 2012 in June. The annual conference and trade show – organised by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) – had picked the southern Chinese territory as the site of its 2012 event.
More than 3,200 buyers, including owners, executives, managers and leaders from theme parks, water parks, family entertainment centres, zoos, aquariums, museums, science centres and resorts, and hailing from 65 nations, experienced the products and services of 274 exhibitor companies from 32 countries at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) between June 5 and June 8.
Away from the main HKCEC venue, it was only to be expected that some of the city’s attractions would serve as venues for several activities during the four-day event, so when it opened its facilities to IAAPA delegates, it was time for Hong Kong Disneyland to show its mettle in event management.
Firing on all cylinders
Hong Kong Disneyland brought out all its big guns to ensure its dinner guests enjoyed a grand welcome. Upon alighting from their coaches, the IAAPA group were greeted by stilt walkers and a marching band as they walked up the path leading to the Great Hall, where cocktails were served.
Elaborately costumed “royal ball” dancers were waiting to warmly welcome guests at the reception line. They were joined by all-time favourite Disney characters such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse as well as Snow White and Prince Charming. Photographers were on hand to take souvenir shots of guests with the Disney characters – it was a big hit with IAAPA delegates.
“There were numerous challenges, not least the fact that the IAAPA guests were all from the attractions industry and had seen and done theme park events before,” said a spokesperson from Hong Kong Disneyland.
The park’s F&B team was presented with another difficult task when the number of attendees ballooned from 330 to 460 at the last minute. This required the resort to manage seating and meals for an additional 130 guests in just a matter of hours.
Nevertheless, the Hong Kong Disneyland crew overcame the hurdle, putting together a lavish dinner spread that featured a wide range of cuisines from around the world. On the menu was local fare like roast pork and duck specialties, served from a barbecue station, as well as a variety of noodle dishes that were ladled out from carts decorated with Chinese silk fabrics and named after characters from the film Mulan.
The cold stations featured chilled seafood, sushi and sashimi among other treats, while the Western offerings included such delicacies as smoked salmon and Parma ham. There were also live cooking stations serving spicy Indian fare, grilled items and other Asian favourites.
For dessert, the culinary team created a “Minnie’s Dessert Festival”. There were separate stations for ice cream, crepes and a selection of the resort’s trademark desserts. “It was a world food showcase,” said Chip Cleary, president and chief executive of IAAPA. “The quality of the food was fantastic, the service was impeccable with the staff being attentive to our guests’ every need, but most importantly, the attitude of the whole team was perfect.”
Dinner was capped by the theme park’s signature fireworks display… but the fun was far from over. As Hong Kong Disneyland closed its gates to the public, the park became a huge playground for the IAAPA delegates. Themed areas such as Fantasy Land, the Jungle River Cruise in Adventureland and Toy Story Land were kept open for the exclusive enjoyment of the group.
In fact, this was the first exclusive buyout of Toy Story Land, which only opened in November last year. Delegates had fun in the immersive environment based on Pixar’s hit animated franchise where, in a classic role reversal, the toys are taller than humans. IAAPA delegates got into the groove of things, enjoying moments with the Green Army Men of Toy Story fame for the parachute drop.
“It’s always special to visit a Disney park as a regular guest, but it’s even more special to visit a Disney park as a VIP for a corporate event evening,” Cleary said. “It was absolutely magical for all of our guests. Being in the park when it’s not open to the rest of the public means you are able to explore and see it in a whole different vein at night.”
At the end of the evening, more than 40 Disney cast members dressed as Minnie and Mickey Mouse, Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie, Lilo and Stitch, etc, lined up at the Toy Story Land exit to bid adieu to the group of happy but tired delegates.
EVENTGala dinner for the Asian Attractions Expo 2012
VENUE Hong Kong Disneyland
DATE June 7, 2012
NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS 460 guests
ORGANISER Hong Kong Disneyland