Getting planners to wish upon a star

Taking over a theme park to entertain a diverse group of stakeholders helps achieve multiple relationship-building goals in one fell swoop.

The type of barriers encountered by planners when seeking unusual, exotic and extraordinary venues for corporate gatherings are broken down. These days, a theme park with a storybook setting tops the bill – especially if a group has an after-hours access pass to enjoy the place to themselves through a buyout.

What we have seen happening at Hong Kong Disneyland in terms of new, creative space for business events has been phenomenal. The buyout programme pioneered by the resort allows companies to enjoy exclusive use of the entire theme park or a selection of themed areas once the park is closed to the public.

Since introducing the concept in 2009, there have been companies hosting groups of a few hundred to the latest record size of 19,000 people, bringing together employees, business partners, VIPs and their families to enjoy the attractions, our latest entertainment such as “Disney Paint the Night” parade and exclusive previews of our seasonal programmes such as “Disney Haunted Halloween”.

Given the novelty of the idea, I am often asked what types of events will gain the most from a buyout, and how to maximise the relationship building benefits from such initiatives. Let’s address these one by one.

• What is the optimum group size and target audience for a buyout?
Our flexi-land concept was created to provide organisers with the option either buy out a combination of themed areas or the entire park for an event. The group size is flexible, as is the scale of the event and the budget. Groups can range from as small as 1,000 guests for a single themed area to as large as 19,000 guests on a full park buyout.

There is also the special appeal of including the families of key stakeholders in a buyout event, which enhances the sense of bonding.

• What unique relationship-building elements can be incorporated into a park buyout?

Everything from a unique theatre venue for a CEO address or prize presentation to an extensive gourmet F&B spread, usually served against a stunning, al fresco backdrop, non-stop and importantly diverse entertainment and of course the rides without the queues. At every step of the way, this exclusive experience delivers moments for staff interaction, all-important in creating corporate cohesion.

• When is the best time of the year to have a buyout?

During the run-up to the park’s seasonal specials such as “Disney Haunted Halloween” or the festive seasons. A number of evenings have been designated for whole-park buyouts, making it extra special for corporate groups to enjoy seasonal attractions ahead of the general public. This year, 11 corporate clients have joined buyout nights. 

• What is the customer feedback on the effectiveness of the programme?

Certain companies in the insurance, telecommunication and financial sectors that have a tradition of staging large-scale employee and business partner events have returned year-after-year for a park buyout, with bigger and more diversified groups. Their continued patronage is a testament to the effectiveness of the relationship-building strategies delivered through a park buyout. Many of the event organisers were most impressed by the entertainment offerings, which created ample opportunities for networking among the staff and guests. They expressed heartfelt appreciation for the Resort’s Business Solutions & Events team to create a one-of-a-kind and exclusive experience for everyone at the event.

Martin Leung is Hong Kong Disneyland Resort’s Business Solutions and Events Director

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