Sorry, no Disneyland in Laos

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Laos rice field
Reports about a “Disney Laos” have been highly exaggerated

Since the Vientiane Times last week proudly reported that a local property developer has started building a theme park called “Disney Laos” in a central province along the Mekong River north of Savannakhet and adjacent to the Thai province of Isaan, destinations among the poorest in the region, the news caused excitement all over Southeast Asia, but raised eyebrows too.

Vientiane Times reported earlier that a consortium of Lao, Thai and Malaysian investors announced a massive investment project in Khammuan Province’s Thakhek Specific Economic Zone called Thakhek Dream World City.

The project, worth a total of $8 billion, would feature a “world-class financial center,” the “first-ever Disney Laos,” as well as residential and “superior” lifestyle communities. The report went on saying that Disney Laos would be part of the second phase, with a focus on eco-tourism (“Adventure Land”) complemented with the first ever “Mountain Walk” cable car network between mountains in the province. This phase was said to cost $2 billion.

In the latest Vientiane Times report last week, Somjith Aliyaphaphone, chairman of Akane Farm Sole Co. Ltd. – a Lao investor in the project and its developer, said Disney Laos would be part of the third phase and set to be completed in “7 to 10 years.”

A number of media outlets, including Nation TV, Voice TV and state broadcaster Thai PBS from Thailand, a number of expat bloggers and even US news portal GlobalPost took over the story of the upcoming Disneyland in the communist-ruled country rather known for its rice paddies and land mines than kid-friendly theme parks. Nearly 30,000 people “liked” the report on a Lao-run Facebook page.

GlobalPost at least suspected it could be a “counterfeit franchise.” The Nation, in turn, reported that the chairman of the respective provincial chamber of commerce in Laos feared that the Disneyland report could spark land speculation from foreign investors in the province while local business people were just scratching their heads about the story.

However, what all the news organisations missed out on at that point was to verify the report at the very source. About a week after the Vientiane Times report, Thailand’s Khao Sod newspaper came up with the idea to send off an email to Walt Disney Co. in California to ask for clarification.

Walt Disney said there will be no Disneyland in Laos.

“We continually look for ways to grow our business and as part of that process, we have conversations with many different entities,” spokeswoman Christi Erwin Donnan said by email. “While Laos is an attractive market, we have no plans for the region at this time.”

It is even more unlikely as “Disney Laos” would have been the world’s seventh Disneyland theme park after California, Florida, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris and Shanghai.

It turned out that the whole rumour was sparked by a misinterpretation of the term “Disneyland” which is used in Lao language as a generic term for amusement or theme park.

Thakhek Dream World City Laos
Project master plan of the with the theme park in blue

In fact, what has been dubbed “Disney Laos” is planned to be a “cartoon character park,” according to the master plan of the project (see Zone L). The project’s CEO promises it will become “one of the iconic wonders” of Southeast Asia, but actually not what is known as Disneyland.

The clarification caused some disappointed reactions, but many remained somehow cynical about the hoax.

“We do not need Disney,” one Vientiane resident said. “We are already a Mickey Mouse country.”

It seems that the mysterious Buddha Park east of Vientiane will remain Laos’ sole theme park for a longer period of time.

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[caption id="attachment_27523" align="alignleft" width="300"] Reports about a "Disney Laos" have been highly exaggerated[/caption] Since the Vientiane Times last week proudly reported that a local property developer has started building a theme park called "Disney Laos" in a central province along the Mekong River north of Savannakhet and adjacent to the Thai province of Isaan, destinations among the poorest in the region, the news caused excitement all over Southeast Asia, but raised eyebrows too. Vientiane Times reported earlier that a consortium of Lao, Thai and Malaysian investors announced a massive investment project in Khammuan Province’s Thakhek Specific Economic Zone called Thakhek...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Laos rice field
Reports about a “Disney Laos” have been highly exaggerated

Since the Vientiane Times last week proudly reported that a local property developer has started building a theme park called “Disney Laos” in a central province along the Mekong River north of Savannakhet and adjacent to the Thai province of Isaan, destinations among the poorest in the region, the news caused excitement all over Southeast Asia, but raised eyebrows too.

Vientiane Times reported earlier that a consortium of Lao, Thai and Malaysian investors announced a massive investment project in Khammuan Province’s Thakhek Specific Economic Zone called Thakhek Dream World City.

The project, worth a total of $8 billion, would feature a “world-class financial center,” the “first-ever Disney Laos,” as well as residential and “superior” lifestyle communities. The report went on saying that Disney Laos would be part of the second phase, with a focus on eco-tourism (“Adventure Land”) complemented with the first ever “Mountain Walk” cable car network between mountains in the province. This phase was said to cost $2 billion.

In the latest Vientiane Times report last week, Somjith Aliyaphaphone, chairman of Akane Farm Sole Co. Ltd. – a Lao investor in the project and its developer, said Disney Laos would be part of the third phase and set to be completed in “7 to 10 years.”

A number of media outlets, including Nation TV, Voice TV and state broadcaster Thai PBS from Thailand, a number of expat bloggers and even US news portal GlobalPost took over the story of the upcoming Disneyland in the communist-ruled country rather known for its rice paddies and land mines than kid-friendly theme parks. Nearly 30,000 people “liked” the report on a Lao-run Facebook page.

GlobalPost at least suspected it could be a “counterfeit franchise.” The Nation, in turn, reported that the chairman of the respective provincial chamber of commerce in Laos feared that the Disneyland report could spark land speculation from foreign investors in the province while local business people were just scratching their heads about the story.

However, what all the news organisations missed out on at that point was to verify the report at the very source. About a week after the Vientiane Times report, Thailand’s Khao Sod newspaper came up with the idea to send off an email to Walt Disney Co. in California to ask for clarification.

Walt Disney said there will be no Disneyland in Laos.

“We continually look for ways to grow our business and as part of that process, we have conversations with many different entities,” spokeswoman Christi Erwin Donnan said by email. “While Laos is an attractive market, we have no plans for the region at this time.”

It is even more unlikely as “Disney Laos” would have been the world’s seventh Disneyland theme park after California, Florida, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris and Shanghai.

It turned out that the whole rumour was sparked by a misinterpretation of the term “Disneyland” which is used in Lao language as a generic term for amusement or theme park.

Thakhek Dream World City Laos
Project master plan of the with the theme park in blue

In fact, what has been dubbed “Disney Laos” is planned to be a “cartoon character park,” according to the master plan of the project (see Zone L). The project’s CEO promises it will become “one of the iconic wonders” of Southeast Asia, but actually not what is known as Disneyland.

The clarification caused some disappointed reactions, but many remained somehow cynical about the hoax.

“We do not need Disney,” one Vientiane resident said. “We are already a Mickey Mouse country.”

It seems that the mysterious Buddha Park east of Vientiane will remain Laos’ sole theme park for a longer period of time.

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