Hong Kong Airport: Better Than Disneyland

Joshua Quittner and Michelle Slatalla

Hong Kong Airport: Better Than Disneyland

Joshua Quittner and Michelle Slatalla

Hong Kong Airport: Better Than Disneyland
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Nov. 1 1999 5:49 PM

Joshua Quittner and Michelle Slatalla

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E-shopping. Cell phones. You love all technology in any form, and what you are glossing over is that this stuff is homogenizing the world. It's turning Hong Kong into some sort of New York City, with its highly refined versions of such Western paraphernalia as Nine West shoe stores everywhere. Of course people in Hong Kong will shop on online. Why? Because it's there. And now Hong Kong is even getting a Disneyland, the last thing it needs, in the year 2005. So in five years, we'll be able to ask ourselves if we'd rather travel to Orlando or Hong Kong ... and if we'd be able to tell the difference once we got there. Oh wait, Florida is the place with the palm trees, right? I can understand why Hong Kong feels as if it needs a shot of something to revive its flagging tourism industry. But really, the problem is not that the city lacks a Magic Kingdom. This is simply not a city that screams "vacation destination." Try instead: "Money!" "More money!" "How about going up in a skyscraper and making some money today?" Apparently the Chinese government's decision a few months ago to import the movie Mulan unleashed a mighty appetite for all things Disney. So we're going to get another of those infamous theme parks on Lantau Island--near the brand-new Hong Kong Airport. While the last thing any place in the world needs is a Disneyland, I think there are special circumstances here that make the incursion even more distasteful. Putting Disneyland on Lantau Island can only distract us from the airport itself, which seems to me to be the perfect iteration of a modern-day theme park, with its brilliantly modern design that effortlessly propels travelers to their gates, their luggage, a brand-new rail link to downtown Hong Kong.

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The airport already offers everything that Disney is promising: excellent public restrooms. Theme restaurants that serve dim sum. A lack of litter. Harrowing rides (on airplanes). It even has entertainment--in the form of trendy shopping. (The airport houses an outpost of the it's-cool-to-be-Chinese Shanghai Tang department store with its trademark teddy bears--which are far cuter than any Disney character that I've come across while eating themed fast food.) In fact, if I were running the Bureau of Tourism for the Chinese government, I would bill the Hong Kong airport as a destination in itself.

Joshua Quittner is Time's technology columnist and editor of Time Digital. Michelle Slatalla writes a weekly column about online shopping for the New York Times "Circuits" section. They are the authors of Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace (click here to buy it).