Wing T. Chao
Former Vice Chairman, Asia Pacific Development, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts; EVP, Walt Disney Imagineering
Wing Chao is a world renowned master planner, architect and designer. He is currently working on various resort, theme park, retail, entertainment and commercial projects in the US and overseas.
Chao was Executive Vice President for Master Planning, Architecture & Design at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts’ creative division Walt Disney Imagineering. In that role Chao oversaw development of all of division’s activities worldwide including theme parks, resorts, cruise ships, water parks and entertainment complexes. He was also Vice Chairman of Development for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Asia Pacific.
For almost 37 years, Chao played a key role in developing and implementing projects worth over $8 billion. Leading teams consisting of Disney designers and engineers of various disciplines and partnering with world’s leading architects and designers including Robert AM Stern, Frank Gehry and Michael Graves, his projects included the Disney theme parks, 100,000 new and renovated resort rooms, 200 restaurants, 4 million-square-feet of retail space, 3 million-square-feet of entertainment venues, 4 million-square-feet of office buildings, 2 million-square-feet of mixed-used development, sports complex, several convention and exhibition centers at Disney’s resorts in California, Florida, Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong. Chao also directed the design for the first two 83,000 ton Disney cruise ships. Prior to his retirement from Disney, he was overseeing $4 billion of Disney resort expansion projects both domestically and internationally, including the first Disney resort in Hawaii—Aulani and 2 new 128,000 ton Disney cruise ships; Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.
Chao joined Disney in 1972 in Florida where he was responsible for the master planning of Downtown Disney, a Retail-Dining-Entertainment complex at Walt Disney World Resort. Stationed two years later at Imagineering's headquarters in Glendale, California, he headed the land planning of Epcot Center. By the late ‘70s, he was involved in the planning of Disney’s first international theme park, Tokyo Disneyland. In 1984, Chao shifted his focus back to Florida and participated in the expansion of the Walt Disney World Resort, including additional theme parks, resort hotels, restaurants, retail shopping, entertainment venues, and golf courses.
From 1985 to 1987, Chao was a key member in the successful negotiations with the French government to build the Disneyland Paris Resort. Two years later, he was promoted to Senior Vice President, and in 1997, he was elevated to the position of Executive Vice President. During 1990’s, Chao also oversaw the master planning for the Disney’s new town development of Celebration in Florida as well as the new community of Val d’ Europe at Disneyland Paris Resort.
By the end of that decade Chao was active in exploring potential future Disney Park and resort development in Asia, including the site selection for Hong Kong Disneyland. To recognize his expanded global role, in 2000 Chao was appointed Vice Chairman, Asia Pacific Development, for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. He played a vital role in the successful negotiations with the Hong Kong government for the project, Disney’s third international destination resort, which opened in September 2005.
Chao was a Board member and served as Chairman of the Board for the corporate body that operated Hong Kong Disneyland on behalf of its shareholders Hong Kong International Theme Park, Ltd.; he also served on the Board of Panda Restaurant Group, and was a Board member of Ryman Arts Foundation.
Chao is highly respected in the architecture and design community. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and has received the Outstanding Achievement Award from AIA, Los Angeles Chapter. Chao has received many honorable distinctions, including the Asian American Architects/Engineers Association's Outstanding Achievement Award and Dream L.A. Award. Chao was honored for excellence in architecture and design innovation by the Los Angeles Committee for Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage. He was also honored for his significant achievements in Design by the Chinese-American Engineers and Scientists Association of Southern California.
Chao is widely admired in the hospitality industry. He was featured on the cover of Interiors magazine for the Corporate Design Award. He was honored in a cover story as one of the Top 20 hospitality industry leaders and innovators by the Hospitality Design magazine, and was inducted into the prestigious Platinum Circle. In 2009, Chao was presented with the Legend Award by Contract Magazine, the leading publication for the commercial design industry. Chao also was named an Honorary Senior Fellow by Design Futures Council in September 2009 for his brilliant work and great insight.
In 2007, Chao was selected to join the prestigious Committee of 100, an organization of American citizens of Chinese descent whose achievements in a wide range of fields have distinguished them as leaders within their professions. Chao was named one of the 500 most influential Asians in the United States by Avenue magazine; ranked among the top 40 Asian-American professionals by Transpacific magazine.
Chao holds Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Architecture degrees from University of California, Berkeley, a Master of Architecture with a focus in Urban Design from Harvard University, and an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration in Hospitality Management from Johnson and Wales University.