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Hong Kong Disneyland Falls Short on Visitors

September 05, 2006|From the Associated Press

Hong Kong Disneyland missed its target of 5.6 million visitors in its first year as the park had "teething problems" while trying to attract masses of tourists from mainland China, an executive said Monday.

The park has been extremely secretive about its attendance figures since it opened Sept. 12. There has been wide speculation that it was struggling to meet its conservative attendance goal.

Bill Ernest, the park's managing director, told reporters at a first-year review briefing that Disneyland would meet its target this month or in early October. "We have well exceeded the 5 million figure already," he said.

Ernest said the attendance figure included people who visited the park on "familiarization tours" using free or discounted tickets. He said these people made up a small percentage of the visitors, but wouldn't provide a figure. Ernest also wouldn't provide specific information about revenue or profit.

"I think we are on solid financial footing," he said.

Hong Kong Disneyland and its two resort hotels are surrounded by mountains on lush Lantau Island, about 30 minutes away by subway from central Hong Kong.

The park is a joint venture between Walt Disney Co. and the local government. Local taxpayers paid most of the $3.5-billion construction cost.

Ernest acknowledged that Disneyland has had difficulty trying to figure out the mainland China market.

He said the park learned that guests wanted more flexibility and choices, especially concerning tickets. They also wanted more special events, he said, and the park plans to launch promotions for Halloween, Christmas and Chinese New Year.

Ernest said many of the Chinese tourists didn't understand the park's themes because they didn't grow up with Disney characters and stories. He said Disneyland was preparing a "pre-show" for visitors that would explain "how the stories and characters knit together."

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