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HONG KONG — China continues to be a priority market for Hong Kong Disneyland as the theme park dives into its second year.

The challenge is dealing with clients who haven’t grown up with Disney, let alone a Disney park, said  Josh D’Amaro, veep of sales and trade marketing, speaking at a press confab at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel on Tuesday.

This means Disney must explain what’s beyond the front gate, he said.    

The region’s diversity also means clients are vastly different from area to area and country to country.

It wasn’t an easy start because the park, which opened Sept. 12, 2005, came into a market without a track record, D’Amaro said.

He said the park still had adjustments to make, adding that that was the case of even long-standing parks.

He is tapping the travel trade industry’s expertise and taking its members’ comments seriously on sales and trade marketing initiatives for 2007.

Some initiatives prompted by talks with the industry include Stay and Play, which gives guests who stay at a Disneyland hotel a second day in the park free.

This came to be after travel agents in China said people who take a tour bus to Hong Kong Disneyland were too tired after half a day on the bus to enjoy the park.

The park has more than 100 contract wholesalers and links to more than 300 retail travel agents in the region.

“By listening to the industry, Hong Kong Disneyland has introduced flexible tickets options, improved commissions for bulk ticket purchases, and enhanced training and marketing support,” said Yiu Sy-wing, deputy general manager of China Travel Service (Hong Kong). “Each of these initiatives has helped us to drive more sales and maximize revenue.”

Yiu was given the 2005-06 Hong Kong Disneyland wholesaler award Tuesday.

Other initiatives include regional road shows — D’Amaro is in the middle of a 14-city tour in China to introduce the park’s Christmas theme.

The park attracted more than 5 million visitors in its first year, split about one-third from Hong Kong, one-third from mainland China and one-third from Southeast Asia and other countries. However, these numbers fluctuate dramatically according to the season, D’Amaro noted.

The summer, for example, saw more than half the park’s attendees come from China.

D’Amaro declined to give a target figure for 2007 and also declined to comment on a second phase at the park. “This park will grow and change,” he said, adding that more plans were in the works.

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