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Hong Kong Disneyland hits slump

Visitors drop 20% from first to second year

Hong Kong Disneyland recorded a slump in visitors in its second year of operation with just over 4 million in the year to September, down from 5 million in its 2005-06 first year.

Disney does not publish visitor data as it deems such information commercially sensitive. However, figures revealed in papers prepared for Legco, Hong Kong’s parliament, mean that the park has missed its target in both years of operation.

The park is majority-owned by the Hong Kong government, and there are growing calls by legislators for explanations and improvements.

The 4 million compares with 5.7 million visitors forecast by Disney nearly two years ago and with a 5.47 million figure agreed on with the Hong Kong government before the park opened in September 2005.

“The park’s performance has not been satisfactory,” said Frederick Ma Si-hang, Hong Kong’s secretary for commerce and economic development.

Park’s opening year was dogged by problems that included poor relations with transport firms and Chinese tour organizers plus a trickle of newspaper stories centering on environmental, health and employee relations issues. In its second year, the park kept out of the headlines and attracted more visitors from mainland China.

According to the Legco papers, Chinese visitors increased from 34% to 39% in the second year. Other international visitors increased from 24% to 30%. Locals dropped from 42% to 31%. Disney has agreed to waive its management fees and will defer royalty earnings for the next two years to boost the park’s finances.

New attractions are also being lined up to improve visitor numbers. “It’s a Small World” is due to open in April. Park got a boost in November thanks to its Halloween promotion. According to sources, HK Disneyland scored a healthy 360,000 visitors, or about 70% of the November 2005 record set by Hong Kong’s homegrown Ocean Park.

HK Disneyland’s performance has increasingly become a matter of public debate. Its lackluster numbers have been compared with the sharply revived fortunes of Ocean Park, though managers of the two parks are talking of complementary offerings.

Legco will debate performance and public finance requirements for Hong Kong Disneyland on Friday.

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