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HK Disneyland records double-digit growth
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Hong Kong Disneyland recorded double-digit growth in attendance in the fiscal quarter ending late December, contributing part of the Walt Disney Company's quarterly earnings, the theme park's executive vice president and managing director said Thursday.

Inaugurating a traditional Chinese dragon dance featuring Disney classic Mickey Mouse in celebration of the beginning of the Lunar New Year, Bill Ernest said visitor flow had been steady throughout the quarter with prolonged festival celebrations such as Halloween and Christmas.

Ernest declined to disclose expected attendance to Hong Kong Disneyland but said he expected more visitors in the coming several days as it was only the first day of the Chinese New Year.

"Kung Hei Fat Choy!" he said, citing a local Chinese phrase for best wishes. "The Year of the Mouse is a very special time for Hong Kong Disneyland and Mickey Mouse and we have kicked off the festivities with a specially created dragon procession."

The Chinese New Year 2008, or the Lunar New Year, was the year of Mouse,and its first day fell on Feb. 7, 2008 of the solar calendar.

Ernest was dressed in the modernized version of a traditional Chinese short robe dotted with full circles and Mickey Mouse images that had been adapted to resemble the Chinese character Fu, or blessings.

There were relatively long queues on Thursday at Hong Kong Disneyland, the smallest one of the world's several Disneyland theme parks.

The theme park, a joint venture between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and the U.S. Walt Disney group, had recorded attendance figures that were lower than expected in the first two years since it was officially opened in September 2005.

Officials at the Hong Kong Disneyland had said that it was not putting attendance figures above everything else and that the theme park was expecting help from further expansions to attract visitors.

Meanwhile the park also stepped up marketing by offering special events such as prolonged festivities around Halloween and Christmas.

It had designed month-long Lunar New Year special offerings running from Jan. 22 through Feb. 24, with seven special days in a row starting from the first day of the Chinese New Year, or Feb. 7.

Many visitors from China's mainland said they liked the style of the Hong Kong Disneyland that mixed eastern and western cultures.

Ernest said Hong Kong Disneyland would add the major feature of "It's a small world" in addition to at least four other projects.

With growth in attendance for the quarter ending Dec. 29, the park contributed part of the sound quarterly corporate earnings announced by the United States-based Walt Disney Company on Tuesday, he said.

The Disney group said its earnings per share for the fiscal quarter ended December 29 had increased 29 percent year on year, with improved performance at Hong Kong Disneyland reflecting increased attendance.

(Xinhua News Agency February 8, 2008)

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