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Hong Kong's Disneyland turns profit for first time since opening in 2005

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HONG KONG - Disneyland in the southern Chinese city of Hong Kong has turned a profit for the first time since it opened in 2005, as new attractions helped push visitor numbers to a record, theme park officials said Monday.

The park earned 109 million Hong Kong dollars ($14 million) in the year that ended Sept. 29 and its revenue jumped 18 per cent to HK$4.27 billion ($550 million). The park drew 6.73 million visitors, 13 per cent more than the previous year, with guests spending 6 per cent more than a year earlier.

The struggling park's losses had steadily narrowed from HK$1.6 billion in 2008, the year it started disclosing financial figures, to HK$237 million in 2011.

Legislators and analysts have blamed the park's poor performance on its small size.It's the smallest of Burbank, California-based Disney's parks worldwide. But the 311-acre (126-hectare) park, set onreclaimed land on Lantau island,will be a quarter bigger once an expansion is completed later this year.

Hong Kong Disneyland's managing director, Andrew Kam, called the park's swing into profit a "significant milestone."

"The business has turned a corner," said Kam. He said the park expansion was "the most critical success factor that contributed to our result this year."

The $465 million expansion adds three new attractions that Kam said allowed the park to draw more visitors. Two have already opened, including one based on the "Toy Story" series of movies and another with a Wild West theme called "Grizzly Gulch," which Kam said has become the park's most popular draw. The final phase, "Mystic Point," which has a supernatural theme and is set in a rain forest, is scheduled to open by the middle of the year.

Visits by local residents, who accounted for a third of total visitors, rose 21 per cent, while those by mainland Chinese, who make up nearly half of the total, climbed 13 per cent.

Hong Kong Disneyland opened to great fanfare in 2005, only to miss its attendance targets in the first two years.

The occupancy rate at the resort's two hotels, which have 1,000 rooms in total, edged up by 1 percentage point to 92 per cent. Kam said the park was looking at the feasibility of expanding its hotels.

Kam shrugged off fears that a Disney theme park under construction in Shanghai will result in increased competition for Hong Kong, saying that new theme parks would only help promote the industry in Asia.

Hong Kong's government has a 52 per cent stake in the park. The Walt Disney Co. owns the remaining 48 per cent.

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Online:

Hong Kong Disney: http://park.hongkongdisneyland.com

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Follow Kelvin Chan at twitter.com/chanman

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