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Hong Kong Disneyland turns a profit for first time
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Feb 18, 2013

British government split on dealing with China: report
London (AFP) Feb 17, 2013 - A split has emerged in the British government on managing its cooling relations with China, The Sunday Times newspaper said, citing sources.

Prime Minister David Cameron and finance minister George Osborne are keen to avoid raising tension with Beijing due to concerns that escalating hostility could damage trade ties.

However, Foreign Secretary William Hague believes Britain must not tone down its criticism of human rights abuses while Deputy PM Nick Clegg insists Britain must take a principled stand on issues such as the treatment of people in Tibet, the weekly broadsheet said in its main front page story.

"Hague and Clegg are on the same side on this issue. They believe we need to stand up to the Chinese," a government ministry source was quoted as saying.

"For Clegg, human rights are a matter of principle. For Hague, it's about not kowtowing to the Chinese. He believes we need to stand up to them, or they will simply treat us with contempt.

"Cameron and Osborne are focused on trade. They want to keep the Chinese on side."

Britain is keen to attract Chinese investment in infrastructure projects to help boost the flatlining economy.

However, relations between London and Beijing have deteriorated in the last nine months, with the security services reporting a rise in Chinese cyber-espionage, The Sunday Times said.

The Foreign Office declined to comment.

But an insider at the ministry was quoted as saying Beijing's behaviour towards London had grown "quite childish" following Cameron's meeting in London with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama last year.

Although Britain views Tibet as part of China, the meeting sparked an official protest from Beijing, which views the Buddhist monk as a dangerous separatist.

"They like trying to wind us up by sending diplomats to Edinburgh and Dublin, but not to London," he said.

"They make a really big deal of rolling out the red carpet for (Scottish First Minister) Alex Salmond, because they think it's one in the eye to London."

A record 149,000 Chinese visitors came to Britain last year, bringing some 240 million ($370 million, 280 million euros) to the struggling economy.

But Britain's share of the coveted Chinese market is poor compared to competitors in mainland Europe, with the complex British visa system frequently blamed.

Hong Kong's struggling Disneyland said Monday it made a profit in 2012 for the first time since opening eight years ago, thanks to a surge in revenue as it welcomed a record number of visitors.

The park made HK$109 million ($14.06 million) in the fiscal year ending September 29, 2012, compared with a net loss of HK$237 million the year before.

The result was fuelled by a 13 percent jump in attendance to a record 6.73 million people, providing relief for the resort, which has been battling lower-than-expected numbers since opening in 2005.

Visits by Hong Kong residents posted a record growth of 21 percent while visits by mainland visitors expanded by 13 percent. Revenue meanwhile grew 18 percent to HK$4.27 billion.

"We are all very excited about the milestone that we have achieved. This is a very significant milestone," Hong Kong Disneyland Resort's managing director Andrew Kam told reporters.

"We have seen the business has turned a corner. This is very, very encouraging and exciting among our leaders and our shareholders."

Kam said the turnaround was not easy given the park's route to profit was slowed by the financial crisis, as well as the 2009 swine flu and bird flu outbreak which saw travel demand fall.

Hong Kong Disneyland, which is majority owned by the city's government, has been desperate to ramp up the number and quality of its attractions as it seeks to lure more visitors while facing stiff competition from local rival Ocean Park.

Critics have attributed many of its problems to its size -- it is the smallest of all the Disney's theme parks -- and a lack of attractions catered to the key China market, which accounts for nearly half of its visitors.

In a bid to boost arrivals, the park has added two new attractions since November 2011 -- including a Toy Story-themed area -- with the third one scheduled to open in the middle of 2013, a year ahead of schedule.

Kam said the new attractions were most crucial to its turnaround.

"Our expansion is the most critical success factor that contributes to our result this year," he said.

"This decision certainly is a right decision. It's a decision that changed the course of Hong Kong Disneyland development."

Doubts about the park's future have further been stoked since China gave approval for a Disneyland park to be built in Shanghai.

Kam said the Hong Kong park will consider its next phase of expansion, including for its current two hotels, but declined to give details.

"We will continue to expand the resort. There is no questions about that, the only question is when, how big and what to do."

The park will also seek to tap the booming Southeast Asia markets, which contributed 1.5 million visitors last year, add curry dishes for South Asian tourists and halal-certified food for Muslim guests.

A deal to open Hong Kong Disneyland was signed in 1999 as part of a plan to boost the city's economy as it reeled from the Asian financial crisis.


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