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HongKong Disney beckons mainland visitors
By Liu Weifeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-24 00:41

A dancing Mickey Mouse, Snow White and Dumbo the flying elephant were among the Disney characters greeting Beijingers yesterday at an event promoting a new Disney theme park due to open in Hong Kong in September.

Showcasing the Disney fantasy is part of the Hong Kong Special Administration's efforts to realize the "2006 Discover Hong Kong Year" plan.

A range of new tourist attractions is expected from late 2005 to 2006.

"Tourism is a key driving force for Hong Kong's economy and a major tie between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland -- where most of Hong Kong's tourists come from," said Eva Cheng, Hong Kong commissioner for tourism.

In 2004, visitor arrivals reached a record high of 21.8 million, with 56 per cent of them coming from the mainland.

China is also seeing many tourists from Hong Kong.

Hong Kongers paid more than 60 million visits to the mainland last year, equivalent to 87 per cent of Hong Kong's outbound travel.

This year, in a bid to maintain the robust tourism growth, the Hong Kong government is going all out to appeal to the world to experience Hong Kong's unique blend of East and West culture.

Families are being targeted with a list of new attractions.

They include the Hong Kong Disneyland and phase two of "A Symphony of Lights" -- a nightly light and sound show.

The "Ngong Ping 360",a panoramic view of Lantau Island from a cable-car and the Hong Kong Wetland Park are also key venues.

Don Robinson, group managing director of Hong Kong Disneyland, said he believed the first Disney theme park in China was part of the Hong Kong government's long-term vision to enhance Hong Kong's reputation as a leading family vacation destination in the region.

Selina Chow, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, said she was glad Hong Kong has, for the first time, been listed as one of the top 10 tourism destinations by the World Tourism Organization.

"This proves that all the investment and efforts put into tourism after the down time caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome have paid off," she added.

Statistics show that more than HK$ 31 billion (US$3.7 billion) has been pumped into tourism infrastructure and related facilities in Hong Kong.

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