(Kyodo) _ Hong Kong Disneyland will miss its target of 5.6 million visitors in its first year of operation, with its managing director saying Monday it will take time for the venture to "catch up" with the changing behavior of Chinese travelers.
Bill Ernest said at a press conference a week before the park's anniversary Sept. 12 that attendance growth "took a slow start and there were some marketing glitches in the early days."
But he refused to admit failure in missing the target pledged before the park opening.
"We have well exceeded the five million number already," Ernest said. "We are tracking around our original target. We are close, and that I think as the year wraps up in September, as we get into October, we'll be there."
The park has avoided revealing the attendance number since November last year when its California headquarters said one million people had visited the park.
School holidays in Hong Kong and China helped boost summer attendance figures in July and August, with half of them visitors from mainland China, Ernest said.
Hong Kong Disneyland is the company's first in greater China, with a second one likely to be built in Shanghai by 2010, five years after Hong Kong, which footed a large portion of the park's construction costs.
Ernest said the second half of the first year saw stronger growth in attendance.
He added the park started shows to educate visitors who were not already familiar with Disney figures, bettered relationships with the travel trade and brought in products such as local-branded items that Chinese visitors know.
Ernest did not give out financial details of the park, only saying it is on "fine, solid financial footing and with appropriate cash flow for expansion," and that he expects "solid attendance growth" next year.
The details of new attractions, park expansion and the launch of an annual pass will be announced in the next two months, he added.