HONG KONG (Reuters) - More than 5 million people have visited Hong Kong Disneyland since it opened last September, despite a slow start and a slew of negative publicity, Disneyland's top manager in Hong Kong said on Monday.

Hong Kong Disneyland, the first Disney theme park to be built in China, has had a mixed year since its high-profile opening, suffering a series of controversies including a ticketing fiasco over Chinese New Year when visitors tried to storm locked gates and hoist children over the fence.

"We have received well over 5 million guests since we first brought the Disney magic to Hong Kong last summer," managing director Bill Ernest told reporters.

"We're getting close to our first year attendance forecast as we close the summer season," he added, referring to the park's full year attendance target of 5.6 million visitors.



Ernest gave no detailed figures on profitability or the park's finances, saying only: "I think we're on solid financial footing ... I think our fiscal stance is (on a) very solid foundation and we are positioned well for future growth."

Ernest said the park pulled crowds of 20,000 to 30,000 people a day during July and August, with more than 50 percent from mainland China.
The park sold some 60,000 summer passes, offering unlimited visits with one ticket, and was considering launching an annual pass.

Hotel room occupancy was between 75-80 percent, he said.

Shanghai may be the next Chinese city to become part of the Walt Disney Co. empire, with authorities there reportedly having begun to prepare a site. But Ernest played down the prospects.

"I know there's been a lot of speculation. We don't have any kind of a deal with a park in Shanghai," he said.

Hong Kong Disneyland is 57 per cent owned by the Hong Kong government in a joint venture with Walt Disney Co.
Source: Reuters