Earnings up for HK Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland (HKDL) booked its fourth consecutive year of record revenues in 2013, as guests continue to flock to the resort's ever-expanding range of quality attractions.
In the 12 months to September 2013, HKDL generated revenues of HK$4.9bn ($631m), up 15 per cent on the previous year. Net profit more than doubled to HK$242m ($31.2m).
Andrew Kam, managing director of the resort, which opened in 2005, said: "The HKDL Resort enjoyed a successful fiscal year in 2013. We are pleased to be able to contribute to the Hong Kong tourism sector, and look forward to another year of growth and improvement that continues to meet our high standards."
The resort broke previous attendance records in fiscal 2013, reaching an all-time high of 7.4 million guests. The results were attributed to expansion efforts, strong marketing, effective management strategies and positive tourism growth during the year.
Steady growth was registered across the three main sources of guests from the local community, mainland China and international markets, with the latter two accounting for about two-thirds of total guests.
Overall hotel occupancy was at a new high of 94 per cent for fiscal 2013, while guest spending broke records with a six per cent year-over-year increase.
The successful opening of Mystic Point in May last year marked the completion of the 2009 expansion, which has increased the park's total size by about one-fourth and brought the total number of attractions and entertainment offerings to over 100.
Like Toy Story Land and Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point has proven to be a huge hit among guests. Mystic Manor, a new immersive indoor attraction using an innovative trackless vehicle ride system, was honoured in fiscal 2013 with an award from the Themed Entertainment Association.
As HKDL posted its balance sheet, the resort said it plans to build a new, 750-room hotel, which will offer guests an "immersive and uniquely Disney resort-style experience".
The hotel is slated to open by early 2017, pending all necessary project approvals.
"HKDL is an integral component in supporting Hong Kong's position as one of the world's top cities for leisure tourists and business visitors," Kam said.
"Expansion plans are in place to sustain the momentum of growth and capture increasing demand especially in the light of growing tourism taking place in the region."
New Orleans park bids fall short
The search for a solution to New Orleans' abandoned Six Flags site will continue after only one plan to rebuild the amusement park was submitted by the February 28 deadline.
The Paidia Company, operating through its subsidiary TPC-NOLA, once again pitched a plan to resurrect Jazzland, the roller coaster haven that preceded Six Flags' takeover of the New Orleans attraction in 2002.
Paidia had made a similar proposal for the 150-acre site in 2011, only to be rebuffed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration early in the selection process.
The abandoned theme park has been closed since just before Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.
New Coney Island manager named
Mike Howard, who first began working at Cincinnati's Coney Island Amusement Park 28 years ago, has been promoted to the position of vice president and general manager of the historic family entertainment venue.
Howard will be responsible for all park operations, maintenance, park security, capital projects, landscaping, food service, group sales and marketing. He will also continue to work with the nearby Riverbend Music Center and Belterra Park racetrack on all operational issues.
Howard, whose first job at Coney Island was as a seasonal parking attendant in 1986, was previously the resort's vice president of operations and maintenance - a title he has held since 2007.
Sherlock Holmes park set for UK
A £25m ($41m) theme park celebrating the life of the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes is planned for Portsmouth, UK, where author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - who created the character in 1887 - used to live.
The park would feature rides and hi-tech holograms of the main characters as they solve crimes and re-enact scenes from stories such as The Hound of the Baskervilles.
The original stories were set in the late 19th century and saw the detective use reasoning and logic to solve crimes in partnership with Dr John Watson and sometimes with members of the Scotland Yard detective force.
Since publication the stories have never been out of print and the characters have undergone numerous transformations, including stage, screen, radio and TV versions.
Electrosonic celebrates 50th anniversary
This month marks the 50th anniversary of audio-visual giant Electrosonic's founding.
In 1964 the company started with two rooms in London's Greenwich vegetable market. Five decades later, Electrosonic is an international, multi-million dollar business with headquarters in Burbank, California, and offices worldwide.
Founded by Denis Naisbitt, Michael Ray and Robert Simpson, the company opened with the strapline 'Electronic Control and Audio Systems'.
From the start, Electrosonic combined the manufacturing and selling of products with the building of complete engineered systems.
Key product categories included electronic lighting control, multi-image slide projection and videowalls.
The product and systems portions of the business continued together through 2010 when the products side of the business, which by then represented a small portion of overall revenue, was sold.
"The 50-year anniversary marks an important milestone for the company as we look back on our incredible heritage of talent and accomplishments," said Jim Bowie, president of Electrosonic Group.
"Electrosonic is continually investing in new generations of talented staff through mentoring and education as we continue to push the limits of what audio-visual technology can do.
"A key element of Electrosonic's success, and one that we are very proud of, is our long and enduring relationship with designers, suppliers and customers."
Merlin and DreamWorks announce tie-up
Merlin Entertainments, Europe's largest attractions operator, has teamed up with DreamWorks Animation to create a series of themed visitor attractions based on the animated Shrek series.
According to Merlin, the tie-up will see the development of six new attractions over nine years, with the first attraction - Shrek's Far Far Away Adventure - set to debut in London's South Bank area in 2015.
The 2,000sq.m experience will be sited at County Hall alongside Merlin's other leading attractions in the South Bank cluster: the EDF Energy London Eye, the London Sea Life Aquarium and The London Dungeon.
Shrek's Far Far Away Adventure will transport visitors through a live interactive adventure featuring Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Puss in Boots and other favourites from the animated series, Merlin said.
The deal marks the first time that the UK-based attractions operator has worked with a Hollywood studio to create a scaleable branded entertainment experience based on a globally recognised entertainment franchise.
"Developing an attraction based on Shrek and his friends is hugely exciting for Merlin Entertainments and the start of what we hope will be a wider collaboration with DreamWorks Animation," stated Nick Varney, chief executive of Merlin.
"Merlin's expertise in delivering memorable days out for visitors and DreamWorks' skill in developing globally recognised entertainment franchises will be a winning combination."
The debut of the first Shrek's Far Far Away Adventure comes just ahead of the film's 15th anniversary. The most successful animated franchise of all time, the Shrek films have generated more than $3.5bn in global box office revenue.
The original Shrek won the first Academy Award for 'Best Animated Feature Film'.
Six Flags adopts finger-scan entry
Season pass holders at Six Flags Over Texas can now expect to move through the front gate more quickly when the US amusement park switches to a finger-scanning system for entry.
The move comes after a successful test of the biometric scan system at three of the operator's theme parks last summer.
Jay Thomas, vice president of Six Flags' project management office and information technology, said the test was driven by the group's continued desire to further improve the guest experience.
The finger scan has eliminated an extra processing line for season pass holders, which at times could be long, Thomas said. "That's what drove the biometrics at the front gate. It makes the process a whole lot easier."
'Tallest drop slide' to open in May
Ihu's Breakaway Falls - the tallest and steepest multi-drop tower of its kind in Orlando - opens at SeaWorld's Aquatica waterpark on May 9.
At nearly 80ft tall, Ihu's Breakaway Falls is where thrill seekers face their fears and each other.
After stepping into one of three clear 'breakaway boxes', they will watch each other fall one-by-one as the floor underneath them disappears. They never know who is going to breakaway first - and the anticipation of who drops next is part of the wild ride.
"With four unique slide paths, Ihu's Breakaway Falls brings a whole new level of thrill to Aquatica Orlando," said Bryan Nadeau, vice president of Aquatica Orlando.
"Riders can step into three breakaway boxes or test their bravery on a fourth open slide for a different, but just as thrilling experience. No matter which slide you choose, once you get to the top, the only way down is down."
Blacktip Reef exhibit thrives
Since opening six months ago, the National Aquarium's $12.5m Blacktip Reef exhibit is not only boosting attendance at the popular Baltimore attraction, but also its reputation as a leading conservation-focused organisation.
Data from an ongoing national survey conducted by Impact Research & Development shows the opening of Blacktip Reef has further enhanced the National Aquarium's reputation as a leading aquarium in the US.
Achieving the highest reputational ranking since this research has been collected, the aquarium has risen from being perceived nationwide as one of the top five aquariums in the US to solidifying its position at the number two slot.
Not only has this beautiful exhibit significantly enhanced our guest experience, it has inspired our guests to care about Indo-Pacific coral reefs and their inhabitants, and to feel they have a stake in our important work to preserve and protect them.
The National Aquarium has welcomed an impressive 381,530 visitors in the six months after the opening of Blacktip Reef on August 8, 2013.
More than 46,000 students have encountered the new exhibit and, along with all guests, have had the opportunity to enjoy more than 1,400 interactive presentations, shark feedings, diver talks and education carts.
"When you look closely at how Blacktip Reef has impacted the National Aquarium in the brief time it's been open, it is clear that the investment was a wise one," said CEO John Racanelli.
"Not only has this beautiful exhibit significantly enhanced our guest experience, it has inspired our guests to care about Indo-Pacific coral reefs and their inhabitants, and to feel they have a stake in our important work to preserve and protect them."
Innovative Leisure scoops award
Adventure attractions specialist Innovative Leisure has won the award for 'Best Trade Supplier' in the annual awards of the National Farm Attractions Network (NFAN).
The awards, presented during the association's annual conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, recognise the achievements of the organisation's park and trade members.
In 2013, Innovative Leisure installed Sky Trail and Sky Tykes ropes courses at Mead Open Farm in Bedfordshire, while also introducing its new Inflatable Water Wars attraction to a number of sites, including Adventure Valley in Durham, Cantref Adventure Farm in the Brecon Beacons and Dalscone Farm in Dumfries.
While the company's achievements in introducing new adventure attractions to the sector will have undoubtedly contributed to the award, its overall customer service and after-sales support was also a key factor towards the decision.
On receiving the award, Innovative Leisure managing director Phil Pickersgill said: "We've been involved with the NFAN and its members for a number of years now and have built up some excellent relationships among the farm park operators.
"It's fair to say we've put a lot of time and effort into the sector and are delighted with the success we are now seeing. To be independently recognised as 'Best Trade Supplier' is very rewarding and I feel reflects all the work our office team and manufacturers put into what we do."
Innovative Leisure aims to continue its work with UK farm attractions in the future with more great projects, two of which have already been agreed.