The Japan Times

As in most regions of the world, the big end-of-year news in Japan is the world economic crisis, which has hit the archipelago particularly hard as the country relies heavily on exports and a strong American dollar.

But while global giants like Sony and Toyota feel the pain acutely, one corporate juggernaut remains unscathed: Tokyo Disneyland.

The theme park’s operator, Oriental Land Co., has estimated that fiscal 2008 will see a record number of visitors, totaling about 26.5 million.

According to local media reports, the slumping economy actually helps Tokyo Disneyland and its sister attraction, Tokyo Disneysea, because people are cutting back on big-ticket purchases like cars and appliances, not to mention expensive overseas trips.

The theme park offers an affordable chance to get away, not only from workaday concerns but also from depressing economic news.

In fact, revenues for all Disneylands worldwide are up 8 percent for the year, which may explain why Hong Kong Disneyland is planning a $500 million expansion project.

Hong Kong’s is the smallest of the Disneyland parks, and the expansion plan would increase its size by more than a third, with more than an additional 20 hectares of attractions to be added to the present site on Lantau Island.

The expansion is being carried out in light of lingering complaints that the 3-year-old park does not have enough rides, according to Hong Kong’s Herald Globe.

The park’s managing director, Andrew Kam, told the South China Morning Post that new construction will take three years.

Though the park does not release official figures, the paper said that the number of visitors has consistently been below management’s estimates by more than 25 percent, with attendance continuing to drop year-by-year.