Boosted by mainland travellers and a stronger economy, the number of visitors to this year's Comics Festival is expected to hit a record high of 420,000, 12 per cent more than last year's record. With surging numbers of mainland comic lovers, organisers are eager to grab a share of the market. They are sending a 20-man team to the first China International Animation Festival and Exposition early next month to advertise and promote the local comic industry. 'If every one of the 500 million city dwellers in China is willing to spend 20 yuan on comics, the annual income of the industry would be 10 billion,' says Leung Chung-poon, chief executive of the festival and the Hong Kong Game Fair. The ever-increasing flow of visitors will not just benefit such participating companies as Bandai and Mega-store, but will also help youngsters. University graduates Eunice Ng and Elim Tsang have spent three years selling their self-designed T-shirts in the festival's flea-market, X-zone. Their profits have grown so fast that this year they will open their own boutique. The popular Dengeki Gundam Modelkit Contest, co-organised by Bandai, is creating a new prize this year for female contestants. There will also be an exhibition of products from the past five years' modelling competitions. Another highlight of the festival includes the launch of a new science-fiction comic book by local artist Wong yuk-long. The new comic is expected to be made into an animation movie. The festival runs from July 29 to August 2 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre.