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Government backs US$46 million makeover for Hong Kong’s Ocean Park

Government backs US$46 million makeover for Hong Kong’s Ocean Park
January 19, 2021

The Hong Kong Government is to provide HK $361 million (US$46 million) for a makeover of the administrative region’s Ocean Park into a new style of tourism destination with a role as marine conservation hub.

Operating at a loss for the last four years, the further injection of funds into the 44-year old theme park will see it change its emphasis, moving from a traditional theme park to a self-sufficient marine conservation centre and visitor destination.

In a statement, Edward Yau Tang-wah, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, advised “Ocean Park is more than a theme park, more than roller-coasters.

“We agreed that the Park should steer away from the conventional development model of theme parks, cut down on facilities and related expenses which are not cost-effective and re-orient its development focus back to education and conservation.”

Secretary Yau added that, going forward, Ocean Park would focus on its “unique natural setting” and its “synergy with other attractions and developments in (its) vicinity.”

The funds will come in two tranches, with a one-off payment of $251 million (US$32.4 million) to act as working capital while $144 million (US$18.6 million) will be allocated for running costs for four years of conservation and education programs.

Facing declining visitation and massively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ocean Park has received a repeated financial support from the Hong Kong Government.

The Government has also said it will waive interest payments on loans, easing the Ocean Park’s debt burden.

First revealed at the beginning of 2020, when it was announced as “comprehensive blueprint for the future that aims to create an adventure-themed resort destination with a focus on nature, conservation and edutainment”, the newly stated repositioning aims to turn Ocean Park into an open-air classroom as well as an adventure-themed resort.

It will see guests explore seven themed zones - Ocean Square, Azure Bay, Discovery Grove, Pacific Point, Adventure Valley, Explorers Wharf and Ocean’s Edge – along with a new indoor education centre.

Each zone will feature a range of immersive edutainment experiences with rides presented as part of themed experiences.

Adopting a new approach to increase spending and attract more visitors, interim plans show Ocean Park’s lower areas restructured as a ‘retailtainment’ zone with F&B outlets.

This area would not incur entry fees and would be rented and run by third party operators, lowering operating costs for Ocean Park at the same time as providing rental income.

A new building will become a venue for concerts and other cultural performances, building on a new initiative intended to transform the southern district of Hong Kong into an arts and culture hub.

Some of the park’s rides will be retired while new temporary rides may be installed. Annual passes will end and the park will move to a pay-as-you-go model for rides in the upper summit area of the park. The aim is to attract visitors with more flexible and affordable options.

In addition, work on its much-delayed HK$4 billion (US$516 million) all-weather waterpark - with 27 indoor and outdoor attractions - is currently approaching completion with an August opening date now scheduled.

Secretary Yau concluded “we want to make Ocean Park a regular place for locals to hang out and change it from the previous pattern of once-a-year visits.”

Images: Ocean Park's summit (top), the current state of work on its waterpark (middle) and a 2020 concept for the lower area (below).

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