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Hong Kong’s Ocean Park faces closure as Government considers financial aid package
With the city's tourism sector at a standstill and having been closed since late January due the Coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong theme park Ocean Park could go out of business by the end of June.
As reported by the Nikkei Asian Review, the Hong Kong Government is presenting an emergency aid package of HK$5.4 billion (US$696.5 million) for the attraction to the legislature this week.
The bailout would replace a previous plan to inject HK$10.64 billion (US$1.36 billion) into the government-owned amusement park that would aim to transform it into an integrated resort with 20 new attractions by 2027 in an effort to sharpen its competitiveness in the Asia-Pacific region.
On Monday, Leo Kung Lin-cheng, Chairman of Ocean Park's board, said the attraction 43-year-old theme park - home of the city's pandas, various marine life and amusement rides - faces having to cease operations as of the end of June, advising that HK$700 million (US$90 million)had already been spent to maintain limited operations during the closure.
Measures taken during closure have seen Ocean Park's 2,000 employees being asked to take unpaid leave.
Edward Yau Tang-wah, Secretary for of the Hong Kong Government's Commerce and Economic Development, said on Monday that officials had changed their plans because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted a rethink the allocation of public funds.
Advising that HK$3 billion (US$387 million) of the aid would be used to pay off the attraction's commercial debt, while the rest of it would ensure that it could sustain normal operations for the next 12 months while buying time for it to devise a better strategic plan, Yau stated "the challenges faced by Ocean Park are unprecedented.
"Without the aid, the park will not be able to survive."
Ocean Park, along with Hong Kong Disneyland, has been closed since late January due to social distancing measures that aim to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
Even before the pandemic, both amusement parks had been struggling, with anti-government protests having taken a toll on visitors and tourism. In their most recent financial years, Ocean Park and Hong Kong Disneyland recorded net losses of HK$557.3 million (US$71 million) and HK$105 million (US$13.5 million), respectively.
With locally transmitted coronavirus cases at zero for the past three weeks, government officials say the two theme parks are likely to reopen later this month.
However, Yau advised that they will still face a tough operational environment.
In the first quarter of 2020, tourist arrivals in Hong Kong were down 81% from the same period a year earlier due to worldwide travel restrictions.
Ocean Park's Chief Executive Officer Matthias Li Sing-chung is set to retire in July this year with a global executive search to find a successor having been underway since last August.
Images: Hong Kong's Ocean Park is closure mode (top) and concepts for its redevelopment (below).
27th April 2020 - GlobalData suggests potential damage to China’s tourism brand image
12th April 2020 - Ocean Park’s pandas mate during Coronavirus lockdown
20th March 2020 - Reports indicate reopening of theme parks and museums in China
10th March 2020 - IAAPA Expo Asia 2020 cancelled over Coronavirus concerns
26th January 2020 - Coronavirus fears sees closure of Hong Kong and Shanghai Disney resorts
16th January 2020 - Hong Kong’s Ocean Park reveals future vision as adventure-themed attraction
16th December 2019 - Ride investment sees Ocean Park rack up another year of deficit
4th September 2019 - Hong Kong’s Ocean Park launches marine research facility
10th July 2019 - Hong Kong’s Ocean Park looks to treble solar power capacity by 2020
7th June 2019 - Entrance prices at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park rise by 4%
18th February 2019 - Revenue rises but deficit remains at Ocean Park Hong Kong
1st March 2018 - Hong Kong’s Ocean Park to get HK$310 million Government bail out
29th July 2017 - Ocean Park seeks new Ticketing and Admission System
24th September 2016 - Ocean Park Chief Executive confident of attracting more visitors
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