Ocean Park must boost competitiveness despite swift government intervention
【譯文】The government has announced a plan to pump HK$10.64 billion into Ocean Park in an effort to support the local theme park's strategic repositioning. Wholly owned by the government, Ocean Park is not only an important tourism brand and an asset to the local tourism industry, but it is also part of Hong Kong people's collective memory. Struck by the plunging visitor numbers amid the ongoing anti-extradition protests, Ocean Park has found itself in financial difficulties. There is an urgent need for swift actions from the government, and the Legislative Council should approve the plan. In the meantime, Ocean Park should listen to the wisdom of the masses and strive to step up its competitiveness. The rest of the community should also come together to resume order and stability, as growth in visitor numbers will create a friendlier environment for the businesses of Ocean Park and the tourism industry.
A tourism brand well-known across the world, the 43-year-old theme park is the pride of Hong Kong people. Attendance of the park once hit a record high of 7.5 million in 2012. However, the park has lost money four years in a row since its 2015/16 financial year, due to fierce competition from emerging theme parks in the region.
The situation has worsened since June 2019, as anti-extradition bill protests drive away visitors. According to the government, visitor numbers in the 2019/20 financial year are expected to plunge by 40 per cent to 3.3 million, which is an "unprecedented" steep decline. The financially distressed theme park has already recorded a HK$600 million loss in the 2019/20 financial year. The fact that its two commercial loan repayments totaling HK$2.3 billion are going due in the short term means that its coffers will be empty this year, if it fails to obtain any extra funding other than the HK$1 billion revolving loan facility that it has secured.
In fact, Ocean Park has been attempting to step up its competitiveness by bringing changes, and plans for repositioning have been in the works for four years already. The recently completed expansion plan will create seven new zones and 20 attractions, increasing the total number of attractions to over 100. The expansion will come in phases between the financial years of 2023/24 and 2026/27, and park attendance will hopefully rise to the record high of 7.5 million in 2027/28.
The government's prompt actions to provide the one-off HK$10.64 billion financial aid show that the authorities are determined to boost the park's competitiveness and stimulate the local tourism sector.
With innovative promotion efforts and a HK$5.55 billion expansion plan that increased the number of attractions from 35 to 80 in 2005, Ocean Park has become one of the most popular and most visited world-class theme parks in the globe. It was even recognised as the world's top theme park in 2012.
As the battered local attraction struggles amid both internal and external challenges, the Legislative Council and the Hong Kong community should offer their biggest support to its transformation efforts.
If Ocean Park is to be reborn from the ashes, well-developed plans and fun attractions are as important as sufficient funds. The theme park should draw opinions from as many stakeholders as possible and allow the public a voice in determining Ocean Park's future, so that the demands of local, mainland Chinese, and foreign visitors can all be met.
The people of Hong Kong should understand that persuading tourists to return is paramount to reviving Ocean Park and the local tourism industry. The public must help to create a pleasant environment in which tourists enjoy and feel safe.■Jeffrey Tse
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