Cash-strapped Ocean Park Hong Kong – the city’s second-largest theme park after Hong Kong Disneyland – is to get a HK$10.64 billion ($1.37 billion) cash injection from the SAR government as part of a major revamp to lift its fortunes.
The park, which opened in southern Hong Kong Island in 1977, has been under financial pressure amid a plunge in the number of visitors, aggravated by the more than seven months of social unrest.
It’ll benefit Hong Kong’s tourism in the mid and long term. And, we hope it’s a timely plan for future development
Edward Yau Tang-wah
secretary for Commerce and Economic Development
The park, which is run under a HK$200 million Hong Kong Jockey Club trust to ensure its continued development, said on Monday the new funds will be used to build 26 new attractions and overhaul 11 existing ones over the next seven years.
The goal is to win back tourists and compete with rivals on the Chinese mainland and across the Asia-Pacific region with a fresh image.
The expansion plan will create seven zones, which are expected to be completed in stages between 2023 and 2027. The park expects attendance to bounce back gradually to 7.5 million in the 2027-28 financial year after the revamp is completed, as in 2005, after the park unveiled a major HK$5.5 billion redevelopment plan.
“The one-off capital injection will help the park invest in the future, as well as to cope with the current financial pressure,” Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said.
He said the government has been in discussions with the park for the past year, trying to find a way to restore its attraction. The social unrest made them realize they have to accelerate the expansion program to put the park back on a sound financial footing.
“It’ll benefit Hong Kong’s tourism in the mid and long term. And, we hope it’s a timely plan for future development,” Yau said.
The number of visitors to the park has slumped in recent years. The unrest, which erupted in mid-June last year, has taken a heavy toll on the park, which recorded a more than 30 percent plunge in visitor numbers to 19 million between July and December last year, compared with the same period in 2018.
The park warned that its cash flow deficit is expected to exceed HK$600 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year. It reported a deficit of HK$557.3 million for 2018-19 -- doubling the HK$236.5 million deficit for the previous year.
The government has also proposed putting off repayment of the park’s two government loans amounting to HK$3.6 billion.
Ocean Park said last week it would scrap an annual salary review for about 2,000 full-time staff this year, and take measures to avoid redundancies.
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