Jumbo owners float plan for mammoth $35m overhaul
Hannah Lee and Sandy Li
The iconic restaurants will be revamped to include shops, bars, and a museum
The Jumbo Floating Restaurant in Aberdeen is to be given a multi-million dollar facelift after 30 years as a Hong Kong icon and a tourism and dining institution.
The $35 million renovation hopes to transform the loss-making Jumbo and its sister Tai Pak floating restaurant into not only upmarket eateries, but also a complex containing shops, bars, speciality food stalls and a fishing village museum.
The new 'multi-faceted' complex, or 'Jumbo Kingdom', should be ready for visitors by early 2004, announced Lawrence Ho Yau-lung, managing director of Melco International Development, the company that owns the two restaurants. Melco is owned by Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun.
'Jumbo has always been a symbol of Hong Kong, and it is now time it takes on a more sophisticated and elegant flair to appeal to both locals and tourists,' said Mr Ho, adding that about 50 per cent of its current customers were tourists.
'It will be much more than just a food and beverage establishment that it is now but a place where everyone, including tourists and locals, can come and have a good time,' he said.
Aberdeen was once a thriving fishing village and the floating seafood restaurant began mooring on the north side of the western end of Aberdeen Harbour amid protests from local fishermen in the 1970s. This came after a devastating fire on the Jumbo killed 34 people in 1971.
Over the years, Jumbo has become a must-visit on many tourists' itineraries. About 30 million people have dined there, according to estimates.
About 200 new jobs will be created once renovations are completed and the new Jumbo is unveiled, said Mr Ho, adding that he expects visitor numbers to triple after the investment.
A new team of chefs from popular Chinese restaurants such as Sun Tung Lok, Tung Lok Heen and Victoria City will be hired to provide top-quality food, with the rooftop deck being converted into an open bar and restaurant serving western and fusion cuisine.
The two floating restaurants had drawn more than 10,000 people a day at their peak period in 1996-1997, but business had plunged 75 per cent at the worst stage of the Sars outbreak, Mr Ho said.
Jumbo hopes to carry on as normal throughout its facelift. Revamp work will go ahead section by section in hope of causing minimum disruption, Mr Ho said.