Ocean Park must find way to reinvent itself
If its decline is indeed inevitable then it can only reverse it in the long run by identifying what it has to offer that is fresh and appealing
The tale of two very different attractions is rather similar, with Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park both reporting losses for the second consecutive year last year and at the same time raising their admission prices. They both blame losses on attendances depressed by a continuing fall in the number of visitors from the mainland, and they both pin hopes of an early turnaround in their fortunes on Tourism Board figures showing tourist arrivals have resumed growing this year.
When it comes to the way forward, however, the similarities end. Disney has a tried and proven entertainment formula. It’s just a question of investing in bigger and better attractions when they begin to look tired and interest wanes. Chasing successive losses of HK$171 million and HK$148 million, Disney’s co-owner of the Lantau Island theme park, the government, has secured lawmakers’ approval for the expenditure of a further HK$5.45 billion of taxpayers’ money on a revamp and expansion. This is to meet greater competition from other theme parks in the region and people’s rising expectations.
For Ocean Park, however, the way back to better times may have more twists and turns. Two factors have played a key part in consecutive losses of HK$241 million and HK$234.4 million. One is the trend among mainland tourists to visit independently rather than in groups, and the other is the loss of its reputation as the best theme park in the region, if not the biggest, with the development of spectacular rivals, such as a marine park in nearby Zhuhai.
In an attempt to compensate for fewer mainland tour groups by boosting local attendance, Ocean Park is promoting offers like birthday discounts and free night admission during the coming holidays. It is also building several new attractions, including an all-weather water theme park. That said, theme parks tend to have a certain life cycle that reflects changing tastes. Ocean Park has tried to deal with that by turning itself into a conservation centre. But if its decline is indeed inevitable then it can only reverse it in the long run by identifying what it has to offer that is fresh and appealing and then convincingly reinventing itself.