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Tourism

Sudden closure of Hong Kong Ferris wheel ‘hurt city’s image as international travel destination’

Hong Kong Observation Wheel, a popular spot among tourists in Central Harbourfront since 2014, was closed without warning on Wednesday

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 6:45pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 6:47pm

A lawmaker has rounded on the “irresponsible and chaotic handling” of a major tourist attraction in Hong Kong, saying it has hurt the city’s image as an international travel destination.

The Hong Kong Observation Wheel, a popular spot among tourists in Central Harbourfront since 2014, was closed without warning on Wednesday. The attraction’s future remains hanging in the balance as the new operators have not decided whether to keep the Ferris wheel.

“The poor arrangement could leave visitors the impression that Hong Kong does not have a well-rounded tourism development plan,” said tourism lawmaker Yiu Si-wing.

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By Thursday, the Hong Kong Tourism Board had received 29 inquires, of which four were from visitors who left in limbo after the wheel’s sudden closure.

While a new tenant, The Entertainment Corporation, was in May awarded a contract to rent the government site for three years at HK$1.5 million a month, no plan has been raised during the past three months. The contract of the incumbent, Swiss AEX, expired on August 28.

“The government kept stressing it played no role [as the attraction was a commercial development]. But the observation wheel has become an iconic tourist attraction during the past three years, how could you adopt such attitude?” Yiu asked.

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The lawmaker was also disappointed that the government did not make any effort to smooth the transaction between operators, nor tell the public in advance – like the cable car operator Ngong Ping 360 on Lantau did when it was closed for five months to get its rope replaced earlier this year.

“Now the observation wheel looks like a rotten project,” Yiu said.

Despite its iconic status in Hong Kong, it was not easy for the observation wheel to make a profit because of its high admission fee, Yiu said.

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He urged the government to impose additional terms to the contracts whenever premium land was leased to private operators – such as the company’s profitability and exit arrangement – to avoid creating a bad reputation.

The Post was unable to reach Michael Denmark, director of the new operator The Entertainment Corporation for comment. The wheel remained closed on Friday.