Hong Kong observation wheel to reopen before Christmas with HK$20 rides locked in for three years
But questions remain as to financial viability of business closed since August
The observation wheel at Hong Kong’s Central Harbourfront will start turning again just ahead of Christmas, with the new operator pledging there would be no fare hikes in the next three years after drastically reducing entrance fees.
From Wednesday, the 60-metre-high attraction will serve passengers for HK$20 each, compared with HK$100 previously, and children under the age of three can ride for free.
A new “wellness park” featuring fitness classes and outdoor sports facilities is also slated to open to the public free of charge next year.
But the operator did not state whether the business model would be financially viable, only saying response had been positive with 5,000 people already signed up for priority entry.
The ride was abruptly suspended in August after a deal to transfer the wheel’s ownership fell through.
The previous operator, Swiss AEX Group, had lost a new public tender following the expiry of its three-year tenancy for the site, with the government saying the new entrant had a “clear competitive edge” in ticket pricing.
Michael Denmark, CEO of the winning bidder, Entertainment Corp Limited, pledged to keep prices low.
“The price is committed for three years,” Denmark said on Thursday. “There is no fluctuation. We’re not going to increase the price because we feel we should try and make more money here and there.”
But questions have arisen as to how the firm would keep the business running, let alone make a profit, with its low fares. Monthly rent for the site is HK$1.5 million, and that does not count operating expenses.
Its main financial backer for the arrangement could be insurance company AIA, the title sponsor for the giant structure in the heart of Central.
AIA CEO Ng Keng Hooi refused to reveal its sponsorship amount, only describing the partnership as a “very attractive” opportunity to contribute to the Hong Kong community.
Denmark expected an overwhelming response, and encouraged the public to reserve tickets online in advance. Ticket bookings can be made from Sunday.
More than 7,000 tickets have also been given out to charity groups as a four-day soft launch is carried out over the weekend.
Tourists mostly welcomed the lower prices. Amy Chen, from Malaysia, said her family would save more than HK$300 with the new fares.
“We could buy ourselves an extra meal,” she said. “Why would I say no?”