Why Lai Yuen should be reopened as a permanent attraction
The amusement park has a special place in the heart of Hongkongers and can serve to beat off competition from rivals attractions opening up all over Asia
The historic Lai Yuen amusement park will reopen for a second year this summer, but only for 24 days. Given the success of its revival last year, it’s time to seriously consider making it a permanent recreational and tourist feature of the city again, preferably to be put back where it was originally, in Lai Chi Kok.
Before the opening of Ocean Park in 1977, Lai Yuen was the city’s most popular amusement park. It also served as the background to many local movies during the heyday of the city’s film industry. A landmark of old Hong Kong, the park will be almost a guaranteed success at a time of nostalgia and rising localist sentiments. Its re-establishment is a no-brainer and will be much cheaper than inviting the likes of Disney or Universal Studio.
Hong Kong’s tourism and theme park attractions have taken a steep plunge in the past year. They face permanent decline from competition on the mainland, and around Asia. We are not just talking about Shanghai Disney.
Shanghai Haichang Polar Ocean Park is scheduled to open next year and Universal Beijing in 2019. Twenty-one theme parks opened across the mainland last year, with another 20 under construction. The country has nearly 300 theme parks.
But it’s not just the mainland. The rest of Asia is going crazy building theme parks, according to a recent survey by the research office of the Legislative Council.
Japan will open Legoland and Moomin World next year. South Korea will also have its own Legoland, as well as Robotland, Resorts World Jeju and 20th Century Fox World, which is expected to open in 2018.
Malaysia will soon be opening Movie Animation Park Studios and 20th Century Fox World. Singapore’s Funtasy Island will be ready by next year.
Virtually all of them, as noted by the Legco study, directly receive massive subsidies or investments from the governments.
Hong Kong will be outgunned by all these heavyweight competitors. Disneyland and Ocean Park may benefit from a reboot. But if we can’t compete with the same level of financial investment, we can nevertheless fight on our own turf, with our own cultural resources.
Reopening and revitalising Lai Yuen will not only be a walk down memory lane for older Hongkongers, but great entertainment for a new generation.