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Hong Kong tourist wheel site may be in need of reinvention

Closure of attraction has damaged the image of city but one must ask whether better use can be made of harbourfront area

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2017, 3:08am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 September, 2017, 3:08am

The Ferris wheel that has been spinning at the harbourfront over the past three years has shut unexpectedly due to a change in operators. Unless a last-minute deal can be reached to save the wheel from being dismantled, it may take two years before a new one can be put in place. The situation is lamentable and does nothing for our image as a tourism city. The government should work with the operators closely to minimise disruption and prevent future projects from running into similar problems. It should also explore better use of the site in the long run.

Observation Wheel in Hong Kong could be closed for two years

The old and new operators have so far failed to agree on the takeover arrangements, and such a scenario could have been foreseen when the government opted for a new operator in May. Officials said business disputes should be resolved by the parties concerned, but the outcome could have been different had officials mediated proactively at an early stage. As the chief executive rightly said yesterday, more careful consideration is needed when projects are put to tender in future.

Dubbed the new icon of our skyline, the Observation Wheel is not as famous as the London Eye. It has nonetheless enhanced our tourism facilities. The response was generally positive at the start, despite the HK$100 charge for adults for a 20-minute ride. But the attraction has apparently lost its appeal gradually, partly because of poor publicity and lack of cooperation with the tourism industry.

While Hong Kong Ferris wheel faces possible closure, counterparts in London and Singapore are on the up

The real damage is to the city’s image. Tourists will be dismayed if the ride is unavailable for two years, and the saga also reflects badly on the government’s administrative efficiency.

There are those who question the worthiness of the attraction in the longer term. Given there is no shortage of observation decks on The Peak and along our shoreline packed with skyscrapers, a Ferris wheel is arguably the last thing Hong Kong needs.

The government aspires to make our harbourfront more vibrant, accessible and enjoyable for the people. Perhaps it should look beyond the tried and tested and make better use of the waterfront area in the long run.