Ocean Park must turn tide of losses
- The Hong Kong attraction has run into the red for the past three years and the time has now come for it to reinvent itself and become more appealing
A theme park that has run into deficit three years in a row inevitably raises questions over its operation and positioning. In the case of Ocean Park Hong Kong, the answer is clear. Having entertained tens of millions for decades, the 41-year-old amusement giant is struggling to reinvent itself amid changing tourism trends and increasingly keen competition in the region.
Against the consecutive annual losses of HK$241 million and HK$234 million, a deficit of HK$236.5 million in the 2017-18 financial year may not come as a surprise. The losses were partly attributed to higher maintenance costs, operating costs, financial expenses and depreciation charges, according to park executives. Despite a modest 4 per cent growth in revenue, visitor numbers remained flat at 5.8 million, which is a remarkable drop from 7.6 million in 2014.
The sluggish performance defies the 6.9 per cent rise in tourist arrivals to Hong Kong during the 12 months ending June 30. The opening of the much-touted South Island Line in December 2016 also failed to halt the losses.
Although mainlanders still account for 40 per cent of the park’s attendance, shifting travelling patterns and preferences means earning tourist dollars is no longer as easy as it used to be. The development of theme parks elsewhere in the region further adds to the challenge. The loss-making park in Wong Chuk Hang was already given a HK$310 million injection by the government in last year’s budget to develop education and tourism initiatives.
Whether the money and the commissioning of a new hotel and a water park in the coming year will make much difference remains to be seen. Cooperation with tourism authorities in the “Greater Bay Area”, comprising Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland cities, is also under way to make better use of the high-speed railway and the mega bridge, which hopefully, will have longer-term benefits.
Ocean Park has been a Hong Kong success story until recent years when a slowdown in tourism took its toll. With more attractions in the pipeline and government support, it must strive to reinvent itself as a more appealing home-grown tourism brand.