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Tourism

Last-ditch effort by operators under way to save Hong Kong Ferris wheel

Fate of popular tourist attraction depends on discussion outcome in five days between former and new tenants

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 10:21pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 11:28pm

Last-ditch efforts are under way to break a deadlock between the former and future operators of the Hong Kong Observation Wheel to save the tourist attraction from closure.

If they fail to resolve the issue by Thursday, the existing wheel on the Central harbourfront will have to be dismantled to meet an October deadline for returning the site to the government in its original form.

The former tenant, Swiss AEX, lost the retender for the site after its contract expired on August 28 to The Entertainment Corp Ltd (TECL), which is obliged to operate a wheel, but not necessarily the existing one.

Sudden closure of Hong Kong Observation Wheel and ride’s uncertain future upset tourists

Swiss AEX said on Saturday it was still seeking payment for the wheel from TECL, which it described as a newly formed company “with a share capital of HK$1, and with no experience of operating observation wheels whatsoever”.

TECL would only say it was looking forward “to the day we are able to commence operations” and that it would not have taken on the job “without the means to deliver on our winning proposal”.

Tourists and industry insiders were caught by surprise last week when the wheel shut down without warning or explanation.

Responding to public concerns and complaints, the Development Bureau said TECL’s bid was “superior in various aspects”, including pricing.

If a deal could not be struck with TECL, Swiss AEX would have to clear the site by October 31, the bureau added.

Sudden closure of Central Ferris wheel ‘hurt city’s reputation’

Tycoon Allan Zeman, who is acquainted with both parties, said time was running out fast, and if there was no deal, a new wheel would have to be built, which could take up to two years.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Zeman said.

Swiss AEX said it would have to start dismantling the wheel by Thursday, but offered to immediately reopen the attraction to the public if the government wanted to keep it turning.

Zeman described the attraction as “first class” and praised the former operator for a job well done.

Ivan Ho Man-yiu, a member of the official Harbourfront Commission, said Hongkongers had come to accept the wheel as part of the city’s skyline.

“It also enriches the cityscape,” he said.