Hong Kong's Ocean Park to seek HK$10 billion in government support

South China Morning Post

The theme park has faced financial difficulties, regional competition and a drop in visitors over the last four years

South China Morning Post |

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A HK$10 billion proposal is being prepared for lawmakers to revitalise Ocean Park, which is being battered by stiff competition, weak customer demand and the anti-government protests.

Ocean Park announced it will seek government support for a HK$10 billion rescue plan to reinvent the theme park in the face of financial difficulties and strong competition from across the region. 

A source with knowledge of the package said the 43-year-old resort in Southern district needed an immediate cash injection to stay afloat after falling visitor numbers in the four consecutive years to 2019 brought its finances to the brink.

Cash is also required to fund a major upgrade over the medium term so its attractions could compete with rivals in China and across the Asia-Pacific, the source added.

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“It needs fresh blood after suffering huge losses last year and this year,” the source said. “Every single month, it has lost a fortune.”

Ocean Park faces competition from the city’s other theme park, Hong Kong Disneyland resort on Lantau Island. Both are being squeezed by rival attractions over the border, such as Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Hengqin, Zhuhai.

The park in the south of Hong Kong Island, which at one stage received donations from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, operates as a non-profit organisation and on a site provided for free by the government, which appoints its board members.

Ocean Park has been suffering financial losses for years, but has been especially impacted by the Hong Kong protests.
Photo: SCMP / Winson Wong

Ocean Park’s latest troubles were exposed last week when it revealed cost-control measures following a 60 per cent plunge in visitor numbers between July and December last year, compared to the same period in 2018.

Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said changes at the park were long overdue.

“We have seen it lose money for some years, visitor arrivals continue to drop, and more competition arising from across the region,” said Yiu, who did not reveal any details of the HK$10 billion rescue plan.

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Visitor numbers at the park has fallen from 7.6 million in 2014 to 5.7 million last year. The deficit snowballed from HK$241.1 million in 2016 to HK$557.3 million last year.

In 2018, the government bailed out Ocean Park with HK$310 million, which was used to fund conservation education initiatives in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

The park’s HK$10 billion funding bid will be discussed at a Legislative Council meeting on January 20.