Hong Kong’s Ocean Park doesn’t want to be a theme park anymore

The Hong Kong government will provide an additional $361 million (HK$2.8 billion) to rescue the city’s struggling Ocean Park, which has seen its losses rise due to COVID-19. The business is to be transformed from a traditional theme park into a travel destination and marine conservation center that can be financially self-sufficient.

The park will receive a one-time injection of $251 million (HK$1.67 billion) as working capital. An additional $144 million (HK$1.12 billion) will be provided to run the park’s conservation and education programs for four years, the government announced on Monday.

The 44-year-old park, which operates as a nonprofit, has been in a loss for four years. Its operation at just a third of its capacity in 2020 due to social distancing requirements has pushed it further into the red. The government previously offered $696 million (HK$5.4 billion) in loans, but the money was only meant to last until mid-2021. Repayment has been pushed back from this year until 2028, and interest has been waived.

The redevelopment plan calls for Ocean Park to diversify its revenue and its all-inclusive ticketing model must be scrapped, according to Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Edward Yau.

“[The park is to be] a destination, a resort. It will no longer be just a theme park about rides and pandas,” said park chairman Lau Ming-wai.

Part of the site will be open to the public and developed into a retail, dining and entertainment area, which generates rental income for the park from third-party vendors, Lau said. Musical and cultural performances will be presented in a new place still to be built.

Several older rides will be retired, while new replacements may be provided by third-party private sector players. Park visitors will be charged per ride under the new business model, and multi-attraction packages will be offered.

A mega water park including 27 indoor and outdoor water attractions is expected to open by the end of summer, depending on the pandemic situation.

Harold B. McConnell