×

Hong Kong’s Ocean Park Seeks $1.4 Billion Revamp

The Hong Kong government has unveiled a plan to refurbish Ocean Park, the territory’s aquatic-skewed theme park. The plan would cost $1.4 billion (HK$10.6 billion).

The park has been losing money for the past four years, with losses rising to $77.5 million (HK$557 million) in the year to June. It has variously blamed the losses on the cost of investment and on repairs necessitated by a typhoon.

In the period since June—when Hong Kongers began taking to the streets in protest at government actions – the park is reported to have suffered a further 30% drop in visitor numbers.

On Monday, park operators and the Hong Kong Tourism Board, said that the park would run out of cash this year if it did not get financial help. As well as the new cash injection, the park is seeking the deferment for up to eight years of repayment of two government loans, and the waiving of interest on the loans. One of those loans was used to build a revenue-generating hotel, which opened in February last year.

The park said that new money would be spent on transforming it into an action-adventure resort. Over a period of seven years it wants to build seven new themed zones and add 20 new attractions. Some existing attractions would be demolished.

Ocean Park chairman Leo Kung Lin-cheng said that the revamp would allow it to attract larger numbers of visitors and improve Hong Kong’s overall attractiveness. Kung projects 5 million visitors in the 2022/23 financial year, and 7.5 million in 2027/28.

“We want to help the park ride out this financial storm, we also need to invest in the future,” said Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau Tang-wah. He argued that the plan shows the government is supporting the tourist industry that has been hard hit by the street protests.

The proposal is due to be put to the Legislative Council (Legco), Hong Kong’s equivalent of a parliament. The pro-democracy Civic Party said that it would oppose the funding proposal. It argues that the park lost money even in years with high attendance. Lawmaker, Jeremy Tam said that the refurbishment plans are purely conceptual with no guarantee that they would improve visitor numbers, and that debts remain unpaid.

Even the park’s proposal to scale back its marine exhibits did not sit well with animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). “As long as dolphins at Ocean Park are still trapped in cramped tanks, they will continue to suffer. .. Ocean Park’s decision to end its dolphin shows but to keep the animals as a tourist gimmick is a missed ethical and financial opportunity. Leaving animals alone is best for the future, best for business, and best for animals,” said PETA VP, Jason Baker.

The debate about Ocean Park’s finances will be of key interest to Hong Kong Disneyland, the territory’s newer and more visited theme park. HKDL, which is 53% owned by the government but is managed by Disney, has dipped in and out of profit in the 14 years since it opened on land near the airport. It too has been criticized by lawmakers, some of who who argue that Disney should not be paid management fees at times of loss.

Operating on land provided free of charge by the Hong Kong government, Ocean Park straddles a headland, two sides of a mountain, and prime real estate on the south side of Hong Kong Island.

Both Hong Kong parks are challenged by the growing number of large scale attractions being built in mainland China. A dozen Chinese companies operate a some of the most visited theme parks in the world, while international operators Merlin Entertainments, Disney and Universal are also targeting the mainland’s growing middle class on their home turf, rather than persuading them to cross borders. Disney opened its showcase park in Shanghai in June 2016, while Universal is set open its first in China in 2021.

Ocean Park’s 43-year financial history has itself been a roller coaster. For the first ten years of its existence it was owned and run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, a charity. In 1987 it became a statutory body and later is a non-profit company Ocean Park Corporation.

In the early 200s it was widely expected to close under the competitive pressure from HKDL, but a Master Development Plan in 2005 saw Ocean Park expand, survive, and by 2014 become the world’s 13th most visited theme park. The 2005 plan also made a local hero of Canadian former fashion entrepreneur, turned property developer and occasional film producer, Allan Zeman.

More Biz

  • Peter Chernin'Spies in Disguise' film premiere,

    Disney and Chernin Entertainment Parting Ways (EXCLUSIVE)

    Disney and Peter Chernin are ending Chernin Entertainment’s long-standing film production deal with 20th Century Fox (recently rebranded to 20th Century Studios), Variety has learned. The split was a mutual and amicable one, driven by the simple fact that Disney rarely brings on third-party partners to finance its feature films. “I have nothing but praise for [...]

  • NAB Show Partners With Variety for

    NAB Show Partners With Variety for Executive Leadership Summit

    The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show has announced that it will be partnering with Variety to produce the third annual Executive Leadership Summit, taking place Sunday, April 19 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. NAB Show is the world’s largest convention encompassing media, entertainment and technology, where global visionaries convene to bring content to [...]

  • peacock-ads-NBCU

    NBCU's Peacock Marks Media's Latest Try to Connect Consumers, Commercials

    In an era when consumers feel more empowered to avoid TV commercials, NBCUniversal is the latest media company to try to get them to bring ads back into their TV lives. One of the key selling points of big streaming-video services like Netflix and Disney Plus is that subscribers don’t have to endure the commercial [...]

  • Our Planet BTS BBC

    U.K. Entertainment Industry Moves Beyond London

    When Channel 4 launches its daytime current-affairs program “The Steph Show” this spring, it will mark a milestone in the U.K. broadcaster’s output.  Like most of the British film and TV industries, Channel 4 has been heavily London-centric. By contrast, “The Steph Show,” starring journalist and presenter Steph McGovern, was commissioned by the network’s new [...]

  • Lucian Grainge

    Universal Music Chief Lucian Grainge to Receive Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

    Lucian Grainge — chairman/CEO of Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company — will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next Thursday (Jan. 23). Fittingly, the ceremony will take place in front of the historic Capitol Records building; Capitol is one of the several Universal-owned labels under Grainge’s domain. Universal, recently [...]

  • John Ross Promoted to Vice President,

    John Ross Promoted to Vice President, Features and Events, at Variety

    Variety’s three-time Emmy Award-winning producer and managing director of features and events John Ross has been upped to VP, features and events. Ross, who exec produces Variety’s Actors on Actors series, has been instrumental to the development of Variety’s features business, including the Young Hollywood issue, the Pride issue, Showman of the Year, the Billion [...]

  • Deborah Dugan Recording Academy Head

    Deborah Dugan’s Attorney Slams Grammys With Fiery Statement After Ouster

    Less than 12 hours after news broke that Deborah Dugan had been placed on administrative leave from her post as president/CEO of the Recording Academy, her attorney fired back with a statement. “What has been reported is not nearly the story that needs to be told. When our ability to speak is not restrained by [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content