The Hong Kong government will provide another $361 million (HK$2.8 billion) to rescue city’s troubled Ocean Park, which has seen losses increased by the effect of COVID-19. The venture is to be transformed from a traditional theme park into a travel destination and marine conservation hub that can be financially self-sufficient.
The park will receive a one-off injection of $251 million (HK$1.67 billion) as working capital. A further $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 not-for-profit organization, has been in loss for the past four years. Operating to only one third of capacity during 2020 due to social distancing requirements pushed it further into the red. The government previously offered $696 million (HK$5.4 billion) of loans, but the money was only expected to last until mid-2021. Repayment has been pushed 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 is to be shelved, according to Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development 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 opened for public access and developed into a retail, dining and entertainment area, that earns rental income for the park from third party providers, explained Lau. Music and cultural performances will be staged at a yet-to-be-built new venue.
Several older rides will be retired, while some new replacements may be provided by third private sector players. Park visitors will be charged per ride under the new business model, and package deals offering multiple attractions will be made available.
A mega water park featuring 27 indoor and outdoor water attractions is scheduled to open by late summer, dependent on the pandemic situation.