Ocean Park is poised to transform itself into an adventure-themed resort over the next seven years, with the introduction of multiple new zones and facilities. This follows the Hong Kong government’s announcement of an HK$10.6 billion (US$1.4 billion) plan to prevent the park’s coffers drying up.
At a press briefing on Monday, the government and Ocean Park jointly unveiled an expansion plan aimed at reviving the 43-year-old park, which will include the creation of seven entire zones and 20 attractions over the next seven years, At the same time, over 10 existing popular attractions at the park will be re-themed or even upgraded and some current attractions will be demolished entirely, such as the signature Ocean Theatre (which hosts daily dolphin and sea lion shows), the Merry-Go-Round, and Ocean Park Tower. However, the park did not disclose the order for demolishing the attractions.
The demolition of the Ocean Theatre also signals the park’s plan to switch its focus from conventional animal shows – that in recent years have drawn criticism from animal welfare groups – to animal exhibits and displays on environmental protection, marine conservation, and education.
As for the new zones, one notable addition will be Azure Bay, which will have a pier for visitors to board ferry services taking them to a new promenade at Deep Water Bay and Tai Shue Wan, enabling visitors to enjoy the coastal scenery of Hong Kong’s Southern district en route.
Ocean Park chairman Leo Kung Lin-cheng said he was confident that the new development would deliver a refreshing and enjoyable experience for visitors, but the park “didn’t want a lot of people to come”, as the park hopes to attract quality customers “who can make the atmosphere better for everyone”.
Currently, Ocean Park is facing serious financial problems, with the park losing money over the recent five years. The park also warned that its coffers would be used up this year, as it has an expected cash flow deficit of more than HK$600 million in the 2019/20 financial year due to the city’s ongoing civil unrest in the wake of the government’s introduction of an extremely unpopular extradition bill.
The unrest has resulted in a decline in park attendance, with only 1.9 million visitors counted between July and December 2019, a decrease of more than 30% year-on-year. The park also said its attendance would drop by more than 40% to 3.3 million estimated in total for the financial year ending in June 2020 if the trend continues.
Edward Yau Tang-wah, secretary for commerce and economic development, said the cash injection showed the government’s commitment to invest in tourism infrastructure and help the park ease its financial burden.