Hong Kong’s homegrown Ocean Park has suffered months of hardship from its back-to-back closures, as a result of the ongoing pandemic and the previous year’s civil unrest.
But the 44-year-old theme park is attempting to change all that, with a dramatic head-to-toe revamp to turn itself into a tourism destination with a strong focus on marine conservation.
Backed by HK$2.8 billion (US$361 million) in funding from the Hong Kong government, Ocean Park's radical overhaul will include enhanced visitor experiences and new operating models in an attempt to achieve business sustainability.
In a significant deviation from its all-inclusive ticketing system, the Ocean Park will instead charge visitors based on a per-activity model as part of efforts to diversify revenue in its redevelopment plan.
"The new operating model enables us to improve, innovate and invigorate the Park in the exciting years ahead,” said Lau Ming-wai, chairman of Ocean Park, in a statement.
The park is set to introduce an admission-free Retail, Dining and Entertainment Zone, unique Wellness-themed Zones, and an Adventure Zone to provide a diverse plethora of activities for visitors. A brand-new Water World with two piers will be built to welcome visitors year round with water-based rides and attractions.
Education and conservation will also be at the forefront, and the park will work closely with schools, government and NGOs to enhance curriculums and engage with the local community.
“Our renewed direction embodies our vision of advancing Ocean Park into Hong Kong’s leading education platform, with a strong mission to promote wildlife conservation and environmental protection," added Lau.
Education and conservation will also be at the forefront of the revamped Ocean Park, as it seeks to work closely with schools, government and NGOs.
A more sustainable model?
After an unprecedented challenging financial year for the theme park, could this be the answer to the ongoing burden?
Inbound private tour operator, Hong Kong Greeters, believes it could be so. “The new operating model is something which had to be done. I welcome the idea of paying per attraction, especially for the pandas — one of the biggest draws to the park and which could provide greater footfall,” said founder Amy Overy.
Hello! Hong Kong’s Founder Laura Blackhall agreed. “I think it’s a positive move in attracting locals in the park, thanks to the free entry which will of course bring cash flow through other means like food and drinks”, she said.
Overy thinks that the water park will be particularly appealing for international and local visitors, although there could be potential downfalls to the free access model. “My worry would be that most visitors will remain in the main entrance area close to the animal and marine sections of the park, as without the sunk cost of an entrance fee, it isn’t enough to make visitors venture up to the Summit and stay for the whole day”, said the private tour operator.
While Ocean Park's focus on family and education would be "a unique feat for Hong Kong", Overy questions what position the destination would eventually take in the future. "If they are moving away from being a theme park, they need to be very clear on what they are intending to become. Are they hoping the new resort will be in competition with overseas attractions like Sentosa Island, for example?"
Ocean Park was forced to close for 237 days last year and is currently still closed due to ongoing restrictions.