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Hong Kong's Ocean Park reveals resort ambitions

Ocean Park has faced a challenging couple of years.

Hong Kong’s Ocean Park has unveiled exciting new plans for the development of the theme park into a resort-style destination rather than a one-day attraction.

Major transformation plans include free entry, a brand new wellness-themed zone, a new adventure zone, a 6,400sqm water park and a stronger emphasis on local nature conservation.

At a press conference today, the park revealed that it will be opening an admission-free retail, dining and entertainment zone, which will also include a dedicated kids’ zone. Visitors will continue to be charged for access to amusement rides and the cable car.

Water World, a water park that has been under construction since 2017 at Ocean Park’s Aberdeen Harbour location, is finally due to open this coming summer. The water park will be integrated into the surrounding mountains via a series of terraces facing the South China Sea, alongside a brand new Fullerton Hotel. Two sea piers are also being constructed as part of the project.

Ocean Park also plans to integrate local conservation and education initiatives along with activities promoting public awareness in nature conservation. The proposed wellness zone will take advantage of the park’s natural scenery with glamping, trekking, meditation and yoga facilities. The park launched a programme of ‘green staycations’ in September 2020 in a bid to increase visitor numbers.

Ocean Park has faced plummeting visitor numbers and increasing financial difficulties over the last 24 months, at first caused by anti-government protests in 2019 which led to a steep drop in tourist arrivals, and last year by the worsening coronavirus pandemic. As a result, it was forced to close for more than half of 2020.

According to Ocean Park boss Lau Ming-Wai, the park is grateful to the support from the government, which is said to be pumping up to HK$2 billion into the redevelopment project, following a HK$5.4 billion bail-out in May last year. It’s believed that the full funding and business plan will be revealed next week.

“Leveraging on our exceptional location and with the launch of Water World soon, we are confident that Ocean Park will play a pivotal role in the ‘Invigorating Island South’ initiative,” said Lau. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to achieving business sustainability and to serving the community of Hong Kong.”

The Wong Chuk Hang-based theme park opened in 1977 on land donated free by the then-colonial government. It first ran into trouble in the late 1990s when faced with competition from the brand new Hong Kong Disneyland resort, but with a HK$5.5 billion investment plan, it turned its fortunes around to become one of the largest theme parks in Asia.

However, its long-standing conservation advocacy has been strongly criticised by wildlife supporters over the years for the capture of animals such as dolphins and orca and presenting them in shows.

The Hong Kong government recently launched an initiative to drive tourism growth in the south of Hong Kong Island following the challenges of 2019 and 2020. ‘Invigorating Island South’ includes plans to revitalise Ocean Park as well as other tourist attractions in the area, such as the iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant in Aberdeen Harbour which closed in 2020, and introduce water-based taxis and tours.

Ocean Park was forced to close on December 4, 2020, due to a fourth coronavirus wave in Hong Kong. Its doors remain shuttered with no re-opening date scheduled.


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