Hong Kong’s Ocean Park will introduce camping, hiking and yoga experiences in October to tap the evolving “staycation” market amid the coronavirus crisis, its new chairman has said, adding that he does not expect the loss-making business to be profitable in a year.
The park will also suspend the whole of its annual Halloween festival for the first time since its launch in 2001 due to uncertainties arising from the pandemic, but will roll out discount tickets after reopening.
Earlier, the government had hinted it hoped to have the city’s two theme parks – the other being Disneyland – resume business next Friday if conditions allowed.
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Ocean Park chairman Lau Ming-wai on Thursday said his team aimed to launch activities that promoted well-being in a bid to strengthen the attraction’s connection with Southern district communities.
Lau said a project called Green Staycation was expected to be rolled out next month as he felt residents yearned for outdoor and staycation activities during the health crisis.
“When the weather gets cooler and dryer, we will try to have hiking, yoga and camping activities in phases,” he said.
Under the plan, visitors would be allowed to practise yoga out in the open or conquer the trail route under the cable cars, which would be opened to the public for the first time.
Others could also enjoy a new campsite at night.
“These are just the tip of the iceberg. It’s just the immediate changes we can make to bring new experiences without having major construction and huge expenditure … When more details on our rethink process can be announced at the end of this year, I hope it will be a newly reinvented park.”
I have to stress that the park will not be able to turn loss into profit in a year. This is inevitable
Ocean Park chairman Lau Ming-wai
In May, the troubled attraction in Aberdeen secured a government bailout of HK$5.4 billion (US$700 million) and officials were expected to come up with an initial plan for the resort’s future by the end of this year.
Lau said while the resort’s ticket income had slumped by 90 per cent in recent months, the approved funding should be enough to maintain operations for a year if there were no other unexpected circumstances.
“I have to stress that the park will not be able to turn loss into profit in a year. This is inevitable,” he said.
He said some stakeholders had suggested management consider working with commercial partners.
“I hope the park will not become the burden of taxpayers. If we are doing a comprehensive review, we need to consider how to arrange financing or funding in the private market or with business partners.”
Ysanne Chan, the park’s chief executive, said the fact the attraction had been open for only 52 days this year amid the pandemic had put more pressure on its existing financial burden.
The resort was first closed on January 26, then reopened on June 13. It was forced to shut again in July when the third wave of infections hit the city.
Chan said the park would invest more resources to boost the local market and increase its percentage of Hong Kong visitors.
When the park reopened, she said, the admission fee for Hong Kong adults would be lowered to HK$320, down 35 per cent from the regular price of HK$498, and include electronic coupons for spending in the park until December 31.
Local visitors could also buy unlimited entry passes valid for about half a year that cost HK$498 for an adult ticket, HK$398 for a student and HK$249 for a child.
Lau said various stakeholders had suggested different ticket pricing models – including lowering its fixed entrance fees or charging per attraction – and all the proposals had been considered.
He said the discounted tickets were a response to those who found HK$498 per adult ticket expensive compared with other attractions and activities in the city.
“In the very short time since we started the rethink, there has been neither the resources nor time to roll out or try other pricing models,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lau said its new water park was expected to complete building works by the end of this year. The government would need to review the park’s operation first before deciding when to open it, he said.
While realistic about the park’s near-term prospects, tourism lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the staycation plan could still offer it a boost by giving Hongkongers reasons to visit.
“At least there will be income and the staff will have something to do. But breaking even or earning a profit is not something that can be achieved this year or next year,” he said.