Hong Kong’s iconic Ocean Park, which flourished a decade ago, is just a month away from bankruptcy, we learned on Monday.
The coronavirus outbreak has now forced the territory’s government to change course, ending a previous plan to help the park reorganize and expand. This needs to be replaced with an outright rescue mission.
“This is the plan to save Ocean Park from bankruptcy, from liquidation, so that it can continue to serve the Hong Kong community,” said Edward Yau Tak-wah, Secretary of Commerce and Economic Development.
“Shortly after we submitted the plan to the Economic Development Panel Finance Committee in late January, within a week Hong Kong was hit hard by COVID-19. The park has since closed for over three and a half months during which there was no revenue and no visitors. We also see great difficulties, even the park must be reopened in the not too distant future. I think the whole tourism landscape, both local, cross-border and global, will undergo major changes.
The theme park is now seeking lawmakers’ approval for an urgent $696 million (HK$5.4 billion) bailout. Some $387 million (HK$3 billion) is needed to repay a commercial loan. Leo Kung Lin-cheng, chairman of the park’s board, said Ocean Park will run out of money by June.
In January, Yau presented a plan that would have required $1.37 billion (HK$10.6 billion), over seven years, that would have transformed the old-fashioned amusement park into a resort. Ocean Park would have added seven new areas and 20 attractions, allowing it to better compete with other regional facilities such as government-owned Hong Kong Disneyland and those in neighboring cities of Macau, Zhuhai and Shenzhen.
The new plan also calls for the deferral of money Ocean Park owes the Hong Kong government, ahead of a more in-depth strategic plan “We need to help (the park) repay commercial loans and delay the repayment of government loans, “, said Yaou. “On the other hand, we have to give them the contingency money so that they can keep the park running while we prepare for the future (of the park). So there will be, at a later stage, a another plan to move the park forward, but I think circumstances have forced (us) to rethink a lot (first).
News of Ocean Park’s fate came the same day the Shanghai Disneyland theme park, two hours north of Hong Kong, reopened after also being closed since late January. The Shanghai park is expected to operate at just 20% capacity for several weeks while social distancing measures remain in effect.