Ocean Park seeks emergency cash bailout2020.05.22
Group hammered by low profits and pandemic
OCEAN Park is in urgent need of HK$5.4 billion if it is to escape being shut down.
Currently it has only enough money to last until next month, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah (邱騰華) revealed on 11 May in a bid to deliver help.
Funding had been discussed at the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee on 15 May after officials scrapped a plan to inject HK$10.6 billion into the park for its long-term repositioning. Now the focus is on saving it from the immediate crisis.
Of the HK$5.4 billion needed, HK$3 billion would be used to help the park repay commercial loans.
The rest could keep the park, which has had no income since its closure on 26 January as the Covid-19 pandemic bit, afloat for 12 months.
Failing that, some 2,000 jobs would be lost, Yau warned. He also noted this was the first time the park had asked for government funding since it opened in 1977.
But the park wants another HK$13.2 million of funding to carry out a study on reshaping itself in the longer term.
Operated by the Ocean Park Corp, the non-profit organisation occupies 91.5 hectares on Hong Kong Island’s south side. It is a mix of marine mammal park, oceanarium, animal theme park and amusement park.
In 2019 the park’s mainstay mainland visitors fell and led to a reduced attendance of 5.7 million for the year.
Speaking at the Central Government Office in Tamar, Yau said the park now faces “unprecedented” challenges.
“Without the funding it will face only one outcome, which is closing down,” he warned. The funding, he went on, would “save Ocean Park from going bust, from being liquidated, and save the park so we can continue to serve the Hong Kong community.”
A plan submitted to the legislature in January was no longer practicable, Yau said. “One thing that has changed the whole scenario is the epidemic,” Yau said, adding that global tourism outlooks would undergo major changes after the pandemic.
Yau said that the “contingency money” could keep the park running “while we are sorting out the future … So there will be at a later stage another plan to take the park forward.”
When asked if the park has to change its management, Yau said the government will participate more in its management in the future and will consider if it has to alter the legal limitations.
Tourism sector legislator Yiu Si-wing (姚思榮) said he would support funding as Ocean Park can contribute much to the SAR economy, and he believed the situation will improve after the new Water World opens.
But the park still has to increase revenue and cut expenditure, Yiu said.
The park has been in the red for four consecutive years, recording a four-year-high deficit of HK$557.3 million in the 2018-19 financial year – double the deficit from the previous year.
(This article is published on the Student Standard on 22 May 2020)