Hong Kong’s Ocean Park is going through a rough patch. Consecutive losses since 2016 have been compounded by the park’s temporary closure due to the coronavirus outbreak. All the while, theme parks have proven highly profitable elsewhere in Asia, some even needing to expand to accommodate growing numbers of visitors
The Hong Kong government has promised Ocean Park a HK$10.6 billion rescue package to regain its status as a top attraction in the region. Authorities blame the ongoing anti-government protests for the losses as well as growing competition from parks north of the border and record-low mainland Chinese tourist numbers. Recovery measures are urgent: a decrease of more than 3 million visitors was expected over the course of 2020, even before the temporary closure.
The so-called Greater Bay Area (GBA), comprising Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in neighbouring Guangdong province, is currently home to eight of the top 20 theme parks in the Asia-Pacific region. In 2018, these competing parks – all located within a 70km radius – drew 42 million visitors in total, of which Ocean Park received a 13.7 per cent share.
The tourism sector in Hong Kong has taken a pounding since June 2019, with the flow of visitors generally falling by 14 per cent. The number of visitors to Ocean Park fell to 5.7 million that year, having topped 7.5 million a few years previously. The decline in mainland Chinese visitors to the park actually dates back to 2016, coinciding with an increase in the number of theme parks in the region and a strong Hong Kong dollar making visits to the city more expensive. The following graphic shows visitor numbers to the eight major GBA parks since 2006.
The major GBA parks’ positions relative to the top 20 amusement parks in the Asia-Pacific region.
Ocean Park has been operating at a loss since 2015. The situation worsened in 2019, with its total debt now close to HK$6 billion.
The eight GBA parks cover a total of almost 12 square kilometres. New construction and park development slowed down in China in 2016 due to financing and liquidity problems connected to changes in state policies.
Number of annual attendees at theme parks run by the world’s major operators exceeded half a billion in 2017. The total annual visits to the top 20 parks reached 226 million people, more than the entire population of Brazil.
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