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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ocean Park Hong Kong: The Unofficial Story

The Ocean Park is a legend in Hong Kong! It is a theme park that fought its way against all odds. It is definitely a successful business story of all time.

Ocean Park Hong Kong

There are probably numerous travel blogs that introduces the must-go and must-see attractions in Ocean Park. Let me introduce Hong Kong's local theme park from another angle, begin with its business story.

Hong Kong Ocean Park 香港海洋公园

Once upon a time, around some 35 years ago, the Hong Kong Government decided to build a theme park that would attract local and foreign tourists; while preserve and promote marine life. It was decided to run the theme park just like a standard business enterprise (rather than like Government Departments). On one hand, the theme park was profit driven; on the other hand the same theme park was committed to the scientific research and public education of marine life. The park was named Hong Kong Ocean Park (香港海洋公园 in Chinese).

An old double decker bus at Ocean Park Hong Kong

Life was much simpler three decades years ago. There were no iPhone, iPad, YouTube nor Facebook. The Ocean Park managed to serve both purposes for decades.In 1997, Hong Kong was handed over to China. It was also the era when the internet and mobile technology took off. Ocean Park was getting older and older, getting less and less attractive to families and younger generations.


Furthermore, the Hong Kong Government decided to invite Disney to introduce Disneyland into Hong Kong. Just when people began to question Ocean Park can survive, the local theme park achieved much more than just survive. It thought against all odds and improved year by year!

Ocean Park's Cable Car - One of its key attraction

When the Hong Kong Disneyland made consecutive losses year by year, the Ocean Park made more and more profits. What's even more impressive was that Ocean Park reinvested it's profits into new facilities that attracts even more tourist. It also learned from its rival, making itself more and more theme park like. The current entrance of Ocean Park is so professionally done that you may confuse with the entrance of Disneyland.

Home to the two mature Panda "On On" and "Gai Gai"

The whole story of how Ocean Park redefined itself was based on its people. It was not possible without its crew, management team that led with vision. One individual that deserves credit is a "foreign Hong Kong local", Allan Zeman. The Chairman of Oceans Park made his own fortune prior to joining the theme park. He set up numerous restaurants and bars at Lan Kwai Fong in Central and practically gave birth to the area. It was the leadership and creativity of Zeman and his team that reignited Ocean Park. This is the spirit that we should admire.


I will talk more about the park itself in the next post. Let me finish with a list of controversial facts of the Oceans Park.
  • Majority of it's customers are tourist from mainland China. Most tourist would actually prefer the Ocean Park over Disneyland!
  • The park went from rusty and old to dynamic and new in less than 10 years, without any additional financial help from the Hong Kong Government.
  • The Chinese central Government gifted Hong Kong various near extinct animals (including four pandas) to Hong Kong. Most of these rare animals lives at the Ocean Park.
  • The park was criticized for managing to indirectly trigger the death of some of these rare animals (Chinese Sturgeon).
  • Just like any other theme park, the souvenir shops are filled with Ocean Park's own brand souvenir. There was a stage which genuine milk powder in cans, to cater for the shopping needs of mainland Chinese tourist (as mainland Chinese are concerned about poisonous milk powders in China). These were removed from the shelf due to public pressure.
  • The park introduced Halloween bash (set up haunted house at October evenings) and it was an instant success. It was repeat every year since then. It's rival was force to replicate the same idea to compete. Hong Kong almost never "celebrated" Halloween before Ocean Park's Halloween bash.
 
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