Ocean Park may have been selected by Forbes.com as one of the world's top 10 amusement parks, but that has only served as a spur to get even better. Since it first opened in 1977, Hong Kong's home-grown theme park has welcomed over 70 million visitors, and with new attractions planned as part of an ambitious master redevelopment project (MRP), those numbers are set to soar.
At a groundbreaking ceremony last November, it was announced that the HKD 5.5 billion project, which is backed financially by the government and three commercial banks, will be rolled out in eight phases over a period of six years. Starting in early 2007, the redevelopment will double the number of attractions to 70 and may also involve the construction of three new resort hotels along the Aberdeen waterfront.
The park's lowland area will be divided into three themed zones - Aqua City, Birds of Paradise and Whiskers Harbour. Meanwhile, the summit, or headland, area will showcase animals and entertainment from four different climate zones in Marine World, the Rainforest, Thrill Mountain and Polar Adventure. A brand-new funicular tram will connect the two areas.
"Apart from the existing cable car, the park foresees the need for an alternative means of transportation for tourists," says Christine Lau, the public affairs manager of Ocean Park Corporation. "When completed, the redevelopment project should allow us to handle up to nine million tourists a year. The tramway will not only link the high and low lands, but the scenic tour it offers will be an attraction in itself."
Besides continuing with its long-term mission of providing fun for all the family, Ocean Park is also focusing on providing more "edutainment", with new rides and attractions that offer both entertainment and education. Conservation and environmental initiatives will be a central part of the latest plans as well, with a pledge to "connect people with nature". As Ms Lau notes: "In fact, a great number of innovative entertainment events linked to the natural world will be introduced with each new phase to enhance the park's unique way of experiencing nature."
This initiative is already well underway with an animal conservation campaign being run each year around Easter. This was supported in 2006 by TV advertisements and successfully raised public awareness about the need for active involvement in animal conversation. This work will continue along with complementary campaigns to educate visitors about the natural environment.
"All our staff have a 'can do' spirit and are committed to delivering on the promise to build a world-class, state-of-the-art marine-based theme park that will position Hong Kong as a global tourist hub," Ms Lau adds.
The MRP is due for completion in 2012 and will have a significant positive impact on Hong Kong's economy. There will be obvious benefits in terms of business and employment opportunities, and the project will serve as a catalyst for development in and around Aberdeen.
Even without that, the park is continuously recruiting professionals for specific jobs. For example, experts have been taken at different times to join the team looking after the pandas and mechanical engineers are regularly needed with specialist knowledge to maintain cable cars and rides like the Atoll Reef and the Abyss. Besides that, creative fashion stylists are often required to work on special events and celebrations arranged for different festivals.
As Ocean Park reaches its 30th anniversary and prepares to enter a new era, one thing is clear: it is all set to keep attracting tourists by the million and entertaining future generations in Hong Kong.
Into the future
The new Ocean Park, together with the hotels and proposed MTR South Island line, is expected to:
- Create directly and indirectly 17,700 construction jobs
- Lead to a total of 37,100 job opportunities by 2022
- Bring a quantifiable net economic benefit of HK$145 billion over the next 40 years
- Contribute 0.5% to GDP by 2010