Incoming Ocean Park head admits he’s taking over at most challenging point in attraction’s history

01-Jul-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The new head of Hong Kong’s Ocean Park has admitted theme park is facing the most challenging time in its existence and he will need to hammer out a blueprint to modernise the tourist attraction over the next six months.

Lau Ming-wai, 39, takes over from chair Leo Kung Lin-cheng on Wednesday, while the park’s chief financial officer and corporate secretary Ysanne Chan Sein-yu will replace retiring Matthias Li Sing-chung as chief executive.

Lau has served on the park’s board since 2008 and becomes its youngest chair following his promotion from deputy. Lau, whose father is real estate tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung, is also chair of property developer Chinese Estates Holdings.

“Ocean Park is facing the worst time in over 40 years of history,” Lau said on Monday. “We don’t underestimate the challenges it is facing.”

The theme park, which features a variety of animal attractions, received a cash injection of HK$5.4 billion (US$696 million) from the government in May to help pay debts and ease the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic that caused a plunge in tourist arrivals. But management still needs a strategy to ensure it can be financially viable.

Chan, who has been with the park for more than 28 years, said her priority would be rebuilding the morale of about 2,000 staff members and “connect theme park with animals”, as well as stepping up conservation education efforts. Lau and Chan’s terms will run until the end of next June.

The park resumed operations on June 13, permitting 10,000 visitors a day, or about a quarter of its capacity, after closing its doors on January 26. The number of daily visitors will gradually increase to a maximum 18,000.

Almost all visitors have been Hongkongers, given the city remains largely in lockdown, with all but three border checkpoints closed. There were only 8,139 tourist arrivals in May, a fraction of the daily average of 200,000 seen in the first half of last year.

The park on Wednesday will launch a new animal exhibit called Little Meerkat and Giant Tortoise Adventure, featuring five meerkats, 15 new meerkat pups and two Aldabra giant tortoises. Three of the meerkats are triplets, named Charles, Jeff and Yan, references to popular drinks in Hong Kong, and chosen by the public.

The park is also hoping its giant pandas will produce offspring. Ying Ying naturally mated with Le Le for the first time in April, but she had not shown any signs of pregnancy, a spokeswoman said.

The 14-year-old pandas, which Beijing gave the city in 2007 to mark the 10th anniversary of the handover to mainland China, have failed repeatedly to produce any offspring.

In 2015, Ying Ying and Le Le joined a national programme in Wolong, Sichuan, the biggest panda reserve in mainland China, at which Ying Ying was mated with different pandas and also artificially while Le Le’s semen was used to artificially inseminate other pandas. Ying Ying was soon confirmed as pregnant, but then miscarried, before several false alarms over the following years.


Category: Hong Kong

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