Making Ocean Park more than a “collective memory”: an interview with returning Board Member, Loretta Fong

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Get to know Ms Loretta Fong, who was re-appointed for her third term as a Board Member of Ocean Park. She reflects on the Park’s obstacles and on what’s to come.

Ms Loretta Fong, returning Ocean Park board member, was appointed to the Board in 2016 and will be serving her third two-year term from March 2020 to 2022. She has been appointed for her third term; each term is two years, and normally the appointment goes up to a maximum of six years.

Alongside serving on the Ocean Park board, she is a partner in PwC’s Entrepreneurial Group of the Assurance Division in Hong Kong. She is also a Certified Public Accountant in Hong Kong, the USA, and Canada. 

Regarding her re-appointment, a spokesperson for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said they are “grateful” for her dedication to the development of the Park.

“We are sure that, with the devotion and wide-ranging expertise of the Board members, the Board would continue to lead Ocean Park to serve the Hong Kong community and its visitors,” the spokesperson added.

Hong Kong’s oldest theme park has been through tough times over the past few years. Ocean Park has been battered by natural disasters such as Typhoon Mangkut in 2018, the current coronavirus pandemic, social unrest and increased competition from other regional theme parks such as Disneyland in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Zhuhai.

Ocean Park has been at a financial loss for the past several years; in 2019, they operated at a deficit of HK$557 million. 

Ocean Park has been through some interesting times in the past four years since you joined the board. What do you think your biggest challenge has been as a member so far?

It is worthwhile noting that Ocean Park has undergone some significant transformation over the past four years – the Ocean Park Marriott Hotel was opened last year, and the construction works of the Water Park project will be completed by the end of this year. Other than these projects, Ocean Park has also launched “Gala of Lights”, a first-of-its-kind interactive illuminated adventure and nightly multimedia spectaculars at the Lagoon areas in January 2020, and the opening of the STEAM Hub is expected to take place in the coming year.

Ocean Park has continuously strived to invest in new developments and launch various programmes to cope with rising competition and structural change in the tourism market, particularly for South China. In that regard, the Park is assessing its strategic repositioning, in view of the enhanced connectivity within the Greater Bay Area. I consider this strategy refocusing is the biggest challenge, in the midst of the impact from the ongoing social unrest and the coronavirus outbreak, which challenge the Park’s operational cash flows and sustainability.

Despite criticisms and financial instability, Ocean Park has recently announced yet another massive expansion into an adventure-themed park. Probably most prominently in the public eye will be the halting of live dolphin shows and the demolition of the Ocean Theatre. What are your thoughts on this?

Ocean Park going forward should not only be a “collective memory”, but a Park that is committed to fulfilling its role as an edutainment park and a conservation centre. It will continue its unique function in the region, i.e. to serve as a bridge between its guests and Hong Kong’s abundant local biodiversity through its conservation and education outreach efforts.

Going forward, what do you think the great challenge to Ocean Park’s future will be? Do you think it’s the decreasing interest in enclosures, or Hong Kong’s political instability, or perhaps something else entirely?

The greatest challenge remains to be the Park’s ability to implement the strategic repositioning to cater for the needs for entertainment within the area. Various feasibility studies have been conducted to come up with the plan. The proposed strategy should strengthen Hong Kong’s ability to attract visitors from China as well as overseas.

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