'Cultural relevancy key to success of theme parks'
By Yun Suh-young
Like other entertainment facilities, theme parks must also evolve to continuously attract more visitors.
Fortunately, the theme park industry in Asia is seeing growth ― not necessarily because there’s much more to see but because the Asian population is more accustomed to going to theme parks.
Hong Kong Ocean Park, however, may be an exception to the norm because it is continuously evolving in terms of facilities, services, and programs it offers.
The theme park has many more entertainment facilities to offer now than it did a few years ago. New attractions such as “Old Hong Kong” and “Sichuan Treasures” have opened recently and others such as “Polar Adventures” are slated to open in July.
The number of visitors to Ocean Park is up by 800,000 compared to last year. The park has seen a year by year increase over the past eight years.
“Last year, out of 7 million visitors, about 50 percent were from mainland China, 35 percent from Hong Kong, and 15 percent from abroad. Koreans were also a large part of the number of overseas visitors at 200,000,” said Tom Mehrmann, chief executive of Hong Kong Ocean Park, during an interview with The Korea Times on Tuesday. The CEO was in Korea to promote the new facilities that have opened in the park since his last visit here back in 2009.
What is the key to the success of the entertainment facility?
“Cultural relevancy is important,” said Mehrmann. “We focus on being culturally relevant to the markets we serve. I’ve worked at Knotts Berry Farm which was great in providing attractions culturally relative to the market. Every week there would be different cultural events. It really made Knotts stand out. I used the same philosophy for Mall of America, and Marine World in Spain while working for them. The same applies for our Ocean Park.”
The cultural relevancy the park strives to achieve is seen in the new attraction “Old Hong Kong.”
“Old Hong Kong is a new attraction in which Hong Kong of the 1950-70s is recreated. The new facility allows local people and tourists to experience the culture and history of Hong Kong,” said Matthias Li, deputy chief executive of Ocean Park who accompanied Mehrmann.
Another attraction unique to Ocean Park is the Golden Monkey feature which introduces rare species of animals. Also creatures such as the Chinese sturgeon which is unique to Asia may be found at Yangtze Exploration.
There are about 15,000 animals in the park and in the grand aquarium at Aqua City, there are 5,000 fish of 450 different species inside the 5.2 million liter tank.
“There are 75 attractions in the park. Very few parks have that many attractions,” said Mehrmann. “You’ve really never seen Hong Kong without coming to Ocean Park.”
Ocean Park is currently building three hotels within the theme park that are expected to open within the next three to four years. The hotels will offer packages that include admission tickets to the park.
For more information, visit kr.oceanpark.com.hk.