Ocean Park takes on Hong Kong Disneyland
HONG KONG — Sometimes, beating Mickey Mouse means schmoozing bankers or lobbying the government for a subway line. Sometimes it means pleading with Chinese officials to part with a pair of pandas. And sometimes it means parading in front of the cameras in a jellyfish costume.
Dings to his dignity aside, Hong Kong entrepreneur Allan Zeman is determined to do what it takes to fend off the threat from Hong Kong Disneyland and keep families coming to Ocean Park, Hong Kong's oldest amusement park.
So far it's working. Ocean Park, David to Disney's Goliath, has defied the doomsayers to post record profits. In May, it broke its annual attendance record — 4.4 million visitors — with almost two months to go in the fiscal year. "People started believing," says Zeman, brought in as chairman four years ago to salvage the place. "Suddenly, there was this buzz."Source : USA Today (for details of the News Article)Dressing for success
Zeman doesn't hesitate to go with his instincts. When he noticed visitors lingering in front of the jellyfish in the Ocean Park aquarium, he collected 1,000 of the creatures and gave them their own popular exhibit. At the debut of the "Sea Jelly Spectacular," Zeman slipped into a jellyfish costume and hammed it up for delighted newspaper photographers.
Ocean Park has pulled off other coups: The Chinese government agreed to donate two pandas to the park, bringing the park's total to four; the public can see new arrivals Le Le and Ying Ying on July 1, the 10th anniversary of the hand-over of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule.
Zeman says the Hong Kong government has approved a subway line to Ocean Park, like the one it built for Disney. Zeman has lined up financing and government loan guarantees for a $700 million expansion that will double the park's attractions to 70 by 2012.
He hopes to win more loyal customers like Hong Kong college student Chu Wai-yan, 20. She figures she has visited Ocean Park 20 times since age 12. "I just bought a season pass," Chu says. "Of course I'll be back." And Hong Kong Disneyland? "I liked it," she says. "But once is enough."