Ocean Park’s Water World opens to Hong Kong public, with hundreds taking advantage of hot weather to dive into the experience

Hundreds of Hongkongers queued in sweltering temperatures on Tuesday to be among the first to try out the city’s new water park, which officially opened to the public after a four-year delay.

Wearing swimsuits and flip-flops, about 100 people were waiting at the entrance to Ocean Park’s Water World 15 minutes before it opened at 10am.

By lunchtime, temperatures across Hong Kong had reached 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 degrees Fahrenheit), with the city under a “very hot weather” warning at one stage.

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Lau Ming-wai, the theme park’s chairman, was at the entrance to greet the first guests, and called the numbers a “good start”.

“On a day when people need to go to school and work, there are still many people here today,” he said. “Some of them even brought their kids. I think we are receiving a very enthusiastic response [from the public].”

Under Covid-19 restrictions, a maximum of 4,500 visitors – half its capacity – will be allowed into the attraction in Hong Kong’s Southern district at any one time.

The long delays to the new park’s opening meant the budget soared from an estimated HK$2.29 billion (US$294.2 million) eight years ago to HK$4 billion. Despite that, Lau said it was designed to be financially sustainable.

“As autumn and winter come, I think guests’ first-hand experience about how comfortable and enjoyable it is in November, December and January will be words of assurance to other people,” he said.

“I think our guests will be educated through social media. That will help us encourage others to come and try it out in winter.”

Hong Kong leader predicts global appeal for city’s new water park

April Avellano, a 30 year-old domestic helper, and two of her friends were among the first to show up.

She told her employer she would work on Wednesday, a public holiday, for a chance to get in the water earlier.

“This is the first time [I’ve been to a water park in Hong Kong], so I’m so excited,” she said.

But even among the fun, the reality of living with the coronavirus was never far away.

“We brought an extra [medical] mask,” Avellano said, adding she believed the park would be “safer” due to smaller crowds on the first day.

What exactly to do with their masks was a question on the minds of some guests who believed the park should have arranged for their storage. Others complained about the cost of lockers.

I rented a locker for HK$120 ... We just kept stuffing our things into it. It would be better if it cost below HK$100
Karen Ng, park visitor

After sliding down one of the rainbow-coloured chutes, a 40-year-old woman named Yip said she and her family had to walk all the way back to the top to retrieve their masks.

“We were worried our masks would be soaked, so we removed them. But we have no pockets to keep them in,” she said.

“The park should budget an area at the bottom of the slides for us to remove and store our masks. Or they should give us a new mask after we slide down.”

Visitors are allowed to remove their masks while in the water, but need to put them back when walking around the park.

Karen Ng Suet-yan, who came with her husband, said although their tickets were a gift from friends, the cost of renting a locker was surprisingly high.

“I rented a locker for HK$120 ... We just kept stuffing our things into it. It would be better if it cost below HK$100,” she said.

“And the tickets should be priced below HK$300 so more people can afford to enjoy spending time here.”

Simon Lee at the Chinese University campus in Sha Tin. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

Tickets to the park cost HK$320 for adults and HK$225 for children, although prices will be adjusted based on the time of year. A discounted price of HK$150 is available for the elderly and people with disabilities.

Simon Lee Siu-po, co-director of the international business and Chinese enterprise programme at Chinese University, said he expected the park to remain busy while people could not travel.

“As long as people still can’t fly and need to quarantine, and the weather remains hot, I don’t think there will be a problem,” Lee said. “But it will face some challenges once the borders reopen.”

Lee said the line-up of attractions and ticket policy would serve it well in the long term.

“There will always be someone willing to pay a higher price to lock in a ticket so they don’t have to queue on the day they wish to visit, so many tourist attractions are starting to adopt this strategy,” he said.

He added that the park’s new approach would see it lowering its past reliance on mainland Chinese tourists and focusing instead on attracting locals, an important consumer base it could not afford to ignore.

Additional reporting by Zoe Low

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