Amid yet another tough year, Ngong Ping 360, one of Lantau’s biggest attractions, is targeting local visitors.
The cable car business reported a 21% drop in numbers last year as the city was wracked by protests.
This year it has twice suspended service due to the pandemic, re-opening on September 11 at reduced capacity.
Indoor attractions at Ngong Ping Village, such as Walking with Buddha and Motion 360, remain closed, however.
Managing director Andy Lau says he is cautiously optimistic
“We expect that the number of local guests will increase by double digits,” he said. “While inbound tourism is still suspended, we believe that local citizens will occupy a major market share in Hong Kong’s tourism in the short run.”
To spur his campaign to win local visitors, Lau has struck a deal with sportswear brand Fila for what they’re calling the 360 Fila Sports Fest.
It features Fila’s signature candy-coloured themes on cable car cabins and installations, as well as cable cars decked out in imagery of K-pop sensation BTS, Fila global ambassadors.
The government has abandoned a plan to extend the Ngong Ping cable car to Tai O, but is now considering a water taxi service between Tai O and Tung Chung.
In an interview with Sing Tao Daily, Robin Lee, director of the Sustainable Lantau Office, said improving the capacity of Lantau’s tranasport network was one of its priorities.
He says the government has dropped the proposal to extend Ngong Ping 360 down to Tai O, acknowledging the strength of public opposition as well as financial issues.
The plan of running the cable car through the Tai O valley – mostly Country Park, and including numerous religious retreats – stirred public opposition and was never fully embraced by the Ngong Ping 360 operating company.
However, Lee said the newly-established SLO, a bureau within the Civil Engineering and Development Department, hopes to improve Tai O’s external transport links with a water taxi service to Tung Chung.
The vessels would have a high carrying capacity and a flat bottom, seen in cities such as Paris and Bangkok, to enable them to pick up passengers from Tung Chung and enter Tai O River.
Currently the Fortune Ferry service operates between Tai O, Tung Chung and Tuen Mun. It runs to Tai O just four times a day on weekdays and a dozen times on Saturday and Sunday.
Lee said he was in discussions with the Transport Department to see if the frequency could be increased.
“In the past the concern has been that if the passenger volumes are too unpredictable, it will be difficult to find a company that will operate it on a long-term basis,” he told Sing Tao. He would shortly meet with the industry to discuss how to make the service viable.
Lee promised that “unlike the planning strategies of the past,” Lantau transport infrastructure would be developed in a way that avoided disturbing traditional lifestyles and the natural environment.
Photo: Water taxi, Bangkok