Star Ferry Proposes Relaxing Restrictions to Boost Nighttime Economy
September 29, 2023
Hong Kong’s Star Ferry has proposed to further ease restrictions on commercial activities at its piers in Central and Wan Chai, with the aim to create new revenue streams and contribute to the government’s efforts in revitalising the nighttime economy.
The company highlighted that current restrictions have resulted in underutilised piers, making them less attractive to residents seeking leisure spots near the water. Star Ferry believes that granting commercial concessions should serve a dual purpose of generating non-farebox income to improve its financial situation and encourage public engagement with the harbourfront.
According to the company’s estimates, the proposed changes could generate annual revenue of HK$800,000 to HK$1.5 million, which could be used to subsidise its ferry services. This proposal comes after Star Ferry increased fares by up to 56% earlier this year, following the government’s rejection of a higher increase due to public affordability concerns. The company had faced significant losses of more than HK$85 million since 2020, mainly due to the adverse impact of the pandemic on the economy. As of last year, Star Ferry owed banks over HK$72 million.
In its proposal to the Harbourfront Commission, Star Ferry suggests granting commercial concessions for two additional areas at its Central and Wan Chai piers. One of the proposed areas, spanning 2,583 sq ft between Central Pier seven and eight, could be used for hosting various events, including holiday markets, cultural performances, and music events.
The company argues that the current limitations on event days and commercial use have hindered their business prospects. Additionally, Star Ferry has proposed other measures to revitalise its piers, such as upgrading facilities and reconfiguring the layout of the Central Pier, and redeveloping the 65-year-old pier in Tsim Sha Tsui.
While the proposal has received a favourable response from the Harbourfront Commission, some members hope for a more ambitious vision that synergises the piers with other public spaces, making the harbour more vibrant and inclusive.
Suggestions have been made to engage professionals in developing a comprehensive proposal and improve the user-friendliness of the pier facilities. Strengthening ties with other harbourfront stakeholders, including the commission, the Maritime Museum, and the Observation Wheel, is also beneficial.
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