Hong Kong’s iconic floating restaurant sinks in the South China Sea | Business and economy

A famous tourist attraction capsizes near the Paracel Islands after encountering ‘adverse conditions’.

The Jumbo floating restaurant, a once-famous but financially-troubled Hong Kong tourist attraction, sank in the South China Sea after being towed away from the city, its parent company said.

It capsized on Sunday near the Paracel Islands after “encountering adverse conditions” and began to take on water, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said in a statement on Monday.

“The water depth at the scene is more than 1,000 meters, which makes it extremely difficult to carry out rescue work,” he added.

The company said it was “very saddened by the incident” but that no crew member was injured.

He said marine engineers had been hired to inspect the floating restaurant and install palisades on the ship before the voyage, and that “all relevant approvals” had been obtained.

The restaurant closed in March 2020, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the final straw after nearly a decade of financial difficulties.

Operator Melco International Development said last month that the business had not been profitable since 2013 and that cumulative losses had exceeded HK$100 million ($12.7 million).

It still cost millions in maintenance fees every year, and a dozen companies and organizations had declined the invitation to take it up at no cost, Melco added.

It announced last month that before its license expires in June, Jumbo would leave Hong Kong and wait for a new operator at an undisclosed location.

The restaurant left shortly before noon last Tuesday from the typhoon shelter in southern Hong Kong Island where it had sat for nearly half a century.

Opened in 1976 by the late casino magnate Stanley Ho, it epitomized the pinnacle of luxury in its heyday, reportedly costing more than HK$30 million ($3.8 million) to build.

Designed like a Chinese imperial palace and once considered a must-see landmark, the restaurant has drawn visitors from Queen Elizabeth II to Tom Cruise.

He has also featured in several films, including Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion,” about a deadly global pandemic.

Jumbo’s departure from Hong Kong was greeted with regret and nostalgia by many Hong Kong residents.

Some online commentators have described images of the floating palace sailing on a charcoal gray ocean towards the horizon as a metaphor for Hong Kong’s future.

The city has seen severe pandemic restrictions jeopardize its status as an international hub, while a national security law imposed by Beijing has stifled dissent, reshaping Hong Kong into China’s authoritarian image.

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