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Shanghai Disneyland set to reopen next week

By HE WEI in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2020-05-07 07:01
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That Shanghai Disneyland will reopen to the public on May 11, the first Disney theme park to open again after being closed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, is another sign that things are getting back to normal in China. [Photo/Xinhua]

Shanghai Disneyland is set to become the first Walt Disney Co theme park to reopen after novel coronavirus-related closure as China embarks on a steady path to normalcy in daily life and business activity.

The park, scheduled to reopen on Monday, said it will follow a deliberate approach by implementing a list of enhanced health and safety measures.

Bob Chapek, who became the Walt Disney CEO in February, said on an earnings call Wednesday morning that the decision, made jointly with local partner Shanghai Shendi Group, follows "encouraging signs of a gradual return to some semblance of normalcy in China" and the successful reopenings of facilities adjacent to the park, including Disneytown, a shopping, dining and entertainment complex, and Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, in March.

"We will take a phased approach with limits on attendance, using an advanced reservation and entry system, controlled guest density using social distancing and strict, government-required health and prevention procedures," he said. "These include the use of masks, temperature screenings and other contact tracing and early detection systems."

Visitors can check opening hours and purchase tickets starting 8 am Friday via the Shanghai Resort's online channels and official travel partners' channels. In the initial reopening phase, advanced ticketing and reservations will be required to maintain limited attendance.

Chapek said the park has a capacity of 80,000 visitors per day and the government has mandated they operate at 30 percent capacity, or around 24,000 visitors.

The park will open at far below that capacity at first and gradually ramp up to reach the 30 percent cap in a few weeks, when it may even lift some of the restrictions, Chapek said.

"The reservation model could effectively shorten the waiting time for each ride, thereby enhancing the overall experience," said Qiu Tai, an annual pass holder in her 30s who visits the park once or twice a month.

Shanghai Disneyland will also accommodate social distancing in lines, restaurants, ride vehicles and other facilities throughout the park, and it will increase the frequency of sanitization and disinfection.

"Wearing a mask could actually help keep out the wind when I finally get to board the superfast Tron (roller coaster) again. I should definitely take a photo in that outfit," said Han Lulu, a Shanghai accountant and annual pass holder.

The Shanghai theme park was shuttered Jan 25 in connection with COVID-19 at the height of its spread in China. All Disney's 12 theme parks have remained closed since mid-March. Disney's parks, experiences and consumer products segment had been the company's fastest-growing profit driver, but recent closures cut 10 percent from the segment's revenue in the second fiscal quarter.

The phased reopening, with precautions, shows the delicate balance between epidemic control and rebooting businesses, which is conducive to economic development in the long term, said Bai Guo, an assistant professor of strategy at China Europe International Business School.

"The reopening offers a ray of hope, suggesting the virus can be contained. It will also help the nation's service sector gain confidence and prevent capital from flowing into the likes of real estate," she said.

The reopening isn't expected to just boost consumption but also reinvigorate the labor market, said Li Qian, an assistant professor specialized in tourism economy at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

"Disneyland per se can effectively drive other closely related businesses like catering, accommodation, merchandising and the wider travel sector," she said.

Hit hard by the virus, the entertainment, leisure and tourism industry is showing initial signs of bouncing back. During the May Day holiday, from Friday to Tuesday, Shanghai welcomed 7.07 million tourists, driving sales of 9.5 billion yuan ($1.3 billion), according to the Shanghai Tourism Administration.

The reopening also arrives as the metropolis has just kicked off a series of consumption-boosting events, including massive discounts and new product launches by many international consumer brands.

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