Disney reopens biggest Asia resort at one-third of capacity

Shanghai gets the coronavirus outbreak under control

published : 11 May 2020 at 15:45

A visitor dressed as a Disney character takes a selfie while wearing a protective face mask at Shanghai Disney Resort as the Shanghai Disneyland theme park reopens on Monday. (Reuters photo)

The Walt Disney Company has reopened its biggest Asia resort after a four-month shutdown, as Shanghai's health authorities eased restrictions on public gatherings after getting the coronavirus outbreak in the megacity of 24 million people under control.

The first batch of 200 visitors entered the park as soon the gates opened at 9.30am (8.30am Thailand time). Entry to the park is being staggered and guests would be allowed entry based on time slots specified on their tickets.

Monday's tickets for Shanghai Disneyland, restricted to one-third of its normal daily capacity of 80,000 visitors, sold out within minutes on Friday for 399 yuan (1,800 baht) each, according to the company's website.

The reopening of the US$5.5 billion wonderland – the biggest of Disney's three resorts in Asia – is good news for the Burbank, California-based company. The coronavirus pandemic helped lop off US$1.4 billion of its operating income, by shutting cinemas and theme parks around the world during the three months to March 31 versus a year earlier.

"The reduced capacity on the reopening day enables visitors to better enjoy the attractions and facilities," said Jenny Kong, a Shanghai resident who secured a ticket through online booking last Friday. "My mother and I decided to become the first batch of guests, putting aside concerns that the virus would spread among the crowd. There was a fierce competition for the tickets."

Shanghai would be the first of Disney's 12 theme parks across half a dozen global resorts to reopen for business, as China declares early victory in the fight against the pandemic even as it continues to ravage economies in Europe and the Americas.

Disney is keeping its US, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris parks closed, but will open a limited number of shops and restaurants in its Disney Springs mall outside its resorts in Orlando, Florida, on May 20.

The Covid-19 disease has sickened 83,740 people and claimed 4,633 lives in mainland China since it was first reported in January in the central Hubei provincial capital of Wuhan.

The improving health situation has given Chinese authorities the confidence to gradually roll back the draconian quarantine, lockdown and stay-at-home orders that had been so effective in containing the spread of the pandemic. Government offices and businesses alike are anxious to resume work to reboot a slumping economy, even if they are wary of second or third wave of infections.

Shanghai Disneyland's operations resumed with slight alterations to the usual routine. While most of the park's rides and attractions, including all of its shops, cafes and restaurants, were open, several theatre shows and children's play areas remained shuttered.

To prevent large groups gathering, parades and nighttime "spectaculars" including the fireworks were put on hold for the time being. Visitors were prohibited from engaging in close interactions, including taking selfies with Mickey Mouse, Elsa or any of the theme park's iconic characters.

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