Shanghai Disneyland reopens next Monday — first Disney park in the world post-COVID-19

Business & Technology
A few tourists visit Disneytown, which opens and where buildings and decorations full of Disney elements stand, Shanghai, China, 9 March 2020.
/ Credit: Shanghai Disneyland — Reuters / Xia Lei

Shanghai Disneyland was the first of Disney’s theme parks to close on January 25 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning next Monday, May 11, it will be the first to reopen. Visitors will be able to board rides and eat at Disney cafes and restaurants, while serving as test cases for the company’s other attractions and the theme park industry as a whole.

The world’s largest entertainment company has already taken a staggering $1.4 billion hit to its earnings this year, with the company’s theme-park division most impacted. Disney’s net income for the first quarter fell 91% to $475 million. Earnings are likely to decline even further in the current quarter.

Tickets for the Shanghai theme park will go on sale online on Friday. The park has capacity for 84,000 guests, but China’s central government has mandated that tourist attractions operate at 30% capacity. Shanghai Disneyland will restrict visitors even further than that, and gradually build up to the maximum allowed as it plans a phased reopening of the park.

Disney may undertake different strategies at its other venues, such as in Central Florida, where a task force commission recommended parks reopen at 50% capacity. So far, Disney’s parks in Florida and elsewhere in the world remain closed, and have not announced plans for reopening.

In China, Disney reopened some of its retail and entertainment attractions in early March, including Wishing Star Park, Disneytown and the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. Joe Schott, President and General Manager of Shanghai Disney Resort, said the company “will draw on the learnings” from those venues for the reopening of its theme park.

All visitors to the park will have to purchase tickets online in advance, wear masks, have their temperature screened upon entry, and show their government-issued QR code which provides contact tracing and serves as a COVID-19 detection system. Visitors will also not be allowed to take selfies with Disney characters.

Dr. Pamela Hymel, the Chief Medical Officer for Disney Parks, calls the reopening of Shanghai Disneyland “an encouraging sign for Disney parks and retail locations all over the world.”

Hymel says Disney is studying a gradual reopening of all of its locations, and exploring ways to use technology, such as the Play Disney Parks App, to implement virtual queues. Disney is also determining where high-traffic areas may necessitate increased cleaning, and products and processes they will use.

Hymel says she is “working closely with the U.S. Travel Association on a set of guidelines the travel industry may tailor to their individual businesses to help demonstrate that safety of travelers is a top focus.”

“We continue to learn from these experiences and will carry these lessons into reopening and beyond,” Hymel says.