Wednesday, February 28, 2024

COVID-19 concerns result in park and attraction closures, industry event postponements worldwide

by Joe Kleiman, InPark Magazine News Editor

ABOVE: Courtesy Musée du Louvre

As this is a continually developing situation, the impact of COVID-19 changes from day to day. InPark’s previous updates “China’s attraction industry feels impact of viral outbreak” (Jan 27) and “Global attractions industry reacts to coronavirus outbreak” (Feb 21) focused on the shutdown of China’s tourism industry and the global industry’s response. This newest update will examine attraction closures conducted as preventative measures and the economic impact on the global attraction industry.

Different ports, different restrictions

As there are no established global standards, individual nations and companies are handling restrictions in the way each sees fit. While some countries are banning entry from the most heavily impacted regions of South Korea and Italy, others have instituted a mandatory quarantine for anyone who had spent time in any part of the entire country.

Individual transportation operators and governments have differing policies. For its Caribbean sailings, Disney Cruise Line is not allowing those who have been to China, Hong Kong and Macau, South Korea, Italy, Iran or Japan within 14 days of departure to board its ships. Once on board, the government of The Bahamas is prohibiting passengers who had been in China within 20 days of arrival from disembarking onto Bahamian soil, which includes the Disney-owned Castaway Cay. Those who have been to Singapore within 14 days of arrival, are not allowed to leave the ship in Jamaica.

Industry conventions postponed

A number of tradeshows and conferences around the world are postponing show dates.

DEAL. Courtesy International Expo Consultants

The Dubai Entertainment and Leisure Show (DEAL) has rescheduled from March to June. Show organizers stated, “…people from many countries are unable to travel abroad. This move is in the best interests of the entire FEC and theme park industry, as we would want to host a highly productive DEAL 2020 show for everyone.”

In Frankfurt, Prolight + Sound will, originally scheduled for early March, will now take place in late May, allowing Messe Frankfurt, the organizer of the show, time to prepare health checks for show attendees. “The current situation represents a major challenge for fair and exhibition companies from all over the world,” said Detlef Braun, Member of the Executive Board of Messe Frankfurt GmbH. “At the same time, we are delighted that numerous companies from the industry have emphasized the importance of holding the show as soon as possible so that they can use it for their product presentations and business development activities this year.”

Japan takes precautions
Captain Arma, last of the passengers and crew to depart the Diamond Princess. Courtesy Princess Cruise Line.

While a number of tourism venues throughout Asia were already employing preventative measures (InPark article “Global attractions industry reacts to coronavirus outbreak“), on February 29, the government of Japan closed all national museums and issued a request for the nation’s attractions, including theme parks, zoos, and aquariums to close through mid-March. The majority of venues have complied, including Tokyo Disney Resort, Universal Studios Japan, LEGOLAND Japan, SEGA Joypolis and Orbi, FUJI-Q Highland, Nagashima Spa Land and Kamogawa Sea World.

Museums around the world shut down

In South Korea, the heavily trafficked National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the National Museum of Korea are among the private and public museums to have closed indefinitely.

Courtesy Metropolitan City of Florence

Monica Ternelli of Parksmania shared with InPark about the situation in Italy. “For now the limitation of all activities with audiences is up to the 8th of March in the northern regions of Italy. This limitation is for cinemas, attractions, museums, all the sport activities, events such as Carnival, schools and university. The museums and cultural places like libraries and churches can open this week, if they follow some rules, such as few people being together in the same space, and a distance between groups.”

In France, the government placed a prohibition on indoor meetings exceeding 5,000 people. The Louvre closed unexpectedly in March for a three-day period, then reopened. “It’s a decision from employees who decided to demand their ‘right of withdraw’,” OOPARCs’ François Mayné told InPark, “In French labor law, right of withdraw allows employees to step down if they consider that they risk their lives or health while working. They voted every morning, which was quite confusing for the visitors because they didn’t know if the museum would open or not.” One of the conditions of the reopening – no staff in the box office, resulting in online ticket sales only.

Economic impact

Having as big, if not bigger, impact on the attraction business as temporary closures are travel restrictions. In addition to its impact on attractions, an inability for tourists from a region to partake in international vacations affects local hotel occupancy and retail and dining revenues. In her 2018 InPark Magazine article “Chinese tourists: a primary and growing market for visitor attractions” (Issue #75), Rona Gindin wrote, “…. according to ‘China 2016 L.A. Visitor Profile’ shared by Discover Los Angeles, in 2016, 90 percent of visitors from China did indeed shop, while 62 percent dined in high-end restaurants and 58 percent visited amusement or theme parks. These visitors – whose numbers skyrocketed from 273,000 in 2010 to 1.3 million in 2018 (the last two years are estimated), spent $206 a day.” Domestic tourism within China is also affected.

Legend Siam

Southeast Asia is one of the markets being notably affected by the loss of tourists from mainland China. In Thailand, where visitation from China was down 58.88% from the year before for the period January 1 – Feb 20 (source: Association of Thai Travel Agents), the Legend Saim theme park in Pattaya closed indefinitely on March 3 due to a 95% drop in attendance, primarily from China. In Taiwan, the country’s six leading parks have been offering substantial discounts and free admission days to increase local attendance in response to the loss of mainland Chinese tourists.

According to Tourism Australia, Australia saw 1.44 million visitors from China in 2019, which amounted to 0.6% of the country’s GDP. 3.627 Chinese million visited Singapore in 2019, where China is the largest foreign tourism source. Both nations have instituted travel bans on those who have been in China – for Singapore, anyone within the past 14 days and in Australia, 20 days.

Closer to China, the Macau Government Tourism Office reports that visitation during Spring Festival (Chinese New Year week), the busiest travel and tourism week of the year, decreased 78.3% from 2019. Visitation from mainland China during the period decreased by 80%. Following Spring Festival, casinos and public venues such as theaters, cinemas, and spas underwent a mandatory 15-day closure. As of this time, arrivals data for the closure periods has yet to be released.

Even when Chinese tourism is not involved, numbers appear to be down in some regions, and uncertainty prevails. Monica Ternelli of Parksmania noted that “for the Italian amusement parks sector, that is a real emergency, because it is obviously linked to the tourist flow, domestic and international. The main parks of Northern Italy recorded 90% less in spring bookings.”

Be prepared

As the situation is continually changing, the best action to take for those in the attractions industry is to be prepared. Know that COVID-19 may have an impact on your attraction’s operations or on your ability to conduct international business. Both IAAPA and the TEA have updated their websites with the latest resources.

Joe Kleiman
Joe Kleiman
Raised in San Diego on theme parks, zoos, and IMAX films, InPark's Senior Correspondent Joe Kleiman would expand his childhood loves into two decades as a projectionist and theater director within the giant screen industry. In addition to his work in commercial and museum operations, Joe has volunteered his time to animal husbandry at leading facilities in California and Texas and has played a leading management role for a number of performing arts companies. Joe previously served as News Editor and has remained a contributing author to InPark Magazine since 2011. HIs writing has also appeared in Sound & Communications, LF Examiner, Jim Hill Media, The Planetarian, Behind the Thrills, and MiceChat His blog, takes an unconventional look at the attractions industry. Follow on twitter @ThemesRenewed Joe lives in Sacramento, California with his wife, dog, and a ghost.

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