by Joe Kleiman, Editor-in-Chief of InPark News
ABOVE: Tokyo, host city of the 2020 Summer Olympics. Courtesy of the International Olympic Committee.
International travel restrictions
As mainland China prepared to celebrate its New Year, a deadly virus began to spread throughout the country. The attractions and tourism industry was immediately hit [see InPark online article âChinaâs attraction industry feels impact of viral outbreakâ]. One response has been to shut down all public spaces where crowds congregate, including theme parks, zoos, aquariums, museums and other attractions. It remains to be seen how things will develop operationally and financially in the longer term.
Shortly after the Chinese tourism industry shut down, the World Health Organization announced a name for the novel coronavirus outbreak – COVID-19. A number of countries have imposed travel restrictions on China, with the US State Department raising its travel advisory level to its highest level on February 2 – âDo not travelâ.
As a precaution, a number of international conferences, festivals and sporting events planned in China, Macau and Hong Kong have been postponed, canceled or moved to other countries, including the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. , the PGA Tour China, Art Basil Hong Kong, Hong Kong International Film Festival and Beijing Attractions Expo of the China Amusement Park Association.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has moved a boxing qualifying event for the Olympic Games from Tokyo to Amman, Jordan. The event was originally scheduled to take place in Wuhan, China, believed to be the source of COVID-19. The IOC is also monitoring the virus and its potential impact on the next two Olympic Games, Tokyo in 2020 and Beijing in 2022.
In addition to those from mainland China, travel restrictions have also been imposed by a number of countries on visitors to the autonomous regions of Macau and Hong Kong, with Taiwan instituting a travel ban on arrivals from the three territories. At midnight on February 20, exactly the same time a mandatory 15-day closure of its casinos was lifted, Macau instituted a mandatory quarantine at two newly operational facilities for visitors to areas infected with COVID-19. In Hong Kong, the border with mainland China remains open, although all passers-by are subject to a 14-day quarantine. In a recent development, the Walt Disney Company agreed that vacant land adjacent to the Hong Kong Disneyland theme park be used for the construction of new quarantine facilities. Disney has determined that the long-term closure of its parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai will result in a loss of $ 320 million for the current quarter.
Near Tokyo, the Diamond Princess cruise ship, owned by Carnival Society was quarantined at the port of Yokohama due to an outbreak of COVID-19 on board. The situation was closely covered by the mainstream press. There are concerns about what an outbreak in Japan could mean not only for residents of the country, but for athletes and guests competing in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which are slated to begin in July. With a cost of over $ 25 billion, the economic impact of the Games is also threatened.
Elsewhere within the cruise community, World Dream, operated by Dream Cruises, a subsidiary of Genting Resorts World, underwent a four-day quarantine in the port of Hong Kong after three former passengers tested positive for the virus. . Holland America’s Westerdam ship, which left Hong Kong on February 1, docked in Cambodia after being turned away from ports in Thailand, the Philippines, Japan and Taiwan.
In light of recent incidents on cruise ships, the International Association of Cruise Lines (CLIA), which represents twenty-seven of the world’s largest cruise lines, has issued the following guidelines:
â¢ CLIA Members must deny boarding to all persons who have traveled, visited or transited through airports in China, including Hong Kong and Macau, within 14 days of boarding.
â¢ CLIA members should deny boarding to all persons who, in the 14 days prior to boarding, have been in close contact with, or assisted in treating, anyone suspected or diagnosed as having COVID-19. , or who is currently under medical surveillance for possible exposure to COVID-19.
â¢ CLIA members must complete the pre-boarding checks necessary to implement these preventive measures. Reinforced screening and initial medical support should be provided, as needed, to anyone with symptoms of suspected COVID-19.
Theme parks and international attractions
Various international parks and attractions, particularly in Asia, have put in place a number of different approaches to deal with COVID-19 threats. In Japan, the Oriental Land Company’s Tokyo Disney Resort has required cast members to wear face masks since late January. At Resorts World Sentosa, headquarters of Universal Studios Singapore, a casino employee tested positive for the virus in early February. Since then, the resort has implemented a number of precautionary measures, including increased sanitation, thermal monitoring of guests at casino and attraction entrances, and temperature monitoring of every resort employee at least once a day. day.
Although not all countries or international parks are directly affected by the COVID-19 virus, the impact is visible on the fiscal front, with a sharp decrease in visits from Chinese travelers. malay The Association of Amusement Theme Park & ââFamily Attractions (MAATFA) reports that attendance at its member attraction is down 80% for the first twenty days of February.
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) has made resources on the coronavirus available to its members, including a webinar on COVID-19 protocols for tourist attractions. The association will decide in March whether it will organize the IAAPA Expo Asia, scheduled for Macau in June, or change location.
The Theme entertainment association (TEA), which has many members based and working in China and across the Asia-Pacific region, is also closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation. In a prepared statement, International Board Chairman Michael Blau and COO Jennie Nevin said:
Together with the TEA International Board of Directors and TEA Headquarters staff, we are working to determine how TEA – as an international membership association – can best meet and serve the needs of members and the organization. industry as the situation continues to unfold. We stay up to date on information shared by the World Health Organization. We are in regular communication with our leaders and members around the world. We are committed to responding appropriately and sharing relevant information in a timely manner.
Over the next few weeks and months, we will continue to facilitate networking and dialogue as much as possible, in a safe and accessible manner. During this difficult time, fostering communication between member companies and preserving the networking opportunities, international goodwill and collaborative team spirit that are at the heart of TEA’s culture and mission will help strengthen TEA’s culture and mission. strength of our global business community.
Among the first governments to declare a health emergency is the island province of Hainan. On February 20, China Duty Free Group (CDF) reopened its luxury duty-free stores in Hainan, including its flagship CDF Mall (above), the world’s largest duty-free store. At the same time, the shops, restaurants and hotels of the Atlantis Sanya Resort have reopened, although the resort’s water park, aquarium and dolphinarium remain closed.
While the COVID-19 outbreak will have long-term implications for the Chinese and global economies, especially in the tourism sector, it will also have short- and long-term ramifications for the operation of attractions. Just as the response to the events of September 11, 2001 permanently altered the transportation landscape and instituted new safety measures for the global attractions industry, we will begin to see a reassessment of how we approach public health in the world. long-term tourism environments. .