Signifying where the global tourism sector is headed in the next few months, Disney World officially announced its closure from March 15 to the end of the month.
As the coronavirus outbreak spreads across more areas of the United States, federal health agencies have warned folks from congregating en masse. In order to help citizens make better decisions for public health, several public spaces, such as malls and schools, are shutting down. Even some of the nation's biggest events of the year, like March Madness and Coachella, have been canceled due to the growing pandemic. Following suit is one of the largest tourist destinations in the country: Walt Disney World. The entertainment complex rarely ever shuts down, which points to the seriousness of the situation, CNN Business reports.
Walt Disney World is Walt Disney Co.'s flagship theme park resort in Orlando, Florida. The company officially announced that it would close it down in addition to the closure of Disneyland Paris. Furthermore, the firm has suspended all new departures with the Disney Cruise Line. Earlier this week, Walt Disney Co. also announced that it would be closing down its iconic theme park Disneyland in Anaheim, California. This means the company has officially shuttered the gates on all of its major theme parks and resorts - 11 in total - across multiple continents, including those of North America, Europe, and Asia.
A Walt Disney Co. spokesperson explained in a statement, "In an abundance of caution and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of our theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Paris Resort, beginning at the close of business on Sunday, March 15, through the end of the month." Soon after the announcement, Universal Orlando Resort, Florida, similarly announced it too would be closing down at the end of the business day on March 15. Like Disney World, this is a temporary closure until it is safe to gather en masse.
The closure of these theme parks is a telling sign about how serious the coronavirus pandemic is. According to reports, The Magic Kingdom located at Walt Disney World is the most-visited theme park in the world. An estimated 20 million individuals visited the theme park in 2018. The company is therefore set to file huge losses in the upcoming few weeks. In addition to its other ventures, Disney's parks and resorts are one of the most influential drivers of revenue for the firm. In the fiscal year of 2019 alone, its Parks, Experiences, and Products division generated more than a whopping $26 billion in sales. This represents over a quarter of their overall revenue (about 37 percent). Now that's a pretty big deal.
While the theme parks will be shut down, the hotels at Disney World and Disneyland Paris, Disney announced, would remain open until further notice. What is most impressive, however, is the fact that Walt Disney Co. categorically stated that they plan to pay its cast members during this closure period. Meanwhile, domestic employees at Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Television, ESPN, and at its direct-to-consumer parks and products divisions have been instructed to work from home, a privilege not offered to many employees at this time. Nonetheless, the closure of Disney World is just another sign of where the global tourism sector is headed in the next few months. Trip Miller, a Disney shareholder and managing partner at Gullane Capital Partners, explained in an interview with CNN Business, "These parks are iconic brands etched in the culture of America and every childhood. To close assets of this scale around the world would speak to the seldom-seen seriousness of this health threat." Hopefully, federal health agencies will soon be able to bring everything back to normalcy in the United States.