Theme parks in GBA taking baby steps to resume

Guangdong’s Provincial Culture and Travel Department has released a guideline on the resumption of work in the cultural tourism industry, which seems to say that it is up to local governments to approve the reopening of establishments that have been closed for more than six weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The announcement, which came out on Thursday last week, says priority should be given to outdoor venues, nature spots, and other “low-risk attractions”. It also says “accommodations” may be reopened, though it is not clear whether this means only hotels and guest houses at the designated “low-risk” attractions. 

The only strict requirement appears to be that daily traffic at any tourism attraction should not be more than half of its maximum capacity.

Hopes have been rising for the past two weeks that the tourism industry would get some kind of support from the government in its efforts to resume operations, after the provincial authorities on February 28 announced a lowering of its risk-alert level, which allowed the resumption of work. These were further raised on March 12 when news reports from Shanghai suggested Shanghai Disneyland had partially reopened a number of shops, restaurants, and hotels. 

However, the GBA’s biggest theme parks have remained closed, with the only exception appearing to be OCT East, the resort modeled on a Swiss village in the eastern side of Shenzhen, which has been partially reopened since March 3. 

Hong Kong’s Disneyland and Ocean Park have ceased operations since January 26, although hotels at or near both parks have remained open.

OCT West, located in Shenzhen’s Nanshan District, shut down all of its attractions, including Happy Valley, Window of the World, and Cultural Folk Village. 

Chimelong Group, with major parks in Panyu, Guangzhou and Hengqin, Zhuhai, have been closed since January 24.

Revenue losses are expected to be steep for the entire theme-park industry: about 7.76 billion yuan for Guangdong alone in the first quarter, according to official data. During the Chinese New Year period, visitation to Guangdong’s theme parks was down nearly 90% over the same period last year, the data shows. 

In the meantime, the parks have been trying different approaches to control costs. Ocean Park has begun putting staff on unpaid leave, as reported by SCMP. The Guangdong parks have been guarded about their plans, focusing instead on retraining rather than letting employees go or forcing them to take pay cuts.

“During the closure time, OCT will carry out business reviews and will further enhance operational efficiencies by controlling costs and protecting cash flow,” OCT management was reported as saying by Time Weekly.  “We will train employees during this time to help them quickly get back to work and maintain a high quality of service.”

The governments of the different jurisdictions have been looking at various support measures. Hong Kong’s government has proposed giving Ocean Park a HK$10.6 billion lifeline, which would include investment in upgrading. Guangdong’s government has said it is still considering various policies. 

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