We went inside Hong Kong Disneyland’s reopening. Here’s what we saw

After shutting its doors for nearly five months as Hong Kong confirmed its first coronavirus case, Disneyland Hong Kong reopened to the public last week — but with new safety precautions including compulsory face masks for all guests, temperature checks and safe distancing measures.

CNBC attended its re-opening day to see how theme parks in the post-pandemic world might look like.

Hong Kong Disneyland is only the second of Disney’s parks to reopen. It follows in the footsteps of Shanghai, which reopened its park last month at 30% capacity, due to government mandates. 

Likewise, Hong Kong is operating at a reduced capacity. However, a Hong Kong Disneyland spokesperson told CNBC that Shanghai’s capacity is significantly lower than its own, but did not elaborate.

Disneyland, Disney World, Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo Disneyland are planning to reopen their parks in July with similar measures. Likewise, Universal Studios Parks & Resorts is also gradually reopening in phases at limited capacity.

Guests arrive to Hong Kong Disneyland, after nearly five months of the park being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Reservations to Disneyland Hong Kong must be made online at least seven days in advance, along with a health declaration.

Dozens of staff members throughout the park held signs reading, “Please maintain appropriate social distance.” 

Cast members, like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, are now making cameos around the park, but due to social distancing measures, meet-and-greet events have been suspended.

An employee at Hong Kong Disneyland.

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Yet, even as theme parks reopen, a quick recovery is unlikely to happen anytime soon, with economies contracting and unemployment at record levels.

The global amusement parks sector is expected to shrink by 2.7% to $71.6 billion in 2020, compared to $73.5 billion a year before, according to Research and Markets.

In February, Disney said it expected to lose up to $175 million if its parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai remained closed for two months — which they did.

To add to the challenges, Hong Kong Disneyland was already struggling before the pandemic. At the start of 2020, the park announced losses of more than $13 million for the 2019 fiscal year, as social unrest in the city deterred visitors to Hong Kong.

Loyal theme park visitors – or season pass holders — have often provided theme parks with a source of recurring revenue stream in recent years, but that relationship may be under strain amid tighter wallets and safety concerns.

Until Covid-19 testing becomes ubiquitous and a vaccine is found, the slump in visitors to theme parks is expected to last for two years, according to a Wells Fargo Securities report.

An employee at Hong Kong Disneyland, following the park’s reopening.

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