January 24, 2020 / 6:45 AM / in a month

Shanghai Disney shuts to prevent spread of virus

BEIJING (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co’s Shanghai Disney Resort will be closed until further notice to help China stop the spread of a flu-like virus, costing the theme park operator revenue during the country’s biggest holiday season.

Visitors wearing masks walk past Shanghai Disney Resort, that will be closed during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday following the outbreak of a new coronavirus, in Shanghai, China January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

China is on a seven-day Lunar New Year holiday, a period when the Shanghai Disney park would be usually packed with tourists. Last year Shanghai Disney had to stop selling tickets to visitors as the park got overcrowded.

“In response to the prevention and control of the disease outbreak and in order to ensure the health and safety of our guests and Cast, Shanghai Disney Resort is temporarily closing Shanghai Disneyland, Disneytown ... starting Jan. 25,” the company said on its website.

“We will continue to carefully monitor the situation and ... announce the reopening date upon confirmation.”

Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, and neighbouring Huanggang, a city of about 7 million people, were in virtual lockdown, with restrictions in place elsewhere. A new coronavirus which broke out in Wuhan, central China, late last year has killed 25 people and infected more than 800.

Many businesses including retailers, airlines, travel agencies and hotel operators are on high alert, as health authorities fear the infection rate could accelerate over the Lunar New Year, when hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad.

The outbreak has already prompted seven Chinese films that were set to premiere during the holiday to postpone screenings, forgoing what is usually the best week of the year at the Chinese box office.

Disney said it would refund tickets for admission to Shanghai Disneyland, on China’s east coast, more than 800 km from Wuhan, or other services at the park as well as hotel bookings.

The estimated financial impact on the U.S. company’s first theme park in mainland China, which opened in mid-2016 in its largest overseas investment at $5.5 billion, was not immediately clear.

The company was not immediately available to comment.

Shanghai Disney carried out a resort-wide makeover this month for a four-week event through Feb. 9 to celebrate the Year of the Rat with its characters including Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse and target China’s middle class and booming domestic tourism.

Walt Disney Co owns a 43% stake in Shanghai Disney Resort which has Shanghai Disneyland theme park and two hotels with a total of 1,220 rooms.

The impact on businesses is set to increase as China discourages locals from gathering in crowded places. It has already stepped up measures to contain the virus, with public transport suspensions in 10 cities, the shutting of temples and closing the Forbidden City, Beijing’s most famous tourist attraction.

Japan’s Fast Retailing Co Ltd said on Friday it has temporarily closed 17 Uniqlo stores in Wuhan. China is a key growth market for the company which faces a saturated market and weak consumer spending in Japan.

Writing by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Sam Holmes, Shri Navaratnam and Alison Williams

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