Theme parks, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park are to reopen shortly, it was announced Monday. The parks, both government-owned, have been closed since late January due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Ocean Park, which recently revealed that it is close to bankruptcy and sought a government bailout, will open from Saturday (June 13), according to the territory’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Edward Yau. An exact date for the reopening of Disneyland has still to be decided.
Closure for over 130 days has severely crimped the financial position of both parks. On a conference call in February, Disney, which is a co-owner and operator, warned that Hong Kong Disneyland remains closed for two months operating income could decline by about $145 million.
In its financial year to end of September 2019, Hong Kong Disneyland lost $13.5 million (HK$105 million). It said that visitor numbers had increased by 5% in the nine months before political and social disruptions in the city began to dent tourist traffic.
In May, Ocean Park sought approval from legislators for an urgent bailout of $696 million (HK$5.4 billion). Some $387 million (HK$3 billion) of that is required to pay off a commercial loan. Leo Kung Lin-cheng, chairman of the park’s board of directors, said that without the bailout Ocean Park would run out of cash by June. The finance was granted in the last few days, despite opposition from pro-establishment and pro-democracy lawmakers.
“We want to reboot the economy in the second half of this year through new initiatives in tourism, external trade and trade insurance services,” Yau said. “We are confident we will ride out the economic doldrums.”
Among the other business activities cleared to restart are trade fairs and conventions. The first major one will be the Hong Kong Book Fair in July. In normal years it attracts huge numbers of local visitors. The move also paves the way for Hong Kong FilMart, the annual film and TV trade fair, which should have taken place in Mark, but had to be cancelled. It has now been shortened to three days and rescheduled to Aug 27-29. But for FilMart to go ahead in a meaningful fashion, Hong Kong will have to reopen its currently closed borders.
There has been no general re-opening of Hong Kong’s borders, but separately on Monday it was announced that Hong Kong will relax its 14-day quarantine on arrival rule for executives of 480 of the largest companies listed in the city. That includes Tencent and Alibaba.
“We want to open the border step-by-step, and it will be better to allow a limited number of people first, before expanding it further. It is, however, an important step to allow large companies to resume cross-border business travel to handle their business activities,” said secretary for financial services and the treasury Christopher Hui Ching-yu.
Hong Kong has recorded just over 1,100 cases of COVID-19 and only 4 deaths. The last fatality was in mid-March.
The economic outlook for Hong Kong, however, looks murky. Divisive proposals for a national security law imposed by the central government in Beijing, and a locally-enacted national security law have both brought protesters back onto the streets. The national security law has caused the U.S. to judge that Hong Kong is no longer autonomously governed. if the U.S. next follows through with a threat to withdraw Hong Kong’s special trading privileges, the territory’s status as a global financial and trading center will be in question.
The first quarter of the year saw Hong Kong’s economy shrink by 8.9% compared to the January-March 2019 period.