July 22, 2020
Disneyland Responds to Virus Escalation in Hong Kong
Even as countless fans queued up to enter Disney World in Orlando, the company’s sister park, Hong Kong Disneyland was, once again, closing its doors.
The park only remained reopened a few weeks and chose to close again after officials in Hong Kong tightened social distancing restrictions. The move was a blow to Disney, as the entertainment company struggles to find the right narrative message between protecting its staff and guests and inviting people to enjoy their parks.
Announcing the decision, a Disney spokesperson said: “As required by the government and health authorities in line with prevention efforts taking place across Hong Kong, Hong Kong Disneyland park will temporarily close from July 15… (our hotels) will remain open with adjusted levels of service…”
The company also issued a statement further explaining the decision: “They (government officials) have put in place enhanced health and safety measures that reflect the guidance of health and government authorities, such as social distancing measures and increased cleaning and sanitization….”
At the same time, in Florida, guests continued to throng to the recently reopened Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando. Disney has announced a series of enhanced safety and sanitation measures to help park guests remain safe so that the parks can operate while minimizing the risk of spreading COVID-19. Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, addressed the current situation but called the parks and resorts safe: “We are in a new normal… The world is a different place, but we feel really prepared to operate in this new environment…”
While legions of loyal Disney parks fans lauded the decision, announcing public plans to visit the parks as soon as possible, many others decried the decision to open the parks as too soon and unsafe. Making a decision in this consumer environment is a conundrum facing countless businesses in the United States, large and small. They want to be open and serve their customers, but they don’t want to put anyone in danger.
For some, the economic realities are inescapable: be in business now or close the doors for good. For others, the end result of either being open or staying closed remains uncertain, as do the health consequences for their employees and customers. With strong, vocal, and active advocacy groups at both ends of these questions, brands and businesses need to be very careful about how they answer these questions, and even more careful about how they disclose and discuss these decisions.
The “right” decision with the “wrong” narrative could burn a business, even if they are doing their best to make the most appropriate decision. In the case of Disney, the Orlando parks are open, and the Hong Kong parks are, for the moment, closed due to official intervention. Disney didn’t have to make that call… but they have made others, and they need to prepare in advance for whatever comes next.