Disneyland has been closed since March 14th of this year.
Recently, California released its theme park reopening guidelines for Disneyland and other theme parks in the state. Health officials are saying that Disneyland may not open until next summer, so how will this further affect Southern California’s economy?
A major aspect for California theme parks to reopen involves new coronavirus cases. In order for theme parks to reopen, the county they are located in must be under a certain percentage.
The guidelines require that Orange County (the county that Disneyland resides in) reaches the minimum tier for Disneyland to be able to reopen. That means there must be less than 1 new daily case per 100,000 people over seven days. New cases in Orange County vary every day according to the Orange County Health Care Agency, and just yesterday Orange County moved back into the purple widespread tier.
With several aspects of Southern California’s economy open like restaurants and shops, it will difficult for numbers to get low enough for Disneyland to open. That is why several California mayors sent a letter to Governor Newsom asking him to consider allowing theme parks to open in the moderate tier.
According to the OC Register, the global pandemic has hit Southern California’s economy pretty hard. Even though parts of California are open, the business is significantly less than it was prior. In the article, it states that an analyst believes the virus will continue to impact the economy through 2021. Retail sales are projected to take a plunge of 38% and unemployment rates are expected to be at their highest levels since the Great Depression for the next 19 months. Disney is a large part of retail and employment for the area, which we will dig into more later.
The biggest issue that Disneyland and other theme parks in California had with the guidelines is that they require relatively unachievable low levels of cases to exist (at least in the near future), which would make it difficult for theme parks to open anytime soon. Although those California mayors have sent a letter to the governor, there has not been a response yet.
With health officials saying they do not expect Disneyland to open until at least the summer of 2021, the economy will only be hit harder. According to the OC Register, analyst Anil Puri of Cal State is predicting a $5 billion loss in Southern California’s economy. The shutdown has already cost $3 billion, and he says there will be another $2 billion loss by March of 2021, one year after the initial closure.
Anil also says, “it might not be until late 2021 that the tourism business returns to a more normal pace, but it depends on how you and I behave.” Even though the closure is going to further impact the economy negatively, it will not be a smooth road back to normal after the reopening.
Extended closures also mean that there are less people traveling to Southern California. The state was on track to lose $72 billion in the tourism industry, which is nearly half of what it generated in 2019 alone according to the OC Register. The longer that the theme parks are closed, the longer the tourism in Southern California will continue to suffer.
Disney announced back in September that they would be cutting 28,000 jobs across the company. Many Cast Members have already been affected by these layoffs. Many Disney entertainers have recently been hit by the layoffs and even though there is no plan to reopen, a number of Disneyland Cast Members have already been laid off.
According to the OC Register, these Disneyland layoffs consist of 2,800 restaurant workers. Disneyland also announced that Frozen and Mickey and the Magical Map would not be returning to the parks. Currently, 67,000 people are either furloughed or laid off in the leisure and hospitality industry — this includes Disneyland employees.
Orange County’s unemployment rate is around 9%, but could grow during the winter months according to Voice of OC. As Disneyland remains closed until further notice and with the hard-to-meet guidelines, Disneyland employees could face even more layoffs. This will depend on how long the closure continues.
While Disneyland’s future is still very uncertain, it is clear that the closures have a huge impact on Southern California’s economy. Disneyland already has a plan for health and safety measures, so when the time comes it will be a safe place for guests to visit. As always, we will keep you updated on the latest surrounding Disneyland’s closures and reopening guidelines.
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What do you think of the California reopening guidelines? Let us know in the comments.