Okay, I am going start a daily blog with updates on how the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) is affecting the travel and tourism industry worldwide.
[8:56pm ET] Universal Orlando wraps up the major theme park closings in the United States, with its announcement. Details.
[8:28pm ET] Disney has announced that the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris theme parks will close, and the Disney Cruise Line will suspend all sailings after this weekend. Full story.
[6:19pm ET] Now Universal Studios Hollywood is closing, also effective Saturday. But the park is anticipating a March 28 reopening.
[4:30pm ET] The Disneyland theme parks will close, effective Saturday, and remain closed through the end of the month. (See our story for more, and comments.) Also, the NCAA has canceled its basketball tournaments.
[3:11pm ET] The US State Department has issued a Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) advisory for the entire world.
The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19. Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.
There are four levels in the State Department's advisory system, with Level 4 being "Do Not Travel." Fifteen countries have Level 4 advisories in the State Department's system, including China and Iran.
[2:32pm ET] So apparently, the California governor's order on banning gatherings of more than 250 people does not apply to theme parks.
Newsom: Disney, other theme parks have "complex" and "unique" circumstances. That's why they were exempt from general order limiting gatherings of 250+ ppl.— John Dabkovich (@JohnDabkovich) March 12, 2020
I'm really curious to hear the science behind that exemption. By the way, I emailed PR reps at Disney and Universal this morning for comment on Newsom's order and I've heard back nothing so far. (Which is unusual - typically, they get back to me quickly.)
Also, Broadway theaters have announced that they will be closing. The NHL also suspended its season. (There are more sports-related notes in the comments.)
[2:14pm ET] Dollywood has postponed its media day planned for tomorrow, though the parks will open to passholders tomorrow and the public as planned on Saturday.
"The exciting economic news we planned to share does not seem appropriate based on what is going on. It doesn’t feel right," Dolly Parton said in a statement issued by the park. "We need to focus on good health and praying for those who are affected. We know brighter days are ahead."
[1:11pm ET] Warner Park Madrid in Spain has closed.
Siguiendo las recomendaciones de las autoridades sanitarias competentes, Parque Warner ha decidido extremar el cuidado de sus visitantes y empleados mediante la suspensión de su apertura este fin de semana. Seguiremos informando puntualmente a través de nuestra página Web y RRSS. pic.twitter.com/IhgrVVDJrA— Parque Warner Madrid (@ParqueWarner) March 12, 2020
[12:40pm ET] Universal Studios Hollywood has postponed its Bravo’s Top Chef Food & Wine Festival, scheduled for March 19 and 20. The park previously postpone its Peacock Live event that was skedded for the next week.
[12:26pm ET] First up and potentially of greatest relevance to theme park fans, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that state public health experts have announced that gatherings with 250 people or more should be rescheduled or canceled. The state is defining a gathering as "any event or convening that brings together people in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, cafeteria, or any other indoor or outdoor space."
Obviously, that describes a great deal of theme park operations. And given that the state is advising that smaller gathering continue only if organizers can implement 6 feet of "social distancing," that means it will be difficult for Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, SeaWorld, and even ovie theaters to stay open without substantial changes to their operations, including limiting capacity in shows (loading only alternate rows, for example), pulsing queues so that people are spaced properly and canceling fireworks, parades and other events that would bring thousands of people together in an area. For example, Disneyland Paris today canceled its parades and outdoors shows and is limiting indoor show, queue and some restaurant capacity to comply with new French requirements on crowd sizes.
So far, no word from any of the local parks on how they will be responding to the governor's statement.
In other news...
Princess Cruises has suspended all operations until May. Princess was the cruise line most affected by the recent quarantines, with the Diamond Princess in Tokyo and Grand Princess in San Francisco.
The NBA has suspended its season after a member of the Utah Jazz tested positive for Covid-19. That forced the quarantine of Jazz players, as well as potentially players from other teams the Jazz has played recently. With multiple teams in quarantine, you can't play a season.
The big news last night was President Trump announcing a travel ban on flights from Europe. After his speech, the Department of Homeland Security "clarified" (my quotes) the president's remarks by detailing that the new policy actually bars foreign nationals who have been in any of the Schengen zone countries from the past 14 days from entering the United States. American citizens can continue to reenter the US from Europe, but they must return via selected airports where expanded screening can take place.
In practice, though, the order will shut down air traffic between the US and Europe, as airlines are not going to want to run nearly empty flights with no European-based crew members. I can kinda see the rationale here, if the US wanted to bar people who have visited Italy from entering the country. Since there are no passport checks between Schengen countries, there's no way to know by checking a passport if a person who has entered the Schengen zone has been to Italy, other than taking someone's word for it. (Which is a pretty weak policy.) So you bar entry by anyone from the Schengen zone, save for US citizens who have a pretty much absolute right to enter their own country.
The trouble is that Covid-19 is already spreading within the US, so the horse has left the barn here.Tweet
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