When the coronavirus pandemic started sweeping across China following its start in the Wuhan region, Shanghai Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland were among the first major tourist destinations in the world to close.
Shanghai Disney Resort officially shut down in January and became the first Disney theme park to reopen on May 11. Hong Kong Disneyland followed on June 18 — but shut down again just 27 days later and didn’t reopen again until September.
The Shanghai theme park, however, however, has continually beaten the odds, having immense operational success even as they continue with new phases of their reopening process — this includes allowing more Guests to enter the parks, adding new character meet-and-greet experiences, and even relaunching its nighttime spectacular fireworks show!
Now, Shanghai Disneyland President Joe Schott has spoken out about how the Disney Park has succeeded where others have not in a new interview on the IAAPA website.
Schott stressed positivity and focusing on Guests’ and Cast Members’ needs throughout the interview. When asked about pioneering the reopening process for other theme parks — and general businesses — around the globe, Schott replied:
We started with having to reimagine the guest experience. As you think about the entry pattern and other things that we needed to do differently, we had to prioritize the safety and health of our guests and cast while still preserving a really magical experience along the way.
We had to make changes daily. We’d have conversations a couple of times a day and then regroup each night.
Schott went on to praise Shanghai Disney Guests, saying:
We didn’t have complications with the Guest behavior. Guests were doing exactly what we had hoped that they would do and in a very respectful way. I think most of it was us trying to be as perfect as can be in the magical execution of what we were delivering.
Shanghai Disneyland — like all other Disney Parks worldwide — has a number of new health and safety protocols, including mandatory face masks, social distancing guidelines, and modified experiences designed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Schott addressed the theme park’s reopening day in May, calling it “as emotional” as its grand opening on June 16, 2016. He said:
Reopening on May 11 was probably as emotional, if not more so, for some people than our original opening, and not just for the guests. It was very emotional for the cast because they had been through so much and sacrificed so much to get to that point.
Back when there were thousands of cases a day, it was really challenging for people to keep a positive perspective. “This too shall pass,” we had to keep reminding ourselves.
Personally, it was challenging at times to live out the positivity that I was preaching to my team, but my core team leaders would help me regain perspective.
Schott left readers with an incredibly positive message we know Walt Disney himself would be proud of. He encouraged Disney Parks fans to believe in the resilience of the amusement park industry — just as Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek and Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro have also previously done — saying:
Have faith in the industry being resilient. People are always going to have the want and desire to travel and experience the things that our industry delivers.
Listen to the people around you in a more attentive way. We’ve worked really closely with the local authorities during the course of this epidemic, for example, and I’ll tell you, at times we didn’t always have the same opinion, but the conversation was always fruitful.
When you come back, you don’t want to come back at less than you were. You want to come back better. You want people to really say, “Wow, I can’t live without that in the future.” That confidence that you gain from returning customers can power your business growth for years afterward, if you cultivate it the right way.
I’ve seen the power of positive thinking work through my entire career, and I can’t underscore how important it is, during the course of this challenging situation all over the world, for our industry to recognize that it can bring joy and happiness back to people’s lives.
What do you think about Shanghai Disneyland’s success as both Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyland Paris have faced second closures?