Hong Kong Disneyland is set to reopen on Friday after more than two months of coronavirus-related closure, initially for only five days a week and with social-distancing measures in place.
But despite the good news, disgruntled tourism sector leaders said the industry was dying and was in desperate need of government support.
The theme park on Lantau Island will remain shut on Tuesdays and Thursdays until further notice, except for public holidays, and special occasions as designated by the resort.
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Announcing the relaunch on Tuesday, the attraction said all guests had to book online under a process requiring visitors to make a health declaration.
“Character experiences will be offered in a new way, including selfie spots around the park to allow guests to take photos with their favourite characters at an appropriate social distance,” it said in a press release.
“Live performances will be restricted to outdoor venues during the initial reopening stage until further notice.”
Hong Kong theme parks Disneyland and Ocean Park closed in mid-July as the city grappled with a third wave of Covid-19 infections. Ocean Park resumed operations last Friday.
Meanwhile, tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing and representatives of 12 travel industry associations said they were disappointed over inadequate funding for the ailing sector in the government’s latest coronavirus relief package.
They warned that the sector faced a wave of foreclosures and job cuts as the pandemic had brought about an unprecedented slump in global travels.
The third round of the anti-pandemic fund is completely detached from the hardships faced by travel agents
Perry Yiu, convenor, Hong Kong Travel Agents’ Relief Alliance
Among 206 owners of travel agencies surveyed by the Hong Kong Travel Agents’ Relief Alliance, 34 per cent said they would be forced to consider foreclosure if the government did not extend more support.
“The third round of the anti-pandemic fund is completely detached from the hardships faced by travel agents,” said Perry Yiu Pak-leung, the alliance’s convenor, adding that the aid was not enough for businesses to cover even a month’s operations.
In the poll, conducted between September 18 and 19, some 80 per cent of travel agency bosses said they had had no income this year amid the pandemic, while 20 per cent indicated they were relying on temporary business tactics such as selling masks or staycation packages.
Some HK$80 million (US$10 million) has been earmarked for travel agents in the latest round of coronavirus relief measures, in which an agent can apply for a cash subsidy of HK$5,000 for each employee working under him. However, trade leaders argued that more than half of the registered travel agents had less than 10 workers, meaning they would only get HK$50,000. That was a far cry from the one-off subsidy of HK$20,000 to HK$200,000 launched in April, which was already an overall reduction from the HK$80,000 cash injection offered in the first round.
Travel Industry Council chairman Jason Wong Chun-tat pointed out that some 70 travel agencies out of more than 1,700 licensed operators had already closed down since the pandemic began. He feared that as government aid for the industry kept getting smaller, travel agents would face heavier financial burdens and might be left with no choice but to close down, leaving thousands of employees, tour guides and tour escorts out of work.
The unemployment rate for consumption and tourism-related segments hit 10.9 per cent in the June-to-August period and it has been consistently above 10 per cent since March.
Hopes of a rebound in tourism were also gloomy as the city’s tourism board showed that fewer than 4,500 people visited in August, a 99.9 per cent year-on-year slump, and a 78 per cent drop from the nearly 20,600 people who visited in July.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hongkongers return to Ocean Park, pubs and karaoke with further easing of social distancing
- Coronavirus: Hong Kong urged to add France, Spain, Britain and Russia to Covid-19 high-risk list