Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Tokyo Disney Resort has been closed by OLC. This includes Tokyo Disneyland, DisneySea, and Ikspiari, and comes as a result of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe request that large public gatherings scheduled for the next two weeks be avoided during a critical time for stemming the spread of COVID-19 infections.
In this post, we’ll share details about the Tokyo Disney Resort closure, what to expect if you’re planning a trip to Japan in the near future, and thoughts on when Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea might actually reopen…
The situation with coronavirus has evolved quickly (or probably more accurately, worsened rapidly), and it’s impossible to predict where things will stand two weeks from now. It’s safe to say that March 15, 2020 is not some magical date at which coronavirus will suddenly be vanquished from the world.
However, Japanese officials have stated that the first weeks of March will be an “extremely critical period” for preventing virus transmission, and radical measures are being taken as a result. This includes the closure of all schools in Japan (impacting 13 million students), encouraging telecommuting (otherwise a rarity in Japan), and the widespread cancellation of public events.
The boosting of containment measures is, obviously, being undertaken to reverse current outbreak trends. The hope is that stringent precautionary measures will prevent COVID-19 from reaching pandemic status. It seems likely that Japan will evaluate these strategies in the coming weeks and determine whether they’re working, and what else needs to be done. At that point, another wave of cancellations and closure extensions could occur.
A lot is at stake in both Japan and Tokyo Disney Resort. In the immediate future, sakura season is on the horizon, and it’s one of the biggest times for travel to Japan. (Forecasts show cherry blossom season starting early–pretty much right after this ‘shutdown’ is currently scheduled to be lifted.)
More significantly, there’s the Olympics this summer. While that might seem far away, a senior member of the International Olympic Committee already stated that a decision about the fate of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics will likely be made by April or May at the latest. If it proves too dangerous to hold the Olympics in Japan this summer because of the coronavirus outbreak, the IOC will likely cancel the event altogether rather than postpone or move it.
Canceling the Olympics would be even more devastating for Japan than it might seem. Japan is officially spending $12.6 billion to organize the Olympics, although the actual amount the country is spending has been estimated at closer to $26 billion.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been shrouded in controversy for years over the cost of hosting the event–dating to when Tokyo was still a candidate city. Boosting tourism has been core to Prime Minister Abe’s economic revitalization plan, and until now, increased inbound visitation has been one of the biggest success stories of “Abenomics.”
Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics have been viewed as instrumental to these plans. Abe revised Japan’s inbound tourism target to 40 million visitors for 2020, after smashing past previous goals. The idea is that the Olympics would give Japan additional momentum to continue the tourism boom for the next several years to come. (This is typical of the Olympics–think of all the segments NBC runs that are basically long-form ads for the host cities/countries.)
Even before the Olympics, there are concerns among economics that the ramifications from the COVID-19 outbreak will push Japan into a recession. The country’s economy contracted last quarter due to a hike in the consumption tax hike and damage from powerful typhoons that hit Japan during the period. Now, it’s expected that supply-chain issues and decreased tourism will cause the world’s third-largest economy to contract for a second consecutive quarter and enter a recession.
There’s also a lot on the line back at Tokyo Disney Resort. Closing at all is obviously not ideal, but right now during the off-season is a best-case scenario. The same can’t be said if the current closure is extended into mid-April or beyond.
Golden Week occurs a couple of weeks after that, and it’s one of the peak travel times in Japan begins. Having Tokyo Disneyland back up and running smoothly by the debut of its blockbuster new Beauty and the Beast land is likely the goal. Having to postpone that opening date or having the parks closed during Golden Week would be rough.
As for predictions about when Tokyo Disney Resort will reopen, we’re going to refrain from making any. Two weeks ago, we didn’t view this as a major concern within Japan. In fact, we updated our Ultimate 2020 Kyoto, Japan Planning Guide and indicated that now might be a great time to visit due to the city being totally devoid of crowds, if you’d personally feel comfortable doing so.
In that, we also shared that we plan to spend more time in Japan later this spring, “unless the situation deteriorates significantly.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what has happened. After the whole Diamond Princess cruise ship fiasco that Japan (and the United States, to a lesser degree) probably couldn’t have bungled worse if they tried, we don’t have a ton of optimism.
Suffice to say, we don’t put much weight in the March 15, 2020 date. If you have a trip to Japan anytime between now and April, you should (at minimum) be closely monitoring the situation to determine how or whether to proceed as your dates draw nearer. At this point, it seems likely that Oriental Land Company will not reopen Tokyo Disney Resort until the Japanese government signals that it’s safe and acceptable to do so.
Right now, Japan’s priorities are rightfully on public health and the viability of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. We’re glad to see OLC respecting this, and hope Tokyo Disney Resort remains closed for however long is necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of Cast Members and guests–as well as to further Japan’s larger national interests.
What do you think of this news? Do you have a trip planned to Tokyo Disney Resort in the next couple of months that you anticipate being impacted? Will the coronavirus cause you to postpone traveling to Japan or elsewhere in Asia? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!