“In an abundance of caution and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of our theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Paris Resort, beginning at the close of business on Sunday, March 15, through the end of the month,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement.
Shortly after Disney announced the closure of its Florida parks, Universal Orlando Resort announced it too would temporarily close its theme parks starting at the close of business on March 15.
In the announcement, Disney added that its hotels at Disney World and Disneyland Paris will remain open until further notice and that it will pay its cast members during the closure period. The company also said that it will suspend all new departures with the Disney Cruise Line starting Saturday through the end of the month.
The company urged its domestic employees at Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Television, ESPN and at its direct-to-consumer, parks and products divisions to work from home.
The sudden closure of Disney’s Florida and California parks is just the latest sign of a tourism industry in freefall. But it is also symbolic of how every element of American life is changing amid the pandemic.
“These parks are iconic brands etched in the culture of America and every childhood,” Trip Miller, a Disney shareholder and managing partner at Gullane Capital Partners, told CNN Business. “To close assets of this scale around the world would speak to the seldom seen seriousness of this health threat.”