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It’s only a matter of time until we know an official reopening date for Disney parks and resorts in Florida. It is likely that parks will open prior to the reopening of the resorts so that Disney can better control crowds and get a handle on this new and hopefully temporary normal that includes mandatory masks and other intense safety and health precautions.
You can read all about those new precautions and mandatory safety measures HERE!
On Thursday, May 21, Florida theme parks submitted their reopening plans and potential timelines for reopening to the Florida Governor’s Office.
It was announced early on following their guideline submissions that Universal Studios propsed a reopening date of June 5 for their Florida theme parks. On Friday, May 22 the Governor’s office approved Universal’s reopening plans including the date.
Disney has not yet released a date for reopening their parks but we are going to talk about why we think Disney will begin to market to tourists early on following their reopening.
Disney has thus far canceled all resort reservations through June 13 but are currently only accepting reservations at resorts beginning July 1. It is highly likely and almost guaranteed that resorts will not be booked to full capacity as that would create a logistical nightmare for parks that will be operating on strict capacity restrictions.
For Disney to accept resort guests but not give them every opportunity to enter the parks that they paid to visit, would cost Disney more money than they would make in refunds and negative experiences. While Disney wants locals to come back and enjoy the magic, from a financial standpoint, they need the tourism, as does the state of Florida.
Disney released information regarding resort reservations and the uncertainty of trip planning on Disney Parks Blog that in part stated this,
Given the current uncertainty as to when we will reopen Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World Resort, we’ve had to periodically adjust the schedule for the ability to book hotel reservations at our resorts. While we’re currently accepting reservations starting in July 2020 at both resorts, as this situation evolves, timing may continue to shift.
As we continue to follow guidance from government and health care officials regarding how we’ll be able to reopen our parks and resorts in a responsible way, we may also need to make real-time adjustments to booked experiences, park tickets and park passes.
Although many have speculated that Disney will reopen to Florida residents only, we don’t believe that will the case for long for a few simple reasons. (Disclaimer! The following is speculation based on past handling of capacity situations from The Walt Disney Company. This has not been confirmed or denied by The Walt Disney Company at the time of publishing.)
Disney doesn’t make the majority of their money off of locals. With parks operating at a rumored 30% capacity to start off, with the hope of gradually increasing that percentage as the country continues to navigate this COVID-19 and post COVID-19 world, Disney is more likely to encourage those vactioners who purchase dining plans, purchase more merchandise and quite honestly spend a lot of more money than those who live in the area and visit for the day.
What could this mean for locals looking to visit the parks once the resorts reopen? It could and most likely will mean that those staying on property will be given priority to enter the parks. Disney will likely allow resort guests into the parks first and give priority to those guests staying on property over locals with annual passes who are easily able to return on a different day.
Disney could also be considering an entry system similar to the operating procedures for opening days of lands. First come, first served. This would also benefit resort guests as Disney could implement Early Magic Hours for resort guests in order to give them an advantage to getting in the parks.
Airlines reported last week that they have seen an increase in reservations and are expecting that to continue. People are slowly becoming ready to travel again and that’s obviously a good thing for companies who rely on that like Disney. With limited park and most likely resort capacity Disney will want and need to capitalize on the spending power of those tourists eager to return to the magic.
We expect deals to encourage guests to stay and play. It is well known that Disney has spent a lot of time money cultivating a vacation experience that means that guests don’t need to or want to leave property during their stay. Disney capitalizes on providing a full service experience to those staying on property and that includes transportation, dining, fun and amenities all available and easily accessible to guests.
Disney wouldn’t chance guests not being able to access the parks after traveling to do so and rightfully so.
In addition, we also suspect that because of the required capacity limitations, Disney will limit locals entering resort properties to hang out and explore at least until those capacity restrictions are loosened. Gone will be the days of locals hanging out in the common areas of the resorts as Disney strives to ensure a safe and socially distanced experience for those paying guests staying on property as well as for castmembers.
This view differs from many other reports that Disney will reopen to Florida residents exclusively. While we don’t argue that when the parks first open, it is likely that the resorts will not open until a later date. That will, of course cater to Florida residents returning to Disney property but we believe that Disney is working hard to get their bucks back and that comes from tourists not locals.
With limited capacity it will be crucial for Disney to maximize their guest count and cater to those spending the most amount of money in order to justify the cost of operating a park with mandatory smaller crowds and increased safety precautions. That means people staying on property, eating all meals (and three snacks…or maybe that’s just us) on property and spending their money on property.
We believe that for the first couple of weeks of opening, locals will be the primary guests in the parks but priority will immediately shift to getting tourists back as quickly as possible as Disney tries to salvage their losses for the year and begin to rebuild financially.
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