Disney Parks and Resorts Update for May 18, 2020

Filed in Coronavirus, COVID19, Walt Disney World Reopening

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Toy Story Land Hollywood Studios Disney World in Orlando Florida

Shanghai Disneyland has been back in business for a week. And by the time you read this, Disney Springs might already have reopened.

There’s also some interesting information coming from Walt Disney World and Disneyland, not all of it good. We do have a better idea about Disney safety measures, though. Let’s get all caught up in the latest DVC Parks Update.

News from Shanghai Disneyland

Last week, I discussed the opening of Shanghai Disneyland. At the time, the park had only reopened for a few hours. Some DVC owners were understandably concerned that the situation might take a turn after May 11.

Well, I’m pleased to inform you that Shanghai Disneyland has experienced an uneventful week. Disney’s new CEO, Bob Chapek, indicated that every day sold out, which means that no one was deterred by the new coronavirus measures.

In fact, guests took comfort in Disney’s zealous attempt to keep people safe. Some had predicted that the parks would remain empty, and sales would disappoint. Others worried that Shanghai Disneyland would grow too crowded, which would lead to a different kind of problem.

To date, both arguments are baseless. Sales are ridiculously strong, but the crowds have stayed manageable. More importantly, the first-week guests acted well-behaved, honoring all the social distancing rules.

I won’t go over them again, at least for Shanghai Disneyland. However, you can watch this video to get the gist:

Due to the park’s triumphant reopening, one analyst projected that Disneyland should do quite well when it returns. The Imperium Capital analyst equates Shanghai Disneyland and the Happiest Place on Earth. He comments that both parks perform well with locals.

Under the same logic, the analyst expressed concern regarding Walt Disney World. A large percentage of its park guests come from outside Florida.

So, the fear is that the Orlando park will recover slower than the one in Anaheim. I don’t buy this argument at all, but it’s a newsy discussion point right now.

Speaking of Orlando

Disney Springs will reopen on May 20. On that day, several third-party restaurants and stores will return to partial operations. They’ll catch a break, too.

When Disney first confirmed the reopening of Disney Springs, the state of Florida only allowed maximum indoor capacity of 25 percent. However, on Friday, the governor altered the rules.

On this date, Florida entered “full Phase 1” in terms of social distancing rules. Under the updated guidelines, restaurants and stores can allow 50 percent occupancy rates in indoor facilities.

So, all the restaurants that committed to a May 20 return can service twice as many customers now. This one minor change gives businesses a much better chance of turning a profit during the reopening.

Perhaps Disney officials knew that this change was coming. I say this because the company confirmed that it will reopen some Disney Springs stores and restaurants on May 27. Yes, we’re about a week away from Disney businesses running again in North America.

Disney hasn’t provided a full list yet. However, World of Disney and the Marketplace Co-Op have confirmed return dates on May 27, as does D-Luxe Burger. I presume that Disney will announce more stores over the next few days. That’s what happened with the third-party businesses.

If you’re planning to visit Disney Springs when it reopens, you should watch the following video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMk63rpvAuU

The clip describes all the security measures in place for May 20 and beyond. Out of this list, the most important ones are temperature checks and face masks.

Cast members will take your temperature before you can enter Disney Springs. Anyone who shows COVID-19 symptoms will be turned away. Similarly, all guests must wear masks during their visits.

The one caveat is that you may remove your mask while eating. Otherwise, you’re expected to prevent the spread of coronavirus by wearing a mask.

What about Walt Disney World?

In revealing “full Phase 1” changes, Florida officials requested something of the state’s theme parks. These entities should submit their reopening proposals.

Technically, this request applies to SeaWorld/Busch Gardens and Universal Orlando Resort. Let’s be honest, though. The main priority here is Walt Disney World, arguably the most popular tourist destination on the planet.

For its part, Disney has closed reservations of all kinds for June. This step suggests that the park may not return for at least another six weeks. That’s pure speculation, though.

All that the company will confirm is that it has canceled another batch of hotel reservations. People who book regular (i.e., non-DVC) rooms have received cancellation notices through the first week of June.

DVC members haven’t all had this happen yet, but it appears inevitable. Since the start of June is less than two weeks from now, Disney would have said something if the parks were reopening then.

When Disney does submit its plans to the state of Florida, someone will leak this information. It’s all but guaranteed. So, we should soon have a good idea about an approximate return date for the parks.

Disney did open hotel and dining reservations for July. While one executive explicitly stated that people shouldn’t read anything into it, Wall Street ran with the information. If you read someone saying that the parks will reopen on July 1 or soon afterward, that’s the explanation.

What about Other DVC Properties?

Once Disney does announce something, the expectation is that DVC will decide on its policies soon afterward. Similarly, most observers believe that Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Disney’s Hilton Head Resort will reopen soon after Walt Disney World.

I previously conflated Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa with the other non-theme park properties. However, its proximity to Asia, where some countries are still struggling with coronavirus, may delay it. Then again, Shanghai Disneyland is open again. So, who knows?

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa in Hawaii

Speaking of which, the news at Disneyland is grim right now. The state of California has entered stage 2 of its reopening. Most of the counties in the Golden State qualify. Los Angeles County and Orange County aren’t on that list, though.

The state has a good reason for this, too. Over the weekend, Los Angeles confirmed 694 new cases on a single day. That’s more than 40 entire states reported on the same day.

Based on the current outbreak, Disneyland doesn’t seem likely to reopen anytime soon. That goes double since, as I mentioned earlier, it caters more to locals.

Disney would act irresponsibly to reopen right now. Thankfully, its leaders understand this and are more focused on customer safety than money.

Speaking of which, park officials have been quite blunt about the reopening. Here’s part of the statement at the Disney Springs website.

“By visiting Disney Springs you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.”

Disney wants its guests to understand that they’re accepting the risk if they visit the entertainment complex during a pandemic.

More about Disney Springs

Finally, in case you are curious about the measures in place at Disney Springs, the official site lists the following guidelines:

  • “Limited parking and reduced entrances
  • Temperature screenings prior to entry
  • Face coverings required for Guests ages 3 and up
  • Physical distancing practices including physically-distanced queues and physical barriers
  • Temporary operation modifications, including reduced hours at select locations and no scheduled entertainment offerings or high-touch interactive areas
  • An increased focus on disinfecting and sanitation, including the addition of hand-washing stations and hand sanitizers in key areas”

If you want a preview of how these measures work in practice, Universal CityWalk Orlando reopened the other day. A metric ton of vloggers were on the scene to take videos. Here’s one of them that shows the new normal.

I’ve watched several of these videos. In most of them, I felt better about the situation. However, I did cringe a couple of times, too. I suspect that’s the feeling we must all accept for a while.

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