DVC Parks and Resorts Update for February 15th, 2021

Polynesian DVC Resort at Walt Disney World exterior

Disney just revealed how much the parks lost due to COVID. Also, several Disney Vacation Club resorts are undergoing or about to experience renovations. Let’s talk about the changes in the latest DVC Parks and Resorts Update.

Mounting Losses

Disney has spent much of the past year in survival mode, especially in the theme park division. As I type this, half of Disney’s parks remain closed, while another, Tokyo Disney Resort, runs with minimal guest capacity.

Also, Disney Cruise Line hasn’t returned during the pandemic, and several vital destinations will remain unavailable throughout 2021. Adventures by Disney has similarly delayed many of its vacations.

Disney Cruise Line ship on the horizon from the beach

Off the Coast of Cape Canaveral on 2/14/2021

During the fiscal first quarter earnings call for 2021, Disney executives revealed that coronavirus considerations cost the parks $2.6 billion. I’m going to do some quick math here so that you can appreciate the financial devastation Disney has experienced due to the pandemic.

During the second quarter of 2020, Disney estimated a billion-dollar loss from COVID. The third quarter last year is when the company felt the full brunt. Disney’s CFO indicated a $3.5 billion setback that quarter. For the fourth quarter, that total was $2.4 billion.

So, Disney has lost $5 billion over the last six months and $9.5 billion over a fiscal year. I should also mention that the fiscal quarter ended on January 2nd, meaning that Disney’s COVID-19 losses have likely crossed $10 billion by the time you read this.

Here’s where I blow your mind. Disney’s earnings vastly exceeded expectations for the quarter. The company’s earnings per share were 73 cents higher than expected, the difference between a modest loss and a respectable gain.

Disney Now and Disney Soon

The company’s revenue of $16.25 billion also beat expectations by two percent. No, it’s not much, but it’s better than the alternative. And Disney has one core business to thank for its popularity on Wall Street.

Disney+ subscriptions have reached 94.9 million, indicating that the service will pass 100 million over the next two months (based on its current pace). ESPN+ has reached 12.1 million, a growth of 5.5 million subscribers in a calendar year. The news is similarly glowing with Hulu, which had 39.4 million subscribers.

Disney Plus logo

Most impressively, Hulu + Live had four million subscribers, which is down slightly from last quarter. However, the number that matters is its earning per subscriber ratio. Disney earned $75.11 per month per Hulu + Live user. That’s $300 million per month from a very small audience. Over a quarter, it’s $900 million! Numbers like that are keeping Disney afloat.

Of course, Bob Chapek and his crew are also plotting the future. Disney recently evolved into a digitally focused company. The theme parks remain the bread and butter, though. So, Chapek provided clarity on upcoming park expectations.

The Math on Disney’s Return to Normal

The vaccination program in America recently surpassed 10 percent of the population, an important landmark. CDC officials are emphasizing specific barometers as indicators for the country’s march toward herd immunity. The significant milestones are 50 percent, 70 percent, and 90 percent.

At the current pace, the United States will reach 50 percent by June 26th, followed by 70 percent on September 3rd, and 90 percent on November 10th. Obviously, a lot can change here, but these numbers impact Disney’s thinking.

For now, Disney officials project that guests will wear face coverings for the rest of 2021. Similarly, social distancing measures will remain in place. Yes, that would indicate that some amenities like fireworks, parades, and character greetings will remain unavailable this year.

However, the vaccination process has picked up speed in recent days. Chapek recently bragged that Disneyland alone has distributed nearly 100,000 doses. And that’s important because an increased timeline speeds up herd immunity.

Disney Investor Day 2020 with Bob Chapek

Once we have that, Disney may return to the visitor experience to which we’re all accustomed. Chapek has cautiously stated that this won’t happen in 2021. So, you should plan for that as you schedule upcoming DVC trips. Keep an eye on the progress of national vaccination, though. It could alter Disney’s policies during the second half of 2021.

DVC Resort Renovations

Disney has taken advantage of this unprecedented situation to perform refurbishments at many resorts including the Polynesian Resort & Bungalows. I just ate a Valentine’s Day Dole Whip while staring at the Lava Pool yesterday. The Kiki Tikis Splash Play Area was right beside our table, and I grabbed a picture of what it looks like with the walls up.

At Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Stormalong Bay will undergo similar maintenance on the pool slide. It’s closing sometime in February, possibly by the time you read this. You can visit the leisure pool while it’s down. Also, Disney allows Pool Hopping to Luna Park too. You may recall that it just finished its pool renovations recently.

Another DVC property will undergo significant renovations in 2022. Samawati Springs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village will undergo refurbishment next year. This rehab will last from January through April, indicating that it’s extensive.

Park Changes

Let’s start with the verification that Chapek doesn’t expect Disneyland to open this quarter. No, it’s not a surprise since the quarter ends at the end of March/start of April. Still, Disneyland Resort officials face more time without strong revenue potential.

As a potential solution, Disney California Adventure has announced a “limited-time ticketed experience” at the park. Here’s the official word on it:

This offering will include “world-famous food and beverage offerings from around the resort, the latest merchandise and unique, carefully crafted entertainment experiences.”

That’s literally all we know about it other than that Disney has recalled 1,000 workers for the new experience. I’m thinking of it as a mini-festival akin to one you’d find at EPCOT. However, that’s speculation rather than something Disney has confirmed.

Obviously, this event will include capacity limits and social distancing measures. Disney hasn’t even commented on a possible price yet. When I learn more, I’ll pass it along.

Oh, while I’m talking about this park, I should add that the snack carts at Disney California Adventure have returned.

More Parks and Resorts Updates

Over at Walt Disney World, Peter Pan’s Flight has added construction walls by the line queue. It’s similar to what’s happened with It’s a Small World. Presumably, the facades will match once the renovations have been completed. For now, you won’t notice any difference while waiting in line.

At EPCOT, DVC members will be happy to know that Leave a Legacy has returned to its new location. After you pass the new security scanners, you should look for a shiny wall off to the side. It’s a numbered set of wall facings, each of which features Leave a Legacy names.

Disney has introduced new technology to speed up searches during the pandemic. You’ll notice a QR code on a nearby sign. When you pull it up, you can do a name search to learn where your Legacy is on the walls. It’s much more efficient than reading until you notice yours, the system in place until 2019.

At Disney Springs, The BOATHOUSE will host The Captain’s Sing-Along on February 21st. What’s that? Well, it’s apparently a brunch that includes dueling pianos! I’m bitter that I missed this by a week because I adore the restaurant’s piano bar. It’s a delightful experience.

Also, Monorail Red has returned to service. It features the renovations cast members have given to various monorail trams. The changes make the monorail feel less nasty, but it’s still not as clean as we’d all hope after a lengthy refurbishment.

Finally, I was at Capt. Cook’s the other day when I reflexively complimented a cast member on his kicky hat. He accepted the acknowledgment but didn’t mention anything was different. Only later did I realize that the restaurant has introduced new Moana-styled cast member outfits! They’re terrific!

Okay, that’s everything for this week. I hope you had a lovely holiday, my friends!

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