DVC Parks and Resorts Update for June 16th

Disney Vacation Club Vero Beach Hotel

By the time you read this, two Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resorts have already reopened, Vero Beach Resort and Hilton Head Island Resort. So, we’re almost through the worst of the closure.

Of course, the situation won’t feel entirely in the past until Disney theme parks are back up and running again. Thankfully, Disney’s made a lot of progress with its reopening plans.

I’ll update you on the essential news items in the DVC Parks and Resorts Update for June 16, 2020.

Disneyland Resort Will Return Soon

As I discussed the other day, Disney officials are ready to reopen the Happiest Place on Earth.

Starting on July 9, the Disneyland Resort will begin operating once again. The first phase of the process will focus on Downtown Disney. Both Disney and third-party stores and restaurants will return on that day.

Eight days later, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure will reopen. This date, July 17, comes with symbolism, as it’s the 65th anniversary of Disneyland’s infamous opening day.

Ferris Wheel at Downtown Disney

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

Not everyone is thrilled with this announcement. Many California residents have signed a petition asking Disneyland to remain closed for now. The concern centers on pandemic concerns, as the state’s numbers are still worrisome.

Disney isn’t getting enough credit for the company’s unselfish decision-making. Universal Resort Orlando returned in early June, and SeaWorld Orlando suffered through a disastrous reopening the other day.

Meanwhile, Disney CEO Bob Chapek and former CEO Bob Iger demonstrated patience by waiting an extra month. By that point, better testing and health practices should be in place.

For DVC members, the opportunity to visit Disneyland comes with some caveats. A resort stay may not guarantee park access. Annual passholders must book admission as well.

Disney will employ an entirely new reservation system to manage park capacity and social distancing during the pandemic. Think of the process as something of a lottery where the lucky guests gain access to the Happiest Place on Earth.

The other strange part involves Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. These resorts won’t open until July 23, six days after the parks.

So, DVC members cannot stay at their favorite Disneyland resort during the park’s reopening week. Disney also won’t reopen the Disneyland Hotel for now.

Good News Overseas

A long-expected announcement finally occurred this morning. Disney officials confirmed the reopening date for Hong Kong Disneyland.

The company could have brought back Hong Kong Disneyland at any point over the past few weeks. However, Disney waited until Shanghai Disneyland had more data available about guest behavior. Also, an unfortunate political situation in the area has caused some social unrest.

With these events hopefully in the past, Hong Kong Disneyland will return on June 18. Yes, that’s Thursday. Disney was ready and waiting to reopen this park, as the company had done its COVID-19-based precautionary measures last month.

The Haunted Mansion at Hong Kong Disneyland

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

On Thursday, Disney will have two of its six theme parks back in business. We also know the return dates of both American parks. So, we’re now awaiting word on the final two Disney parks, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris.

Rumors abound that Disneyland Paris will reopen around the same time as Disneyland. The Oriental Land Company owns and operates Tokyo Disneyland, which gives it final authority over when that park returns. The prevailing belief is that the Tokyo park is mere weeks away from reopening, too.

Folks, there’s a legitimate chance that all Disney theme parks will be up and running by July 20! That news should put a smile on your face during what’s been a tough year for all of us.

Walt Disney World Updates

First of all, if you’re frustrated about Jambo House, I have terrific news! DVC has reallocated inventory at this resort. Presumably, park officials had held back some rooms in case the NBA needed to stay here.

Apparently, that’s not going to happen. So, Animal Kingdom Villas has added availability for the next three months.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

I’m in the system right now, and Jambo House even shows some rooms in the Value Accommodation and Kilimanjaro Club Concierge room types, which DVC members know are hard to get at the seven-month window.

As for the parks, we’ve got Disney news big and small. There’s also a significant DVC rumor I’ll discuss in a bit.

The small news involves scheduling your vacation. Disney has started accepting Magic Band pre-orders once again. You can go to My Disney Experience (MDE) right now and select your bands for your next trip.

Also, the company is openly begging guests to utilize online check-in during the pandemic. Disney doesn’t want cast members and customers to interact needlessly.

The downside of this decision is that you won’t hear those magical words, “Welcome home!” when you arrive. The upside is that you’ll have no risk of getting COVID-19 while standing in line in the hotel lobby. It’s the same reason why Disney has added live agent support to MDE.

Speaking of the app, Disney has done something thoughtful. When you load MDE, the display includes fireworks. Since the parks won’t shoot off any fireworks right now, Disney has removed them from the app. It’s a kindly way to avoid sticking salt in our wounds.

More Walt Disney World Updates

Importantly, cast members are back on the job at Walt Disney World…sort of. To avoid future problems, Disney has already started testing cast members for coronavirus. No, the company isn’t wasting tests, but it is performing health screening and taking its workers’ temperatures.

These proactive measures go a long way in ensuring that no Disney cast member will have COVID-19 when the parks reopen in July. Some Disney park workers will return on June 21 while others come back on June 28. We’re getting close to showtime!

Another precautionary step isn’t inevitable, but Disney’s testing it now. One of the Disney Springs garages recently hosted a baggage test. This system wouldn’t require guests to stop and stand in line at baggage claims. Instead, they would walk through the gates and into the park.

The technology would allow Disney’s security team to identify potential issues without slowing down the lines. These measures are already in place at some airlines and sports stadiums. It would improve the Disney admission process to employ them, but park officials need to verify their accuracy first.

I strongly suspect that Disney will use the new security system. I say this because recent photographs suggest that Disney has razed the old setup at the front of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. So, a new entry process is in the offing no matter what.

A DVC Rumor with Teeth

I rarely post rumors in these updates, as a lot can change behind the scenes at Disney. A verified rumor of yesterday can look ridiculous in a few days if/when park officials change course.

However, some enterprising DVC members have unearthed plenty of reasons to believe that a project got scrapped. We’ve all been excited about Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge, the expected 16th DVC resort.

Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge

Disney had previously broken ground on this Bay Lake project a while ago. During the early days of coronavirus, pictures indicated that construction was still underway. Disney had outsourced development to a company that continued to work while the rest of the country had closed shop.

Well, some recent images suggest that the project may not happen. I should start by stating that Disney has previously announced multiple DVC resorts that never came to fruition. In fact, one of the earliest projects was at Newport Beach, which Disney first confirmed in March of 1994.

Sometimes, something happens that forces DVC officials to reevaluate. That may have occurred with Reflections, which Disney internally calls Project 89. Some posters on a Disney message board heard that the company had canceled this project.

Ordinarily, I’d dismiss these rumors or await additional information. Alas, one of the most reliable Disney insiders on the internet all but confirmed the rumor. Later, some images on social media indicated that construction progress appears non-existent right now.

Evaluating the Rumor

Would Disney kill or delay the project? The reality is that the pandemic has pushed back timelines 18 months or longer on several Disney projects. Reflections already had a target date of 2022, which means it may not be ready until 2024 anyway.

Disney recently confirmed it had canceled nearly $1 billion in capital expenditures for theme parks. Meanwhile, the Disneyland Hotel DVC expansion is still a go. It may have been an either/or decision for Disney executives.

There’s a financial basis for this. DVC News has reported that direct sales during the pandemic are virtually non-existent. The transactions that have occurred are ones that had started before the pandemic became problematic in North America.

Demand at Disney’s Riviera Resort, the current preferred DVC direct sales property, was already slow. Disney had unveiled those draconian rules changes for members who bought directly at the Riviera. Then, coronavirus set back the economy and caused historic unemployment issues. So, Disney absorbed a double-whammy there.

View of Riviera Resort from Disney's Skyliner

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

Conversely, DVC resales increased in May of 2020. You can read the details in Nick Cotton’s update here. As customers flock to the resales market, Disney is left with a high priced product that has needlessly harsh restrictions in place as of 2019.

Combine these conversations with the fact that two former power players in DVC are now running Disney’s American parks. Jeff Vahle has recently become President of Walt Disney World, while Ken Potrock is now President of Disneyland.

These two men fully appreciate the current negatives with DVC direct purchases right now. It’s certainly understandable if they decided to cancel a project with questionable demand but hefty expenses over the next five years.

Stay tuned while we await confirmation/denial from Disney. Until then, stay safe, my friends!

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