DVC Parks and Resorts Update for October 26th

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland California

This past week, California published its theme park reopening guidelines, and they’re terrible news for everyone in the industry.

We’ll talk about that plus a significant change to Disney Vacation Club Membership Magic requirements in the latest DVC Parks and Resorts Update.

Disneyland Unlikely to Reopen Soon

Last Tuesday, that scream you heard came from every theme park owner in California. California health officials published the reopening guidelines for all theme parks in the state.

Anyone with skin in the theme park game is absolutely livid. These new requirements eliminate the chance for large theme parks to reopen. And even smaller parks may only operate with a maximum of 500 guests.

The rules particularly target Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood. These two parks fall into the high-capacity class, which means that they face different standards.

The Happiest Place on Earth cannot reopen until its host county, Orange County, reaches the Yellow Tier. That’s the highest of four community health tiers. Also, its standards are virtually impossible to achieve.

The Math That Keeps Disneyland Closed

Here comes the math portion of this section. I’ll keep it as simple as I can. Orange County, California, claimed a population of 3.176 million people in 2019.

On Saturday, October 24th, the county confirmed 316 new cases. Meanwhile, Orange County reports its COVID-19 infection rate on Tuesdays. For this past week, it was 3.2 percent.

California charts its classification tiers based on per 100,000 citizens numbers. With 316 cases, Orange County slots into the Moderate Tier with a ratio of 3.16. To reach the Yellow Tier, that number must fall under 1! So, Orange County must report less than 100 new daily cases for Disneyland to reopen.

Mickey and Walt Disney statue at Disneyland

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

The current infection rate of 3.2 percent also falls into the Moderate category. That number needs to drop under 2 percent for Disneyland to reach reopening guidelines. Obviously, that part is easier than the other.

Orange County has reported fewer than 100 new daily infections only twice since September 1st. It happened once on October 17th and September 14th before that. California officials would want that to happen for several straight days, if not weeks. And that’s something that hasn’t happened since mid-April.

In other words, California just somewhat arbitrarily decided to keep Disneyland closed for the foreseeable future. Disney acknowledged as much with this update:

The company has since emailed annual passholders to inform them of the stalemate. Disney has also mailed cancellation notices to guests staying at Disneyland resorts through November 7th. Honestly, this move qualifies as a formality. At this point, it’s difficult to envision Disneyland reopening before early 2021.

What Happens Next with Disneyland?

This is the multi-billion-dollar question. Analysts have suggested that Disneyland could lose $2 billion due to its closure. And Disney officials are contemplating the next steps for Disneyland Resort.

The company has already enacted one aggressive move. It will reopen part of Disney California Adventure, which is legal. The current rules apply only to theme parks. Restaurants and retail stores face less restrictive guidelines.

Disney will emphasize this point by reopening some of its dining options and shops at Buena Vista Street. So, you cannot ride anything in the park, but you can eat and shop there.

Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure Park

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

This move solves a secondary problem at Disneyland Resort. Downtown Disney has experienced capacity limit issues in recent days. The locals who are Disney fans visit the entertainment complex and gaze longingly at the closed parks. Disney can earn revenue by opening more businesses AND solve congestion issues.

The current list of stores includes:

  • Elias & Co.
  • Julius Katz & Sons
  • Kingswell Camera Shop.

The restaurants include:

  • Carthay Circle Lounge
  • Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Café
  • Smokejumpers Grill
  • Trolley Treats

More places may reopen, depending on demand and how willing Disney is to poke the bear here.

Will Disney Sue?

Of course, the other consideration here comes down to the courts. As I said, all theme park vendors have expressed rage over these guidelines, as nobody can turn a profit under the current setup.

California Attractions and Parks Association Executive Director Erin Guerrero has indicated that members may sue individually or collectively. Disney’s obviously the key player in such scenarios.

This legal angle also provides the biggest hope to Disney fans. In a different industry, movie theater owners pressured New York’s governor to loosen the COVID-19 guidelines. They went so far as to rent billboards and threaten legal action. Eventually, New York relented at least somewhat. Some parts of the state have reopened theaters.

This path provides potentially the most fruitful strategy. All theme park operators would need is one legal victory to reopen. Disney has hinted that it’s at least considering a lawsuit. Until then, Disneyland appears closed and likely to stay that way for several more months.

Important DVC Changes

The Disney Vacation Club continues to evolve, and its most recent change reflects its financial struggles. With direct sales reaching historic lows this summer, DVC has tried to upsell as much as possible.

The latest move will frustrate potential buyers and reinforce the value of DVC resales that much more. During a pandemic, DVC has changed the rules for Membership Magic.

Here’s the pertinent information:

“Effective October 19, 2020, to obtain a Disney Vacation Club Membership Card, Members must accumulate a total of at least 125 Vacation Points purchased directly from Disney Vacation Development, Inc.”

As a reminder, DVC had previously changed Membership Extras. And it’s already questionable how much value they add to a DVC membership. I am a Blue Card owner, and I primarily only use the DVC Member Lounge, which isn’t even guaranteed year-to-year.

So, I find it odd that Disney continues to pressure customers to buy more points for the same lackluster Membership Magic features. I mean, many DVC members feel like the Moonlight Magic events are the best part of card ownership, and Disney canceled all of those after the pandemic began.

Based on this rule change, direct buyers must purchase 25 more points than were needed to gain Membership Extras in the fall of 2019. Even worse, the number has increased from 75 points in February of 2018. DVC is trending wrong here…and at an alarming rate.

More DVC/Park Updates

On the plus side, DVC has ramped up its walk-in tour options. Nine of Walt Disney World’s 11 DVC resorts allow owners and potential buyers to take a look at various villas. You can even check out the Cabins at Copper Creek Villas and the Bungalows at the Polynesian.

Polynesian DVC resort at Walt Disney World

DVC has chosen one other welcome change for later this year. Obviously, fewer members will visit DVC’s annual meeting in 2020 due to the pandemic. For this reason, DVC will post a video recap on the membership website soon afterward. We can all watch this year!

I’ve also got some welcome news for guests staying at Disney’s Beach Club Villas and Disney’s Boardwalk Villas. The Friendship Boats will return on November 1st! On that date, guests can take a boat to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and/or EPCOT again. We’ve all been waiting for this. Let’s promise never to take the boats for granted again.

Friendship boat from Disney's Boardwalk Villas

Speaking of EPCOT, the Lotus Blossom Café has reopened at the China pavilion. Also, Disney has averted disaster at the Morocco pavilion. The company hadn’t previously owned Morocco due to a unique structure designed – I kid you not – to please King Hassan II back in the early 1980s.

Well, that business went broke during the pandemic. It applied for and received some PPE loan money, but it wasn’t enough to save the day. The Morocco pavilion faced bankruptcy until Disney filed some paperwork. It’ll become the sole proprietor of the pavilion and thereby keep everything running the way that you’d expect.

Of course, the most significant EPCOT update involves a festival. We now know the dates for the 2021 EPCOT International Festival of the Arts. You can attend this event from January 8th through February 22nd. Give Disney credit. It’s not skimping on EPCOT festivals even during a pandemic.

Even More Park Updates

I’ve also got a couple of stories that sound like repeats but aren’t. Disney has delayed the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover yet again. The refurbishment will now last into 2021.

Also, the holiday park hours I mentioned last week have since changed. Park officials listened to guest complaints and extended operating hours from December 20th through December 30th, a much-needed change.

The new park hours for these dates are:

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
  • EPCOT: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Magic Kingdom: 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Please understand that reduced hours remain in effect for New Year’s Eve, though. You shouldn’t expect anything special at the parks on this date, although Disney may reverse course later.

Those of you wanting to get married at Walt Disney World are in luck, though. Disney will bring back Fairy Tale Weddings in the coming weeks. Understandably, the parks will employ social distancing measures. Still, it’ll be a magical experience nonetheless!

Speaking of park safety precautions, Disney’s latest rides have both introduced plexiglass barriers. You’ll find them at Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Disney continues to think of its guests and improve park safety, no matter what California health officials believe.

That’s everything for this week. If you’re at Disney Springs Halloween Night and see me, feel free to come over and say hi!

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