Based on the reopening of Disney Parks in Asia, in addition to remarks from Bob Iger (Disney’s Executive Chairman), this pandemic will likely leave a lasting impression on major theme parks around the globe.
For the first time in history, all major theme parks have been closed and are unlikely to reopen before summer, as Shanghai Disneyland has been closed since late January and still doesn’t have a reopening date for the theme park.
When Disney World closed in March, it closed in phases. First came the park shutdowns, followed by the closures of the resorts and the shopping and dining area. Following this pattern, some areas and hotels may open in advance of the theme parks themselves.
Bob Iger recently told Barrons that, "just as we now do bag checks for everybody that goes into our parks, it could be that, at some point, we add a component of that that takes people’s temperatures"
It would be a major change that will slow down entry to the parks, but it wouldn’t be impossible, as it’s already being utilized at the portions of the Shanghai Disney Resort. Touchless temperature checks were also being done on passengers boarding a Disney Cruise in the weeks before those were suspended in March.
In Shanghai, guests at the reopened Disney areas must wear a mask during the entirety of their visit. As the world is encouraged to wear protective equipment, it’s possible that masks could have a permanent role at the Disney parks.
Disney has the capacity to utilize virtual queues since December 2019. This works by having Disney guests use the My Disney Experience app to join a virtual queue that will ultimately tell the guest when to return and join the physical line.
Skip the preshow
Many Disney attractions tell a story, and part of that scene is often set with a preshow experience that packs people together in a tight space. It’s possible these preshow attractions could be canceled, at least for a period of time.
Suspension of parades and shows
Disney will likely seek to eliminate the parades and fireworks shows. When the Disney parks reopen, they may not immediately reappear, or at least not in the way they happened in the past.
Disney only hits maximum guest capacity and closes its gates to additional guests on a very limited number of dates each year. But it’s entirely possible that they may decide that the safe number of guests will be lower than what was traditionally permitted. The operating hours might also be reduced to allow more time for deep cleaning procedures to be conducted each evening.
Hand sanitizing stations
The week the U.S. parks closed, we saw mobile hand washing and hand sanitizing stations pop up around the theme parks. It’s all but guaranteed we will see more of them when the parks ultimately reopen, most likely at high touch points. It’s also possible some of the temporary hand stations may be introduced in a more permanent capacity.
While some additional measures may eventually ease as we get past this intense phase of the pandemic, some changes may be permanent. In the meantime, Disney World has announced the suspension of 43,000 workers’ salaries, while allowing them to keep their benefits for up to a year. About 200 workers will remain on the job performing "essential duties" during the closure.
"This agreement provides an easier return to work as our community recovers from the impact of Covid-19," Disney officials said in a statement. "We are grateful to have worked together in good faith to help our cast members navigate these unprecedented times."
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