If anyone tells you, they know when Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando will be reopening, they are not telling the truth. Nobody knows for sure when this will be happening, and that probably includes the CEOs of the respective companies. However, we are starting to get a little information on what changes might be in store when guests begin to return. Here are some of our predictions of what will Walt Disney World be like when it reopens.
What have we already been told
A few weeks back Bob Iger stressed that guest safety was essential during any reopening “One of the things that we’re discussing already is that in order to return to some semblance of normal, people will have to feel comfortable that they’re safe. Some of that could come in the form ultimately of a vaccine, but in the absence of that it could come from basically, more scrutiny, more restrictions”
Also, Bob Iger provided some clues about how the parks might screen guests “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”.
However, more information has been provided by John Sprouls, CEO Universal Orlando Resort, to the Florida Reopening Task Force. During his brief, he stressed that if guests “don’t feel safe, they won’t attend” In addition he highlighted a number of strategies Universal Orlando were likely to take:
- Limiting guest numbers
- Daily temperature checks and face masks for all employees
- Possible temperature checks on guests and initially face masks
- Enhanced sanitation
- Enhanced mobile food ordering
- Virtual lines to minimise time in physical lines
- Lines being outside when possible and to increase gaps between guests
- Staggered seating on rides and shows
Ir seems we are likely to experience a very different set of parks when they eventually do open. However, what will be open and who will be allowed to attend?
Who will be allowed in?
Don’t expect big crowds when either Universal or Disney reopen. Crowds will be capped at a fraction of minimum attendance. However, who will get into the parks initally?
There were several rumors earlier this week that Floridians might be the first guests to renter the parks. Due to international travel bans being in place, this certainly could be possible. However, Annual Pass Holders do not contribute significantly to the resort, restaurant, and souvenir revenue compared to guests on vacation. However, a phased opening allowing locals initially might have some merit. It is unlikely Disney would want this to be the status quo for long.
Walt Disney World Resort Hotels all currently lie empty, and these are some of the most valuable guests. They stay on-site and spend all their money on site. It seems inevitable that Disney will want these guests to return as soon as possible. However, it seems likely that occupancy will be down for the foreseeable future, especially if travel interstate or internationally remains difficult.
Day guests are much harder to control and are likely to move between locations and attractions. I suspect it will be some time before a day visitor is allowed back into the resort.
However, what about a guest with a multiday ticket staying in an off-site hotel? I have a feeling they will not be allowed into the resort initially. This is only my feeling, but if true, it will negatively affect many vacation plans.
What will open?
Nobody knows, apart from Disney Senior Execs, if there will be a phased reopening of the parks or a full resort reopening. However, many rumors have suggested the Magic Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom Resorts might be first. I have some reservations over this as it would seem crowd management might be more difficult, but suspect a delayed opening of Epcot and the water parks might be in the plans.
Other rumors suggest a more complete opening, but with only Annual Pass Holders and Resort Guests allowed to enter.
Perhaps something in-between is more likely? I suspect we will start having some information in the next few weeks if infections continue to drop.
What will the experience be like?
You are likely to experience a very different Walt Disney World experience than you have previously planned. While there are currently no confirmed plans heavily rumored changes include:
- Temperature checks for all cast members and possibly guests.
- Screening questions before entry is permitted.
- Face masks for staff and possibly initially guests.
- Limited attendance. This might be the one positive with visiting Walt Disney World shortly after opening.
- Compulsory use of MagicBands and no finger scanning.
- No buffets.
- Mobile ordering at Quick-Service locations.
- Limited or no character appearances.
- No parades or fireworks or significant changes to how they will be performed.
- Use of virtual lines like used at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
- Removal of Single Rider Line
- Limited people in physical lines with social distances maintained
- Gaps and spaces on attractions
- Sanitized ride vehicles after every guest exit
- Increased sanitation stations
- Directed routes for walking around the parks
- Various rumors on whether FastPass will be compulsory for all attractions or suspended
Are there likely to be further changes?
Nobody knows when Walt Disney World will reopen or how the reopening will be staged. However, hopefully it will not be too much longer.
If you are planning a Walt Disney World Vacation. Check out our Essential Guide to the Resort for planning tips and tricks.