Now that Disneyland and Walt Disney World will be “closed until further notice,” we are getting a lot of questions about when we think Disney will reopen and whether readers should cancel their trips.
We know you are in a tough spot if you have a trip planned in the next couple of months…because how are you supposed to know when “further notice” will be? Disney is throwing a lot of eggs into that June 1st basket right now (you currently can’t make ANY bookings before June 1st, and their new, private offers for guests affected by the closures include bookings for only June 1st and later), but can we bank on it?!
Well, let’s put on our thinking caps and start a little logic session. While we don’t know exactly when the Disney Parks will reopen, we can consider a multitude of things that will have to happen BEFORE Disney will consider letting anyone back through those gates.
We Need to See Many Of The Following Things Happen Before Disneyland and Disney World Reopen Their Gates
As excited as we are to return to the parks, we can’t ignore what makes a theme park what it is. Disney World and Disneyland are GLOBAL destinations that attract millions of people.
Even on the slowest days, the parks are filled with guests, tight crowds, and shared surfaces where germs can spread easily. So in the midst of everything going on, it makes sense that Disney Parks would not be one of the first businesses on the all-clear list.
So, what needs to happen for Disney World and Disneyland to reopen? Does America have to be at zero cases? Here are a few indicating factors we can likely rely on.
Other Disney Parks May Open First
Well, we’ve started to see other countries rebuilding after their own closures, so we can likely expect to follow a similar pattern a few weeks or possibly months behind. Earlier this month, Shanghai Disneyland Resort began reopening select shopping, dining, and recreation areas after closing down about two months ago.
However, the U.S. efforts to “flatten the curve” may spread the closures over more time to avoid exceeding healthcare capacity. This could lead to a longer timeline of park closures and we will likely see other parks like Tokyo, Shanghai, and Paris opening before the parks in the U.S..
Things Will Need to Start Improving in the U.S.
For the safety of everyone involved, it’s difficult to picture Disney opening before we start to see the rate of transmission slow and start to see cases and deaths go down each day.
America will need to figure out a way to control the number of cases and make it to the other side of the curve. The timeline for this is unknown.
And before Disney World and Disneyland open to the public, we’ll likely need to see the CDC approve large gatherings again.
Previously, the Disney Parks were excluded from what were considered “large public gatherings” that were ceased. But obviously, hoards of visitors is the name of the game at Disney, so it was in the public’s best interest that Disney ultimately made the decision to include themselves and close.
But First, California and Florida Would Need to Lift Mandates
Disney stating that their California and Florida parks being closed “until further notice” is like a safety net extending into our uncertain future.
A LOT of things are going to need to change before we can start driving in to work every day — much less sharing a super-stretch limo with Aerosmith and a few thousand of our closest friends.
The state of California, and Orange and Osceola Counties in Florida, will have to lift their states of emergency and other mandates or Disney will have to work out a deal to begin operating in a way that abides by health considerations.
Florida currently has a self-quarantine mandate for flights from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, so if these bans are lifted, it may be a sign that the state is trending toward stability.
Before thousands of people would be allowed to gather in a Disney Park, we would expect smaller-scale gatherings like schools, health clubs and gyms, and restaurants to resume normal operations.
Supply Chain Will Need To Be Somewhat Re-established
If you’ve been to the grocery store in the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed some supply and demand issues (are water bottles and toilet paper the newest form of currency in your neck of the woods too?).
Although much of the low stock is due to unnecessary hoarding, factories, processing plants, restaurants, and stores around the world have also been shutting down, poking holes in the supply chain. As time goes on, we may see more closures — causing even more issues for companies across the country.
On an international level, many goods are shipped in from other countries. Since this is a global situation, there may be shortages due to closures internationally or limited resources for international shipping of goods.
As Florida and California residents start to return to normal life, it may take some time for orders of raw materials, food, paper products, and processed items to catch up enough for a vacation resort to run smoothly.
Disney Has To Find a New Normal When It Comes To Operations
So once things DO start to improve and the parks reopen, what then? Will it be business as usual? Probably not, at least not for a while. Up until this point, Disney has not faced a closure like this, so it’s only natural that they will have to reassess several parts of their usual modes of operation after the latest events.
There are several challenges they will have to overcome to continue to bring the Disney magic while protecting their guests.
Will Disney Open The Parks in Phases? With Limited Capacity?
It will take some time for Disney to decide exactly how they want to reopen once they get confirmation from health officials that it’s safe to do so. It’s possible the parks will open in a modified format (at least for a while) as an extra precaution to protect guests.
This could include opening shopping and resort hotel areas first, as Shanghai is doing, offering limited capacity in parks and restaurants, and/or modifying attractions to support health officials’ recommendations.
Disney Will Need To Bring In And Manage Resources and Cast Members Differently
During the closure, Disney is abiding by recommendations from government and health officials. But the company will face its own set of challenges to figure out how park operations will continue after interruptions in their staffing and resources.
When parks were shuttered, Disney College Program participants were sent home. And Disney has recently announced they would continue to pay select hourly Cast Members only until April 18th. Many third-party restaurant workers have been laid off. For Disney reopen its parks and resorts, they will need to reassemble a massive crew of Cast Members.
Disney will be tasked with planning a window of time to hire or re-instate Cast Members, train them, and be ready for the date the parks actually open.
Cast Members new and old will need training on the parks’ new approach. It could take days, weeks, or months to train the staff, and that would all have to happen after state and local governments lift the emergency mandates.
With the recent disruptions in the supply chain, will Disney be able to source enough food and resources to open restaurants and continue construction or maintenance projects?
Disney will be walking into uncharted territory as they estimate the amount of food and supplies they will need (and need to obtain) when they really don’t know how many guests to expect in those first few months.
After Hurricane Dorian, the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor opened with limited flavors for a day due to supply trucks not replenishing their supply in time. That was for a relatively small closure that only affected local resources — not a weeks- or months-long global event like we’re facing now.
It’s hard to imagine having to essentially restock an entire theme park with food, merchandise, and supplies. We haven’t seen a closure of this scale before, so predicting initial needs and crowds will be difficult.
Disney Will Have To Ensure Guest Safety
According to Disney, their top priority is the health and safety of their guests and Cast Members. After a global health crisis of this magnitude, the stakes are high for theme parks packed with people from around the world. So how do they do it?
We wrote a whole article about how Disney World could approach this monumental task, so be sure to take a look at that for details.
Disney’s modifications to the “old way” of theme parking could include opening hotels and parks with limited capacity, adding additional (possibly permanent) hand-washing and/or hand sanitizer stations, sanitizing attraction vehicles between rides, or taking guests’ temperatures prior to admission.
As researchers continue to learn more about the current situation, they may have more concrete suggestions on how to prevent another surge in the future.
So Who Should Cancel Their Trip?
As we mentioned, Disney seems to be putting a lot of focus on June 1st as a potential reopening date. They’re introducing discounts starting June 1st, and they’ve limited any new hotel and restaurant bookings to June 1st and later.
In their language on the website, Disney is leaving room for an earlier reopening. But for now, we’d recommend if you have a trip booked between now and the end of May that you contact Disney to determine your best options.
Disney recently introduced great offers for guests displaced by the current closures (see Disney World offer here and see Disneyland offer here), and they are being transparent in what they’ll refund with cancellations (see Disney World refund details here and Disneyland refund details here).
“Until further notice” was hard to read because it reminds us of just how uncertain the situation is. We know this vague announcement may be frustrating as a guest because it can leave your plans up in the air, but we want you to feel empowered to keep track of the current situation and make the best decisions for you and your family. We will continue to keep you posted with any new information and, as always, we’re here to help!
Do you have any more questions about the park closures? Let us know in the comments!