The unprecedented closure of Disney World has continued for more than two months now and we are missing the parks.
Disney has never had to contend with a global crisis such as this one. In the past, closures have been extremely limited and the largest singular change to daily operations came in the wake of the 9/11 attacks with added security measures. Now, we’re looking at a Disney World that could be VERY different when we return. So, when will Disney World be normal again?
That’s a big question, and it’s one that no one really has the answers to quite yet. Still, we can take a look at what some of the experts are saying to get an idea of when Disney will feel like what we’re all used to.
What Disney Executives are Saying
Attendance levels are definitely a defining aspect of “normal” at the Disney parks but added health measures could certainly make things feel a little abnormal for a while. Disney executives have made comments on the current situation and confirmed the possibility of permanent changes in the wake of the crisis.
According to Barrons, Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger asserted that we could see some permanent restrictions in the long-term as a result of the global health crisis. He explained that the future could see temperature checks that are as ubiquitous as bag checks as Disney looks to protect guests’ health as well as security. The world adjusted after 9/11, and as Iger commented, it made need to adjust again.
And Iger isn’t the only exec with concerns about the return to normalcy at the Disney parks. Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke on the number of health measures that Disney is instituting. He explained that the company can only do so much and that guests also have a role in getting the parks back to full capacity — and moving towards a semblance of normal.
What the Florida Government is Saying
The Florida government has a vested interest in returning Disney World to regular attendance levels. After all, tourism (and, by extension, Disney), is a major pillar of the Florida economy. As the state heads into what may be a major recession, they are looking to reopen the theme parks and at least start working towards normal.
As of now, many Florida theme parks — including Disney World — have gotten state approval on their proposed reopening plans. Universal Orlando reopens to the general public on June 5th and Disney World is following by opening beginning July 11th. Of course, a reopening of the parks does not mean that they will feel normal once more, but it is an important step in working towards that feeling.
What the CDC and Health Officials are Saying
Finally, we’ll examine what some of the primary health officials have said about returning to normal. These agencies have not commented on Disney or theme parks officially, but their statements about the general crisis may be telling.
According to NPR, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe that things should remain closed until there are systems for aggressive contact tracing and testing in place. Beyond that, they explain that “normal” may not be a thing again until there is a vaccine and 95% cure rate for the virus, which could take years.
According to Click Orlando, Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health has commented that it is still unclear whether health measures will be enough as things reopen. If they are not it could elongate the process and put us a step back in returning to that state of normalcy.
What Wall Street Analysts are Saying
With the park closures making such a significant financial impact on the Walt Disney Company, Wall Street analysts have been expressing their fair share of comments about the state of the parks. Beyond the billion-dollar loss that Disney reported in their earnings call (partially attributed to theme park closures), analysts are concerned with how long it will take for normal attendance levels to return to the parks.
Alexa Quadrani, an analyst from J.P. Morgan, has one of the most optimistic views when it comes to when the Disney parks will reopen. However, despite the fact that she projected an opening in June, she still agreed that Disney will not return quickly to normal attendance levels after the parks reopen.
Some analysts predict that it could take two years for Disney to reach pre-crisis attendance levels. Wells Fargo analyst Steven Cahall cites added health measures (such as capacity limits and physical distancing) and lowered demand as two of the main reasons that Disney could maintain these lower crowds.
Even further, theme park expert Dennis Spiegel has been quoted saying, “The way people visit theme parks may never be the same.” Some believe that Disney may never return to the old experience. We’ll instead have to carve out a different feel as we move forward.
So, when will Disney World be normal again?
So, based on those comments from the experts, what can we ascertain about when Disney will return to normal? It’s possible that the parks won’t ever return to exactly what they were pre-2020. But will there be a time that we walk the streets of Disney World without the global crisis hanging over us everywhere we look? The experts agree that time WILL come.
Some kind of normal could return in months if health measures are sufficiently effective and guests can get used to them. After all, folks may acclimate to health measures quickly, making the parks feel normal even if they are still quite different from before the crisis.
On the other hand, if guests can’t find comfort with the health measures, it could be a year or more until a vaccine is developed and the parks feel a little closer to the way they did pre-crisis. Someday though, it’s possible the only remainder of the health crisis may be a temperature check at the park gate. If Bob Iger is right, these checks could be as expected as a bag check when you arrive.
Keep up with DFB in the coming weeks and months to find out what the changes to Disney will look like and how guests are reacting to them. Things will assuredly be different when the Disney parks reopen, but that doesn’t mean that a new normal can’t flourish under the new conditions.
When do YOU think Disney World will feel normal again? Tell us in the comments!