It’s a strange new world we’re living in, and the Florida theme parks are ready to reflect and look forward.
Today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a roundtable with representatives from several major central Florida theme parks to talk about their reopenings and the coming months. In attendance were representatives from Universal, Toothsome, Sea World, and Disney — and the discussion gave us an inside look at how the reopening is playing out in the Disney parks.
Cast Members Back to Work
The meeting started out with a discussion of the number of Florida employees who have been able to return to work due to the reopening of the theme parks. According to DeSantis, 90% of full-time employees have returned to the Orlando theme parks at this point.
For Disney World specifically, they have contributed to that percentage by bringing back tens of thousands of Cast Members, and they’re working to recall even more. While this is something they seem to be striving for, this process is a slow one as Disney has been notifying furloughed workers that they may remain out of work for a bit longer.
The group agreed that the safety precautions have helped to keep guests safe and the fact that parks are open at all goes a long way when it comes to making employees and locals feel better during such trying times.
When DeSantis noted that it must have been difficult to stop operations, Disney World Senior Vice President Jim MacPhee confirmed the sentiment. He noted that it was hard to pause without knowing how long they would be closed, but now he can’t be prouder of the Cast Members who have returned. In his words, the culture is focused on “creating magical moments,” and Cast Members are a major piece of that.
Health and Safety Measures
MacPhee and Hollywood Studios Vice President Jackie Swisher both spoke on the more optimistic sides of reopening, including how health and safety have been a major priority in the Disney parks. MacPhee noted that in the six weeks since reopening, they’ve been very proud of how Cast Members and guests alike have adjusted.
With the Asian parks reopening first, Disney had a unique opportunity to learn from these experiences to institute focuses on capacity, health and wellness, and ensuring the parks are a safe environment for Cast Members and guests. In short, MacPhee noted that they want to make sure the industry is leading when it comes to safety.
Swisher echoed many of these sentiments calling back to the company’s work with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Travel Association to craft the protocols we’re seeing in the parks today. It apparently took a large team and body of effort to come up with the new protocols. The goal was to get to the right approach — not just what to do, but why they’re doing it.
The training of the Cast Members plays a huge part, she noted, as does keeping guests informed such as with the “Know Before You Go” campaign featuring the Incredibles. For Disney, the Cast Members have been the center of the safety approach and the greatest tool in making people feel comfortable. Swisher and MacPhee agree, “The magic is definitely back.”
Limited Capacity and Attendance
That brings us to perhaps the most interesting part of the conversation. The discussion turned to talk a little bit about what capacities and attendance are looking like in the various theme parks right now. On the topic of capacity restrictions, DeSantis did note that he’s open to the idea of the various theme parks increasing capacity when the time is right, and would like to get to that point soon.
Disney explained that they are seeing longer stays and that they are ultimately pleased with the mix of locals and out of state. As we know from the Q3 Earnings Call, fewer out-of-state guests are visiting the parks than were initially expected.
Supporting Orlando and Florida
Ultimately the conversation turned back towards how the theme parks have been a credit to the economies in Orlando and Florida as a whole during this trying time. Disney’s Senior Manager of Supplier Diversity and Sustainability, Leonard Spencer, spoke some on how Disney World’s reopening has been able to support small businesses in the community.
Spencer noted that his team has sought out opportunities with small businesses to provide Disney with construction, operations help, and providing services to guests. He added that the NBA has connected with local restaurants to give them business. Overall, he said, the role played by Disney and small businesses together helps to “create magic and authentic experiences” and enrich the community.
The representatives from Disney also noted that most of the Disney parks have reopened around the world; they’re only still waiting on regulations in California to lift for the reopening of Disneyland. As always, stay tuned to DFB for the latest news about capacity changes, park reopenings, and more!
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What do you think about the discussion at the roundtable today? Tell us in the comments.