By Jacob Passy
Mark Ashman/Disney Parks via Getty Images
Walt Disney World is aiming to reopen its four theme parks in two phases in July, company representatives said during a presentation Wednesday to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force.
Disney /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS -0.54% currently plans to reopen the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks on Sat., July 11. The Epcot and Hollywood Studios theme parks would subsequently reopen on Wed., July 15. The parks closed in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier in May, the Walt Disney World Resort partially reopened its Disney Springs shopping complex.
Fewer people will be permitted to board buses, boats and monorails that provide free transportation within the resort. Rides and attractions will also operate at reduced capacity.
When the parks reopen in July, the capacity will be reduced to encourage social distancing, Disney representatives told Orange County officials. Additionally, fewer people will be permitted to board the buses, boats and monorails that provide free transportation within the resort. Rides and attractions will also operate at reduced capacity.
During an interview with CNBC after Wednesday’s presentation, Disney CEO Bob Chapek declined to provide a specific target for the reduced capacity at the company’s theme parks in Florida. He noted that the company has only allowed around 20,000 people a day to enter Shanghai Disneyland.
“We’re not going to give any specific number because there’s no government guidance necessarily as to how dense we can be,” Chapek said. “But I will say that our capacity will be a function of the six-foot social distancing guidance that we have from the CDC, so the number of people we put in the park will be a function of that calculation.”
Chapek added that Disney plans to increase the number of guests allowed in its theme parks incrementally as guidelines relax.
Prior to reopening to the general public, Disney plans to hold soft openings for employees and “affinity” groups earlier in July, Jim McPhee, senior vice president of operations at Walt Disney World, told the task force.
The reopening plans, which were approved by the task force and await a green light from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, would mean that Walt Disney World would reopen over a month after its Orlando competitors, including Universal Orlando /zigman2/quotes/209472081/composite CMCSA +1.04% , Legoland and SeaWorld /zigman2/quotes/210357674/composite SEAS -2.01% . All of those theme parks are set to reopen in June.
The later reopening date was not a surprise to industry experts. “Disney does set the bar for our industry on a lot a lot of issues, items and planning,” said Dennis Spiegel, founder and CEO of Ohio-based consulting firm International Theme Park Services.
“This situation is a little different,” Spiegel said. “They’re wanting to take time to make the right decisions.”
When Walt Disney World does reopen to the public, the company will implement a wide range of safety measures to help prevent guests and employees from contracting or spreading the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Many of these measures were already implemented in Shanghai Disneyland, which reopened this month.
Guests will be required to make a reservation for the theme park they wish to visit in advance. Upon arrival, customers and employees will have their temperatures taken.
For the foreseeable future, guests will be required to make a reservation for the theme park they wish to visit in advance. Upon arrival, guests and employees will have their temperatures taken. While on the company’s property, employees and visitors will be required to wear face masks, and some theme-park employees will roam the parks to ensure compliance. Signage throughout the parks will remind visitors to wash their hands, practice social distancing and wear their face masks.
Walt Disney World is also considering creating “relaxation zones” where guests could temporarily take their masks off, McPhee said. Additional hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer dispensers will be put out throughout the parks.
The company will encourage cashless transactions at its restaurants and shops to prevent contact between visitors and workers. To that end, guests will be asked to bag their own purchases at gift shops. The parks will also encourage the use of the My Disney Experience mobile apps — paper maps won’t be distributed, and disposable paper menus will be provided at restaurants in lieu of reusable ones.
To further minimize contact and to encourage social distancing, some attractions and experiences will not be available when the parks reopen. These include nighttime fireworks shows, parades and meet-and-greets with characters, including one-on-one conversations with Mickey Mouse.