On Wednesday, the company said that the Disney theme park plans to begin a phased reopening on July 11th for its Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks, and July 15th for EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.
The Disneyland resort in Anaheim, California, and Walt Disney World closed in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Disney is implementing several guidelines to reopen safely and prevent the transmission of the coronavirus at its parks like staff and guests will be required to wear face masks inside the park premises and undergo temperature screenings before entering.
Disney will also reduce capacity at the parks and the resort will temporarily suspend fireworks, parades, and other events that gather crowds. The resort will also enable cashless transactions by expanding contactless payments.
Additionally, Disney will also increase the number of available hand-sanitizing stations.
The reopening plan was approved Wednesday morning by the Orange County government, however, it still needs approval from Orange County’s mayor and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Meanwhile, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, which houses trademark attractions like Space Mountain and Cinderella’s Castle, is the world’s most-visited theme park. According to a report by AECOM, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom accounts for more than 20 million visitors in 2018 alone.
Reopening Disney World is a significant cultural and business endeavor for the company. Disney generated more than $26 billion in sales at its Parks, Experiences, and Products unit in fiscal 2019, representing 37% of the company’s overall revenue.
However, the company revealed in its latest earnings report that its Parks and Experiences unit was hit particularly hard by the outbreak last quarter. The segment’s operating profit fell 58% compared with last year, shedding a billion dollars in profit just a few weeks into the worldwide shutdown.
“The theme parks define Disney for millions of its fans around the world,” Robert Niles said, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com
“Returning its parks to operation signals that Disney is coming back to full speed as a company again.”
The grand reopening of the park is a big deal for Disney and the entire global tourism industry. It sends a message to the industry “that a safe reopening is possible,” Niles said.
“Disney is the market leader in not just the theme park business, but in tourism worldwide,” Niles said. “It tells the industry that tourists likely will be back traveling again soon because no one draws tourists as Disney can.”
According to Trip Miller, a Disney shareholder, and managing partner at Gullane Capital Partners, reopening Disney’s premiere park won’t be easy. Getting the theme park back to business presents risks, both financially and in terms of public health.
“The risk is that coronavirus cases pop up again after opening. What do you do then?” Miller said. “Additionally, managing cast members’ health and keeping adequate staffing is a big challenge. If a Disney cast member contracts the virus, do you shut down the entire park? An area they were in? Do you refund the tickets? You just don’t want the happiest place on earth to be seen as a dangerous place.”