Walt Disney World plans to keep some of its COVID-19 health and protocol changes even after things return to pre-pandemic levels of magic.
Even before the pandemic began, Disney was creating new ways to address problems like capacity management and guest experience. Some of these were implemented in recent months. These new approaches are here to stay, including a park reservation system, mobile ordering at park restaurants, queue reservation systems, and even paying for merchandise without cash or credit card.
Meanwhile, occupancy rates at Disney resort hotels remain at all-time lows. With theme park attendance drastically reduced, some Disney hotels are set to remain closed indefinitely.
- Disney World to cut theme park hours in September as visits drop amid (Aug 9, 2020, Quick News)
- What I Did to Feel SAFE Going to Disney World! (Aug 20, 2020, DFBGuide)
This post is based on the CinemaBlend article, Disney Parks Chairman Thinks Some of Walt Disney World’s Pandemic Changes Are Here to Stay, by Dirk Libbey, August 27, 2020; the Fox Business article, This Disney World hotel won’t reopen this year as others stay closed indefinitely, by Jeanette Settembre, August 31, 2020; and the YouTube videos in the Spotlight. Image source: kizilkayaphotos/Getty Images
1. How will the new technologies that Disney deployed help with capacity planning and management once things return to normal?
Guidance: The reservation system was an idea that Disney had considered for a long time, but the COVID-19 crisis led to more rapid implementation. Orlando’s Disneyland and Disney World have been trying to exercise more control over guest numbers. In the past, guests could buy tickets and use them any day they wanted, but more recently tickets have variable pricing to discount days with lighter anticipated attendance and to charge a premium for busier times. Disney annual pass holders also had to make reservations for certain dates of attendance, even before the pandemic hit. With its recent reopening, social distancing and crowd control are even more important, and reservations are mandatory.
When Disney can eventually open at pre-pandemic levels, it wants to find that “sweet spot” where limiting attendance actually increases profit. Although the park would like to sell as many tickets and passes as possible, when crowds form as a result of unrestricted access, guest experience declines. Customer satisfaction decreases as wait times increase for attractions and food, and guests often reduce the amount they spend in the park.
Other technology, like mobile ordering for food, means customers’ food can be ready when they arrive to the restaurant, improving the experience and reducing lines.
2. How would a reservation system help even on days when Disney doesn’t expect overcrowding at the parks?
Guidance: Accurate scheduling of “cast members,” Disney-speak for its employees, depends on how many guests the park expects for any given day. While one concern relates to the problem of not having enough cast members, exacerbating lines and wait times, another important issue is not scheduling too many. Having too many cast members in the park wastes resources and causes the park to operate with lower efficiencies and reduces labor productivity.
3. What capacity problems are the Disney Resort hotels experiencing as a result of Disney theme parks operating so far below normal capacity?
Guidance: Several of Disney’s Orlando hotels, including the Polynesian Village Resort, the Beach Club Resort, and the Boardwalk Resort are expected to remain closed till at least the summer of 2021. With Disney park attendance in Orlando at 20% of normal and theme parks continuing to operate with reduced hours at least through November, hotel occupancy city-wide in Orlando in mid-August trailed far behind the national average of 49%.