Disney's theme parks might not open until at least June

March 28, 2020, 9:11 PM · After yesterday's announcement that the Walt Disney World and Disneyland theme parks would remain closed indefinitely, Disney has updated the travel information pages for each resort. And they suggest that the closure could continue for another couple of months.

Under the sections for hotel reservations at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, the company says that guests may only make new reservations or change existing ones for arrivals starting June 1 or later. Disney says that guests will be able to modify these reservations if the resorts open "before or after that time."

While the parks might be closed until further notice, Disney needs some cut-off date for accepting hotel reservations, unless it wants to just stop taking those reservations at all during the shutdown. That not only would deny the company any money from advance reservations, it would mean an even bigger crush on reservation agents and systems once the parks do announce a reopening date.

By taking reservations from June 1 on, now Disney guests can continue to play the planning lottery, placing their bets on when they think the resorts will be operational again.

As for Disney, the "closed until further notice" announcement about the parks shows that Disney has little appetite for playing an endless game of announcing an opening date then delaying it, which many parks might soon find themselves trapped in if government orders keeping people at home and away from large groups and unnecessary travel continue through April, or even May. Establishing a June 1 date for hotel reservations gives Disney a couple of months of "wiggle room" now, should the need for social distancing and quarantines continue through the spring.

In the meantime, while we await the reopening of the parks, I will continue to bring you theme park entertainment to help you pass the time at home, including our Virtual Roadtrip and Social Distancing Kitchen series.

Hang in there, Theme Park Insiders. We'll all get through this together, even as we stay apart.

Update: Walt Disney World is throwing in a free Disney Dining Plan for eligible guests who had reservations between March 16 and May 31 who rebook for arrivals "most nights" from June 1 through September 30. You must rebook by May 31 to get the offer. Call +1-407-939-4251 for details.

Replies (33)

March 28, 2020 at 9:45 PM

I think June is a good target, even if it may not happen. It allows for the possibility that this may blow over by then, and as you said, Robert, gives them wiggle room to open things up earlier or wait until later and announce at much at a later date when more is known.

And I have enjoyed your Virtual Roadtrip series. It's a much-needed respite in a time of stress.

March 28, 2020 at 10:17 PM

I really hope Disney can find something for their employees to do before then getting the park ready so they don't have to separate them. Can you imagine the state of Florida getting 75,000 applications for unemployment, all on the same day, just from Orlando? (i'm talking Disney and Universal). That's in addition to the ones they have already gotten and are getting from everything else. Of course they would need to keep some security people, some custodial/groundskeeping people, call center, and some management/execs, but we're talking paying tens of thousands of employees to stay at home for two and half months while dishing out refunds like crazy and having nothing coming in. I'm not sure even Disney and Universal can afford that unless they got some special deal from Congress (from what I understand all the grants are for employers with less than 500 employees).

Also the administrative nightmare of separating all these people, processing their forms for unemployment (employer has to fill out a questionnare for the govenrment for each application), and then trying to get them all back and ready for a re-opening.

March 28, 2020 at 10:16 PM

Again, so much up in the air (still the push of some circles to get back to work ASAP) and also how Florida seems to be getting more support from government (for reasons best not to go into). They want these up and running soon and can see them wanting it earlier for Memorial Day but logistics are tough.

As noted, it's not like they can reopen in a couple of days or even a week of prep, there's a lot going on from mass cleaning to repairs/etc and so no wonder they're planning a longer game. Be great if it's sooner but shows how unprecedented this situation is.

March 28, 2020 at 10:34 PM

June is a safe target, and I feel reasonably confident most theme parks will be ready to reopen by that time. The second half of May is possible but optimistic, any earlier would be next to impossible. Unlike some, I think it's highly unlikely the resorts will remain closed beyond early June unless this thing turns far worse. No, I don't think they'll come back at 100%, but the resorts will at least be welcoming guests. The main thing to watch for is when all backstage personnel return to work rather than the skeleton staff they've got now...at that time, the parks are likely a couple weeks out from opening.

March 29, 2020 at 4:16 AM

June is WAY too optimistic, As soon as we get out of our homes, The situation will only get worse until a vaccine is ready and that likely won’t happen for another year as vaccines take a LONG time to get approved. I’m going to be brutally honest here and predict Disney’s US parks aren’t gonna be open again until at least Mid-2021.

March 29, 2020 at 10:29 AM

@Typhoon, I think mid 2021 is quite far off.... now there’s a chance that might be when it’s completely open and functional to the all of the public.....but even if this upcoming June is too soon, I think we could see a staggered opening with limited reservations sometime in the fall (or even if not in the fall) just whenever the parks reopen. I don’t think they’ll just open right up again to the all of the public.

We’re all just speculating, but we know Disney is looking at all variables & options.You’re certainly correct vaccines do take a long time to get approved, but this is also unprecedented territory. I think we’ll see regulations eased or bypassed to fast track a vaccine. Because this a pandemic that the modern US hasn’t seen, the traditional vaccine time frame MAY not apply...Obviously there will be an approval window, I just think we could see a sped up version.

Ultimately, public safety is the top priority, so whenever that is, whether this year or next is what’s best.

March 29, 2020 at 11:09 AM

I think its too optimistic. Its a 3 week trail from "Policy implemented" to "Effect noticable at a medical level". That means if you implement a policy today realistically you can't consider whether or not to reduce it until the back of April. The numbers are still going up in the US's hotspots, and the number of other states which seem to be taking a blaise attitude towards this is depressing... Even if New York and California are under control by then, the Ostrich-states will be in full peak by then, meaning domestic travel will still not be plausible.

And International guests, you can forget it. Everyone is going to be afraid for the second wave being imported - China might be losening domestic restrictions, but they slammed the gates on any international travel. Even if the airlines do surivive, they're not going to be back to normal for a very very long time. Disney and Universal are going to have to learn to surivive on a diet of locals for a while and mothball a hotel or too - or offer deep discounts to domestic travellers..

That said, for domestic tourism, I'd say Mid-21 is too pesimistic. We're being told here to expect some measures, hopefully lessened for the next 3-6 months. That makes Christmas more than plausible to me.

March 29, 2020 at 3:04 PM

If the parks reopen with restrictions on capacity, the only way I can see them doing it is by limiting access to people staying at the Deluxe hotels (plus maybe the Moderates). Of course, they would get a lot of criticism for that, but how can they run at 50% capacity while filling all their hotels?

March 30, 2020 at 9:08 AM

I work for an Arena/Convention Center and our events scheduled for last 2 weeks of March, all April events are canceled and most of May events have also canceled, with the outlook of the rest of May being dark and the possibility of it going on longer. Many events require planning, travel and lodging availability and that uncertainty means things planned now for later in 2020 may also be canceled or postponed.
Many people with kids from K through college have now been forced to a readjustment in the school calendar and also use sick/ vacation/personal/FMLA time to deal with loss of income and increased expense of family staying home. I don't see anyone rushing to get on a plane or a cruise even when things get better. People may not have the time or money to vacation in 2020. With the social distancing requirements and groups of less than 10 mandated for now, possibly even longer, it's hard to see anything being reopened anytime soon until medical experts see a noticably sharp drop in deaths and new infections, allowing for the easing of restrictions. The last thing you want to do is allow an onslaught of crowds back too soon. It will be too easy to put us right back here or making things even worse if a second or third wave hits. Just read about the 1918 flu pandemic for some insight on how NOT limiting crowds/gatherings contributed to a high death rate. Philadelphia ignored warnings and was hit hard with deaths and illness.

March 30, 2020 at 10:06 AM

I find it difficult to believe that the parks will open before November of 2020. Chapek has gone MIA and the company has made no announcement as to who will become park chairman.

What's more it's difficult to imagine what the park experience will be like and how it might impact strength of Disney's themed entertainment experience.

Does anyone here believe that character meet and greets will return to normal operations? That characters will come in physical contact with thousands of guests every day? Will character breakfasts continue? Will the princesses be able to interact and hug the legions of little girls who travel to the parks to meet Elsa, Anna, Cinderella or Snow White?

I dare say that characters may only appear on stage or in parades. The fabled family photo with Mickey may become a thing of the past.

And what about the pre-shows and queues? Seriously, how comfortable will a person feel standing shoulder to shoulder in the Haunted Mansion parlor? Want to get up-close-and-personal with strangers in the queue at 'Pirates of the Caribbean'?

And how you going to travel to the parks? In a crowded monorail or bus?

Wait ... Check that last part. If the economy continues to tank, the transportation systems and the parks may not be that crowded ... Not for a long, long time.

March 30, 2020 at 2:23 PM

>>Update: Walt Disney World is throwing in a free Disney Dining Plan for eligible guests who had reservations between March 16 and May 31 who rebook for arrivals "most nights" from June 1 through September 30. You must rebook by May 31 to get the offer. Call +1-407-939-4251 for details.

Expect to see more offers like this. With companies now becoming cash poor, they'll do anything to avoid a refund.

March 30, 2020 at 4:43 PM

To: Still a fan - If the parks open to 50% capacity, they can start by limiting the number of people staying at the hotels to some figure (say 40%). then those people would get in first. They could have a limit of AP holders... if the limit is reached, then you couldn't come into the park on an AP. Maybe this would be a different number for each park. Whatever they do, it will be an interesting venture. I live about 45 minutes from Disney... I hope they open soon, I'm going crazy just sitting in my house. I do have plenty of movies, but I have seen them. The next best thing are the blogs like this.

March 30, 2020 at 4:50 PM

I don’t think they’ll need to limit hotel capacity to manage the park levels. I’m convinced demand will be so soft they’ll limit hotel capacity to limit their costs.

March 30, 2020 at 5:35 PM

For those saying the parks will be closed throughout the summer, ask yourself this: "What would happen if I didn't receive a paycheck for at least six months?" Most likely, it's not a pretty picture. While Disney is not likely to fold completely due to an extended closure, it would absolutely have massive effects on the company and probably result in many permanent cuts. They're not going to wait until there's a vaccine and everything is safe to reopen, they're going to wait until the risk of spread is limited and then open as soon as they're ready after that date. Most modeling forecasts that by early May the impact of the virus will be on a decline throughout much of the US, so I would put the reopening window as early June to mid July. I would be surprised by a reopening sooner than that, and I would be shocked if they exceed that window.

Now, we're not going to see the parks come back at 100%. Like TH mentioned, I'm guessing meet and greets, character meals, and non-theater performances will likely be suspended indefinitely. Rides will probably operate at 40-50% capacity, and I wouldn't be surprised if all attractions equipped with Fastpass are Fastpass-only to limit the number of people in the queue. Single rider is also likely gone, and you'll probably see empty seats between groups. I also wouldn't be surprised if all tickets are date specific to control crowds. Granted, I don't think crowds will be a problem in Florida...I'd guess WDW will probably have about 20% the number of guests they usually have, especially if international travel restrictions are in place. Disneyland may be a different story due to the local audience, but if you got the APs going once a month rather than once a week I think it'd make the whole place much nicer.

March 30, 2020 at 6:43 PM

AJ writes: “They're not going to wait until there's a vaccine and everything is safe to reopen ...”

I respond: Just wanted to repeat what you posted: They're not going to wait until it’s safe to reopen. So they’re going to reopen even if it is not safe?

Okay.

March 30, 2020 at 8:56 PM

TH, I think you know what I'm trying to say, but let's try it again...

The only way to reopen the parks in a way that everyone is "safe" from COVID-19 is to wait until a vaccine is widely available and a vast majority are inoculated. By most estimations, that will take until at least the middle of 2021. Even then, there will be a small but nonzero risk of catching it, but having the masses vaccinated makes it far, far more difficult for the virus to spread. However, it's impossible Disney could withstand a closure of that duration without significant financial support, likely far more than the government would ever be willing to provide.

Therefore, they will have to reopen in an environment where the virus is still out there, but where the government and health officials have determined it is "safe enough" for the parks to resume operation. Society cannot afford to wait until we reach a point where there's almost no chance of catching the virus for businesses to reopen. Instead, we must get to a point where there's a low chance of catching it and if someone does contract it we can contain it and minimize spread, then we must learn to live with that risk in everyday life. It's a misconception that the extreme measures being taken right now are to stop the virus, as that's not something that can be done by social distancing alone. Instead, it's to slow the spread so that our woefully under-prepared medical system doesn't become overrun, as that would result in a nightmare scenario. We're buying time while the initial wave passes so that should another wave flare up in the fall we'll be ready to disperse it. Our current state is sustainable for two months, but probably not for four, and trying to "beat the virus" with long term quarantine would likely be more destructive than the worst case scenario of "do nothing," especially when effects are extrapolated over several years.

March 31, 2020 at 12:14 AM

TH Creative--the regular flu kills ten of thousands of people in the US every single year. That is why health officials make efforts to convince people. Especially people over 65 yrs to get the half effective flu shot we have had for many years now. So. If you wish to put it that way. It has been"not safe" to come in contact with people for every one of the last 100 years. I could see disney having people sign a waiver sheet that they understand there is a low risk of catching a contagion upon entry. Really. Anyone who has a high school education has implicitly always known that. I.E the flu. This is just a more contagious and somewhat stronger flu. As a metaphor that most everyone can understand. As a 52 yr old, I will be entirely comfortable going to the parks whenever they open. In fact, (once the hospitals are able to handle patients with the customary care), the younger I am the lower chance I have to not have a outcome that is more than an annoyance. Now. If I was over 65yrs old, I might feel differently and want to wait for a vaccine. The vaccine that is developed in the next several years may only be half effective, however. As the current flu vaccine is

March 31, 2020 at 2:13 AM

>> This is just a more contagious and somewhat stronger flu.

No, it is not influenza. It’s not even comparable with influenza.

This year the flu death toll in the UK last year was about 1700. Were being told that with a lockdown, temporary hospitals in convention centres, and turning the evmconomy to build as many ventilators and CPAP machines we can we might just keep this corona virus death toll under 20k.

>> As a 52 yr old, I will be entirely comfortable going to the parks whenever they open. In fact, (once the hospitals are able to handle patients with the customary care), the younger I am the lower chance I have to not have a outcome that is more than an annoyance. Now. If I was over 65yrs old, I might feel differently and want to wait for a vaccine.

But that’s just it. When you go out you are not just assuming the risk for yourself. You are assuming an increased risk for everyone you might come in contact with, including the over 60’s. So maybe you go to Disney, maybe you get the virus there, you go home, go do your shopping, queue near a 65+ year old, and you’ve already passed it on, completely asympomatic.

March 31, 2020 at 8:44 AM

Not long ago, a man died of COVID. Before it happened he visited DLR. And the web blew up. Now imagine for a moment if a dozen or so people (including cast members) just test positive after visiting the parks. Now imagine twenty -- and throw in a couple of deaths.

How do you think that would smack Disney's long term bottom line? How much risk is there to the brand if the Orlando or California parks become associated with the word "cluster"?

Back in 2009, I posted that Disney has its eyes on 2021, the fiftieth anniversary of Walt Disney World. It would a huge marketing effort that would bring in a gazillion people.

Open the parks too soon for short term gain (if any gain at all), end up being tattooed with a label of "negligent" or (again) "cluster" and the losses in 2021 would make red ink in 2020 look like a drop in the bucket.

Additionally, the economic realities of COVID and the huge limitations related to travel, make it unlikely that the parks would generate substantial revenue for the company. Theme parks are such labor intensive models. It strikes me that labor and other operational costs would make any profit relatively small -- assuming the parks would manage to do more than break even.

I have family members and dozens of friends who are CMs. I want to see the parks and resorts open as much as anyone. But, in my opinion, pulling the trigger too quickly seems like an it would be an taking a substantial risk that might (emphasis on the word "might") deliver only marginal rewards.

March 31, 2020 at 8:18 AM

I agree TH. I was kinda surprised that when a DLP cast member tested positive we didn’t see much of a knee jerk reaction there...

March 31, 2020 at 8:46 AM

I also agree with you TH, but while operating a theme park is a very labor intensive venture, which takes massive revenue to turn a profit, it also is a business that generates insurmountable labor costs when there is ZERO revenue coming in. While I think they definitely need to be extremely cautious, there's also a very HUGE price to pay by keeping the park shuttered. At some point CMs are going to get furloughed or asked to take LWOP to reduce operating costs, and some even let go. As much as we hold Disney to a higher standard, they are no different than any other company, and when you're bleeding cash with nothing coming in, it's impossible to keeping footing those bills without shedding some liabilities. I think Disney has some capacity to absorb operating costs for a few months, but if these closures extend through the summer, the financial and perception of CM layoff would outweigh the risks of trying to operate with extensive crowd controls, sanitary procedures, and the fear of spreading the virus. Again, any opening cannot occur without government blessing, but if that comes, I just don't see WDW (at a minimum) trying everything they can to ramp operations back up.

March 31, 2020 at 9:05 AM

Russell: "At some point CMs are going to get furloughed or asked to take LWOP to reduce operating costs, and some even let go."

I Respond: I expect that annoucemnet (or some variation) will land in April.

Russell: "... the financial and perception of CM layoff would outweigh the risks of trying to operate with extensive crowd controls, sanitary procedures, and the fear of spreading the virus."

I Respond: I don't understand how someone makes that calculation. And does that analysis accommodate an outbreak linked to Disney where three or four dozen cases are linked to a park -- some resulting in deaths?

March 31, 2020 at 9:20 AM

And (again) with headaches related to international travel (and domestic travel for that matter) along with record US unemployment and massive economic uncertainty in the short term, exactly what attendance/revenue numbers is Disney losing over the summer? Let's put it this way, open the doors in June and I don't think you'll have to worry about landing a boarding group.

March 31, 2020 at 1:19 PM

Yeah, and this is from today:

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "But FOR THE NEXT 24 MONTHS, you know, we're all in this together, and the most important thing that we can do is twofold: the American public fully embracing the social distancing that we requested to protect the vulnerable; and secondly, to operationalize the bread and butter of public health — you know, early case identification, isolation, contact tracing — so that this outbreak does not get the upper hand, as it has, unfortunately, in New York City, in northern New Jersey, and now New Orleans."

March 31, 2020 at 9:41 PM

TH Creative--When the director says 24 months. He either. 1. Embraces his narrow focus as a disease control Dr, to the exclusion of people actually being able to have food to put on their table and to pay their rent. I.e having absolutely no idea of economic reality. (The govt state and fed)already had too high of a credit card deficit, before the 2 trillion. OR Probably more likely. What he means is open up for business sometime in june. Perhaps late may or the start of june in lesser hit areas (with may be california. Only 4 deaths in calif today in such a huge state) And then late june or early july in places like new york. Do that until the cases start ramping up at the high rate of growth again. Then do the stay at home orders again in most counties for a time. We will need to beat the virus in waves, but periodically go to work again so the world economy does not collapse. There is absolutely simply not enough money in the banks to keep lending money to governments to past Around June, without a break. The banks (just like the hospitals and health care workers) need a break or the entire world economy will go into a very prolonged and deep depression that makes the late 1920's early 1930's look minor.

April 1, 2020 at 1:55 AM

"Or probably more likely"? Thanks for the insight.

April 1, 2020 at 1:58 AM

Thank you for the extreme courtesy and friendliness you showed to point that one typo out TH Creative. I totally believe you that you have never ever done a typo in your life. Peace and health.

April 1, 2020 at 8:55 AM

I wasn't pointing out the typo. I was pointing out the use of words like "probably" and "likely". There is nothing certain. And the greater that uncertainty the less likely Disney will be able to re-open its parks.

This thread launched four days ago. Yesterday, the federal government announced that COVID fatalities will likely reach well into six figures.

If that happens, I would assert that the likelihood that Disney opens its parks this summer is ... well, it won't happen.

April 2, 2020 at 1:12 AM

Yes. I am opining informed speculation. Do you know who else is. You, and everyone else. Including all the governors, the head health doctors in the country, the CDC and all of the health experts in the rest of the world. They all consistently say this is an evolving situation. They check every day if the models should be changed and the assumptions tweaked. They have all been saying that since the start of march as well. There is no one politician or health manager who has handled this perfectly. every decision maker has made some good decisions and some bad ones. Some in different proportions.

April 2, 2020 at 2:55 PM

This is going to last for a long while. April everything will remain as is. in May we will see the numbers decreasing in all of the hardest-hit areas of the world. by June we will see a return to a new normal. But if we just go back to how we were what do you think happens? The virus returns in greater numbers. What happens when we hit November and cold and Flu season hit and all of the thousands of people who are already hospitalized for the flu each year are now battling with COVID 19 patients for beds and ventilators? We are even worse off than we are now.

Social Distancing will remain in place for months in some capacity and likely for a year, possibly longer. Unless there is a breakthrough with some current medications that can control this until we have a vaccine. This virus is strong and replicates itself very well. It is very contagious and a lot worse than the flu. I don't know why people are still saying it's just like the flu. it isn't. That needs to stop. It is a severe form of pneumonia that attacks your lungs and fills them with fluid which causes you to drown and takes your life while you sit alone in a hospital bed far from any family and friends.

Yes, most people will get a very mild case of it, some will get it to a point of distress and others will have a breathing tube in their lungs which may keep them alive. Is that how you want to die or have your family or friends die? Probably not. It is going to be a struggle for many. My house has already lost one paycheque and I expect to lose mine next. But if we can do what we are supposed to for a couple of months we will come out of this. Unfortunately, all of us are going to have to suffer a little bit or in some cases a lot, but if we can save lives, including our own, we will be alright.

Be safe everyone. I appreciate everyone's opinion whether they are right or wrong. Only time will tell.

April 2, 2020 at 5:58 PM

That was helpful.

April 2, 2020 at 6:25 PM

Let's review, shall.we?

Russell: "At some point CMs are going to get furloughed or asked to take LWOP to reduce operating costs, and some even let go."

I Respond: I expect that announcement (or some variation) will land in April.

THC stands and bows.

April 2, 2020 at 10:56 PM

I would not be so proud. With no money coming in from the theme parks, disney had absolutely no choice but to do this now. They are being very generous to continue to pay health insurance and to pay everyone for over 30 days, when zero money was coming in from the theme parks. A lot of negative money actually, since security, landscaping, animal care and other workers still have to be there. That is more generous than almost every other country. It would be unreal if the union fights the same thing for union members. There must be a clause in the union contract to allow disney to furlough union employees for a national emergency? If not, Disney employs some of the worst labor negotiators ever and Iger needs to own it.

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