Update: We have our answer. Walt Disney World theme parks are closing due to the Coronavirus.
Coronavirus is spreading in the United States and drastic measures are being taken in an attempt to slow the virus. With the NBA suspending its season, the United States restricting travel with Europe and a variety of states and communities banning large public gatherings, one has to wonder what’s in store for Walt Disney World.
Disney has already been forced to shutter three of its theme parks – Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong – and is reportedly considering closing its Paris destination. Despite the Shanghai park reopening in phases, concern is now focused on the two American theme parks. Disneyland is under the microscope after California asked all events of 250 people or more to be cancelled or postponed. A closure in California may become inevitable.
Back in Florida, the virus is also spreading in communities around Walt Disney World. The top vacation destination is Disney’s most complicated to address due to its sheer size and number of guests in its resorts. Guests travel in from all over the world to experience some Disney magic. Guests are often in close proximity to one another as they wait in line for food, attractions or to secure a virtual boarding pass for Rise of the Resistance. The immense volume of guests moving throughout Walt Disney World make it nearly impossible to keep every ride vehicle, handrail and bus sanitized.
We anticipate Walt Disney World will realistically have to close at some point as Coronavirus expands in the United States. It will likely be a single domino that triggers a wave of closures as no company wants the liability of remaining open and spreading the virus when others are using preventative measures. It may be a question of “when” rather than “if” the theme parks will temporarily close their doors even if it’s a worst-case scenario.
How Disney will handle such a closure is a series of decisions we don’t envy having to make. The logistics of handling current and upcoming reservations could be a proverbial nightmare. From a business perspective, having to close additional theme parks may inflict long-term changes at Walt Disney World. A significant drop in revenue – which would almost certainly be the case with any kind of closure – may postpone or cancel upcoming projects. A construction project that hasn’t broken ground, such as the new Mary Poppins attraction that was announced for Epcot, could be easily delayed or cancelled in an effort to help right the budget.
Over the past couple weeks, Walt Disney World has placed new sanitizer stations and portable hand washing stations around its theme parks and resorts. These are great steps to remind guests of proper hygiene, but they won’t be enough should the state of Florida or the United States enact stricter policies.
Stay tuned. This situation could evolve extremely rapidly (as we witnessed with the NBA) and guests may be forced to adapt to a new normal sooner than later.