Are Theme Park Visitors Happier With Pandemic Changes? Disney Thinks So
An article that ran in The Orlando Sentinel yesterday raises a very interesting question. With fewer crowds, the elimination of some policies and the introduction of others in a COVID-19 world, are theme park guests generally happier?
Bob Chapek, CEO of the Walt Disney Company seemed to hint recently that many of the changes implemented by the theme parks in the wake of COVID-19 have led to greater guest satisfaction.
Yes, we’ve all heard the stories of guests refusing to wear face masks and having to be physically escorted out of the parks but reports like these are few and far between. So how does the average guest feel? According to Chapek, people are happier at the Disney parks now. “Our guest satisfaction scores since we’ve reopened across the world have shown that, indeed, our guests are even more satisfied than they were prior to the pandemic,” Chapek said during March 17 interview with Bloomberg.
Though the circumstances surrounding the pandemic namely the loss of life (including 33,000 Floridians) is dire, it has forced the theme parks to hit a bit of a reset button and to rethink engrained institutions that perhpas weren’t working for the company anymore. One such example is the annual passholder program at Disneyland in California.
During a recent interview regarding the reopening of Disneyland theme parks on April 30th, Chapek said, “Our teams here have been hard at work, making sure that when we reemerge, that we’re going to do so in a way that’s actually going to improve the guest experience even versus a pre-pandemic situation.”
This is similar to what we’ve seen on the East Coast at Walt Disney World which has been open since last June. Things are still very different than they were pre-pandemic when it comes to everything from character meet and greets to entertainment, and runDisney marathons to table service dining options.
However, this has also been a time of Disney upping their game to accommodate guests during uncertain times. One area where this is noticeable is in the area of technology improvements. Disney World has streamlined their Mobile App making it easier for guests to order food, open your resort room door, pay for purchases and more!
Though some guests have missed Disney’s big after noon parades, others, as the Sentinel points out have praised the new mini parades that happen at Disney World theme parks throughout the day. These spontaneous events mean that guests no longer have to fight crowds for a coveted spot on Main Street USA.
A Pause On FastPasses
And then there’s FastPasses, which has definitely been one of the most contested issues both before and during the pandemic! These, front-of-the-line passes have been suspended during the pandemic since attendance caps have eliminated the need for them. Disney has yet to comment on whether or not they will be making a return.
One guest, Steve Forcum told the Sentinel, “FastPass? “I hate it,” He continued, “I hate it with the heat of 10,000 suns.” He told the Orlando paper that since Fastpasses have been suspended he’s felt liberated when visiting the them park. He said that the pressure is gone when it comes to nailing down or switching plans.
“The ability to just kind of let the day take you where it takes you has been refreshing in the couple of trips we’ve made down there because you don’t have to have everything pre-planned down to the minute months ahead of your trip,” said Forcum, an annual passholder from Massachusetts who works in sales and marketing.
However, even with crowds at 35% capacity, the lack of FastPasses does have it’s downside. For instance, we’ve shared images here at MickeyBlog of lines for Peter Pan’s Flight snaking through Fantasyland into Liberty Square and the Sentinel article mentions Frozen Ever After Lines the dragged all the way into the China Pavilion. But because guests are socially distanced at 6 feet apart, the lines to tend to look a bit longer than they actually are.
By far one of the biggest perks in a pandemic visit to the theme parks out of government mandated necessity is the fact that crowds have been limited to just 35% of their usual capacity. However,, this is an aspect that will not last forever. As vaccine rollout continues to happen across the country the number of guests allowed into the theme parks at a time is expected to climb.
However, those visiting the theme parks during times where the crowds have been reduced hope to see some restraints keep in place when it comes to regulating crowd levels. One possibility is Disney keeping its currently park pass system. Under the system guests are required to make park pass reservations for a theme park each day in addition to having a theme park ticket. There is a limited number of park passes available each day which is designed to cap the number of guests allowed into the theme parks each day.
With Park Passes currently available to book through the end of 2023 we know its a system that’s here to stay, at least for a while. However, as of going to print, Disney hasn’t announced any official plans regarding the future of the program.
Health and Safety
Though a lot of lip service has been paid to guests not following the new health and safety rules put into place during the pandemic, for some theme park visitors it’s a relief. The Orlando Sentinel spoke to Iris Lalli, a nurse who said that before the pandemic she was really uncomfortable with germs on everything from safety harnesses to fingerprint scanners when at the parks. She told the paper that she’s impressed with the hand-sanitizer stations, contactless payment and other steps the parks are taking and hopes they continue after the pandemic is over.
Though Disney World’s mobile dining has been around since 2017, it was an underutilized tool. Pre-pandemic it is believed that less than 10% of visitors used it. But now 8 in 10 visitors are believed to us it according to Disney.
So do all these changes mean a happier Disney visitor? The real test will be as the crowd levels continue over the months ahead! Keep following along with us here at MickeyBlog and we promise to keep you posted!
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Source: The Orlando Sentinel