Which Pandemic-Related Park Changes Are Here to Stay?
After 14 months shrouded in secrecy, The Walt Disney Company has finally confirmed some of its post-pandemic plans.
We now know which measures have proven temporary as well as which ones are permanent.
Here are the pandemic-related park changes that are here to stay.
I know that many of us have expressed surprise over this one. The additional requirement of Park Passes certainly seemed temporary.
However, since Walt Disney World reopened last July, Disney executives have warmed to the concept.
By employing Park Passes, management gains a general sense of park attendance for a given day.
Disney may plot staffing and resource management based on this mostly accurate information.
No, not everyone who schedules a FastPass will visit the park.
Disney has gotten quite good at estimating the ratio of booked Park Passes to actual guests, though.
The company values this information and aims to continue with the new program. It’s here to stay unless Park Passes prove less effective at a higher capacity.
MagicMobile/New Entrance Procedures
Disney is moving away from MagicBands. While I love these wearables, they were controversial from day one, arguably even earlier.
Disney outsourced the technology, which never sat well with Imagineers. And the decision proved ill-timed.
Soon afterward, smartphones became an integral part of society, making wearable tech somewhat superfluous.
For this reason, park officials have adapted by introducing MagicMobile. It works like a plane boarding pass in that you add a pass to your smartphone wallet.
Guests always have access to their park admission information, while Disney doesn’t have to foot the bill for the MagicBands.
So, MagicMobile is here to stay, and it might not be the only park entrance change.
During the pandemic, Disney has tested facial recognition software akin to the way you unlock your phone.
The permanent introduction of this technology appears likely. In future years, your park entrance process will be comically easy.
Digital Resort Check-In
Future generations will not recognize the concept of the hotel room key. It’s a dying method for guests to unlock the door.
Instead, RFID chips and smartphone digital keys will perform the same functionality.
Disney dipped one toe into this pond when it programmed MagicBands to unlock hotel room doors.
However, the technology has come a long way in just a few years.
Now, your smartphone can do the same thing, another way that MagicBands already seem antiquated.
Along the way, Disney has built up the core of My Disney Experience (MDE), allowing the system to perform several services.
You can add all your hotel visit information to MDE. The system even stores your expected arrival time, an essential component now.
Hotel management may dole out room assignments without ever engaging with guests.
We’re already taking this practice for granted. As someone who once worked in the hotel industry, I stress that it’s groundbreaking tech, though.
From a tourist perspective, all you need to do is book your room and provide Disney with a smartphone number, one that will accept texts.
The system does all the work after that. It picks your room based on your arrival time. Then, it messages you as soon as the room is ready.
You glance at your phone and learn your room number. Once you reach the door, your smartphone (or MagicBand) can unlock it.
You never interact with a cast member. During the pandemic, that aspect has protected guests and employees alike.
From a business perspective, online check-in reduces staffing needs. Also, cast members spend very little of the workday getting guests to their rooms.
This aspect saves Disney a lot of money. As such, online check-in represents the present and the future for your favorite resorts.
Family Style Service
Speaking of pandemic protection, we learned from some horrifying documentary videos that buffets are bad, m’kay?
I won’t link the clip, but a scientific experiment showed how many people touch the same buffet ladle. Spoiler: it’s everyone in the room. Gross, right?
Obviously, guests will remain wary of buffets for the foreseeable future. As such, Disney has altered its restaurant services at several places.
Former buffet restaurants like Chef Mickey’s and Cape May Café now employ family-style service instead.
What’s the difference? You head over to the salad bar at a buffet and use the attached utensils to place food on your plate.
With a family-style service, your server brings the food to your table, vastly reducing the number of people who touch utensils.
Disney has also trained cast members on the safest ways to serve the plates and sanitize the high-touch areas.
In other words, family-style meals are a lot less germy. From your perspective, they’re just as good, though.
You can still eat as much as you want. The server will keep bringing you food until your belt pops.
Plus, now you don’t even have to walk back and forth to the buffet table. You can add sloth to your gluttony!
Emphasis on Mobile Ordering/Table Service to Go
Have you ever thought about how impressive Disney’s theme park empire is?
At Walt Disney World, you’ll find more than 100 restaurants, each of which requires a unique menu.
With 100,000 tourists visiting the parks each day, that’s a staggering number of unique orders that Disney cast members handle.
Obviously, Disney must staff thousands of workers for front-of-the-house assignments. They’re the ones who take the orders.
With Mobile Ordering, Disney can skip that step. Instead, guests order for themselves online.
The orders are more accurate this way. The customer doesn’t need to verbally relay information to a cast member who might mishear it.
So, restaurants require fewer make-good meals when guests send back incorrectly prepared meals.
Also, Disney doesn’t need to staff as many cast members in the front, solving two problems.
You may have heard that Orlando restaurants have struggled to re-staff since the pandemic.
Former workers have found better-paying jobs with benefits. Disney works differently since so many people dream of working for Mickey Mouse.
Still, Disney can transition former front-of-the-house members to the kitchen and other parts of the food preparation system.
The company saves on staffing and wasted food. Disney has plenty of reasons to keep Mobile Ordering.
In fact, the company even added Table Service to Go as an option for those who want a better meal without waiting for a table.
High-priced restaurants with excellent food costs can fire more orders and theoretically serve more than 100 percent of their available tables this way.
Mobile Ordering is here to stay, folks. And that’s great for you! It’s much less of a hassle. Plus, you don’t have to stand in line now.
Technically, this one pre-dates the pandemic, as Disney introduced digital queuing for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
However, recent comments from Disney CEO Bob Chapek suggest that virtual queues are here to stay.
In fact, WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure will employ a virtual queue when it debuts in a few days.
Similarly, Disney recently patented new technology that I’ll explain in detail in a future article.
The entire premise of that patent centers on virtual queuing, which suggests that Disney may modernize the conventional FastPass system in a way we didn’t expect.
Once the pandemic ends, you may spend most of your time “waiting in line,” simply picking your next ride via your smartphone.
Universal’s Volcano Bay already employs a rudimentary version of this system, and it works well.
I have complete confidence that Disney can create a widespread virtual queuing system that keeps all attraction wait times reasonable.
So, which of these pandemic-related changes do you like the best? Let us know in the comments!