Have Staffing Shortages Hurt Disney Parks?
During Disney’s recent earnings call, executives confirmed that the company remains short-staffed.
In fact, Disney has lost 33,000 workers since the start of 2020, a staggering difference in available staffing resources.
This change has negatively affected Disney’s park performance in several capacities. Here are six ways staffing shortages have impacted Disney.
Those of us who have been Disney park guests for many years know the deal here.
Even the most Polyanna among us – and I fall into that category – must acknowledge a shocking drop in the quality of customer service.
I don’t mean the parks, as cast members remain the gold standard in taking care of guests.
Instead, I’m referencing online and phone customer support, including My Disney Experience’s live chat. It’s…grim at times.
You could spend hours waiting to reach a live human. But, even then, the person lacks the usual number of extraordinary powers to fix problems.
Disney doesn’t trust inexperienced workers as much as long-term employees. So, the newer folks possess fewer troubleshooting methods.
As for email support, I’m not joking when I say that I recently waited more than two weeks for a reply…and it was a cut and paste form letter response.
Disney must modernize its customer support to adapt to the lack of employees, as I don’t think the genie will go back in the bottle on this one.
In the aftermath of the Great Resignation, people don’t want to work in phone/chat customer support as much.
Empty Spaces (NBA Experience, Voyage of the Little Mermaid)
When Disney opened the NBA Experience at Disney Springs, I tried so hard to be optimistic. In truth, I’d known this one would fail from the first announcement.
The building had previously housed DisneyQuest, a combination of interactive gaming experiences and arcade games.
Disney killed this premise rather than modernize it…and they did so about two years before Arcade 1Up restarted the arcade craze.
I mean, Wal-Mart is selling The Simpsons Arcade for $399 right now. I couldn’t even build it for two months, and I’ve got nowhere to put it…but I still want it. NBA Jam, too.
Anyway, Disney dropped video games and went with a synergistic project, NBA Experience. The move cemented the company’s relationship with the NBA.
However, nobody at Disney Springs wanted to shoot hoops when they could be drinking, dancing, shopping, and dining.
That gigantic building sits unused, and there’s zero movement toward using it for anything.
We’ve noticed the same behavior at the parks. A few years ago, then-CEO Bob Iger designed to address literally every negative at American parks.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney California Adventure received new E-ticket attractions and maximized their space.
Now, Voyage of the Little Mermaid at Hollywood Studios remains closed. There’s every indication that it’s gone forever…and no movement toward a replacement.
Disney lacks the requisite staffing to work on the projects it already has in place, much less juggling new ones.
Part of this problem stems from the common-sense element.
During a pandemic, few people want to touch strangers’ stuff. Now, imagine that with hotel beds and bathrooms involved.
I’ll leave those thoughts hanging in the air rather than spell them out, but it’s easy to understand why many people don’t want to work in housekeeping right now.
Will that philosophy change now that the pandemic has lessened in scope? I’d wager yes, and Disney’s clearly betting on that as well.
For the time being, housekeeping remains particularly problematic, though.
One of Disney’s first pandemic actions horrified many park fans. Disney furloughed many of the performers who keep the parks and resorts so vibrant.
We’re talking about some of the most recognizable people at the parks, including Sergio the Juggler and the Matsuriza drummers.
At the resorts, even Yehaa Bob Jackson and the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra weren’t safe from the layoffs.
Over the past year, Disney has gradually brought back some of these performers. For instance, a version of Festival of the Lion King is up and running.
Still, the overall amount of live performances at the parks remains lower.
The primary explanation is that Disney ticked off its performers. As a result, they understandably haven’t rushed back to their old jobs.
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant kitchen, you can earn a lot of money at Disney right now.
The parks have grown so desperate to hire chefs that they’re paying bonuses of up to $6,000 (!) for new workers.
Even the minor cook roles, the ones that don’t require much by way of credentials, reward new hires with $3,000.
Disney wouldn’t do that if it weren’t desperate. But it is super-duper-desperate.
Several restaurants haven’t reopened during the pandemic. I’m talking about big guns like Akershus and 1900 Park Fare.
Disney earns a fortune on these character meals, but it lacks the competent chefs to staff the kitchens right now.
There are other ripple effects as well. For example, at EPCOT, some festival kiosks haven’t returned. That’s the case even though the park’s operating a regular kiosk schedule.
Many of these foods require unique cooking skills. Yet again, Disney lacks the staff to support a full complement of these eateries.
I’d suggest that the next season of Top Chef should update its elimination catchphrase to “Pack your knives and go…to Walt Disney World. They really need you.”
I just mentioned one aspect of EPCOT that has suffered due to staffing issues. However, another part resides beyond Disney’s control.
The marvelous Disney International Program hasn’t operated since the pandemic’s start. After all, travel between countries proved nearly impossible.
I’ll go off the board here and mention two wrestling anecdotes to verify this. One company, AEW, staffs several Japanese female wrestlers.
They found themselves stuck in Japan but employed in America, and there was nothing they could do.
In Impact Wrestling, a man being groomed for the world championship lost his work visa, couldn’t get it renewed, and is currently working in construction.
These are skilled professionals at the top of their industry, yet they cannot conveniently travel between countries.
You can understand why the Disney International Program was a nonstarter for so long.
Due to its absence, the World Showcase pavilions simply haven’t been the same.
When you go to the China pavilion, you don’t want Kevin from Iowa to help you. It’s inauthentic and thereby destructive to the immersion.
Disney really needs its international crew to return to the World Showcase.
How feasible is that in 2022? Given everything going on in the world today, it’s impossible to say.