Earlier today Robert Chapek – Chief Executive Officer Walt Disney Company, participated in a virtual question-and-answer session at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference.
During that call, the current state and future of Disney parks was discussed at length and some pretty key moments stood out that we would like to share with you.
Changes in CDC Guidance
Disney plans to lift mask requirements by September of this year if everything goes as planned. Disney Q4 ends around September 28th of 2021 and that would definitely align with Disney’s plan to have Walt Disney World back to normal by the 50th Anniversary.
” We are encouraged by the trends that we see and our goal is to try to get to normalized operations as soon as possible, as soon as practical and as soon as responsible. We are encouraged by some of the changes that we’ve seen in terms of the CDC guidance, in terms of social distancing and mass guidance at the same time, there is a lot of detail behind those headlines and we are trying to digest those and make sure, as I said, that when we do reopen, we reopen in a way that’s very responsible. I think you’ll see more of the full benefit of some of these relaxation of guidelines, whether it’s the social distancing or mask wearing closer to the Q4 the end of the fiscal year, we’ll see a lot more of the benefit there.” -Bob Chapek
Restaffing the Parks
One of the largest headlines and issues thus far for Disney has been staffing. Chapek says they are happy with the returning Cast Members and that they are helping to keep the parks running smooth.
“There is been plenty of headlines about how hard it is to get labor back. We’ve actually had a really good go at it. We have found that the great majority of our cast members who we called back are ready, willing and able to return. So we are very, very pleased with that. And that’s of course a big one.”- Bob Chapek
COVID Has Changed Things, Possibly Forever
Disney has taken a look at how they do many things in the parks and evaluated their need and whether the new way they have offered annual pass, pricing and tickets will be a new way of business or whether it will go back the way it is. From the sounds of it, we are in for a permanent change!
“We’ve had an opportunity to look at things like pricing and ticketing outside the constraint of an ongoing concern and ongoing business when we shut down for a year. So that really gave us the opportunity to say, when we emerge, how do we want to emerge, and how does that fit our yielding strategy and our guest experience strategy. Things like annual pass, there’s probably no better example here than annual pass, where it’s a legacy system people keep signing up year after year after year, which may or may not play into your yield management strategy in an ideal way. So we had a chance to thoughtfully and thoroughly reconsider that.”- Bob Chapek
Mobile Ordering is Changing the Game
Whether you love it or hate it, it seems mobile ordering is here to stay. Disney has brought the option to most quick service locations in the parks and according to Chapek, it has been a game-changer!
“We had a chance to really sort of wipe the slate clean and look at how we manage costs through our operations. Our mobile food ordering has skyrocketed because a) we advance the cause while we’re out doing everything by app, and that obviously has some implications on labor things like contactless check-in when you go into a hotel, that obviously has guest benefits.”- Bob Chapek
Virtual Queues and Park Reservations are Here to Stay
It seems Disney took the last 12 months to analyze the market and realize that utilizing a virtual queue is worth its weight in gold. Chapek also said that virtual queues will remain in place post-pandemic. The Disney Park Pass calendar now extends through January 2023, meaning that the theme park reservation system is here to stay for quite some time.
“And then things like virtual queues, we play around with virtual queues when we had the unprecedented demand with Star Wars lands when we opened those up in both coasts. But now we’ve got an opportunity to sort of explore that as a guest experience lever to make sure that people can do things and not spend too much time standing in lines and in queues. So I think this is sort of likely to impact our prospects going further into the future in terms of margins well beyond COVID because again, it’s not often you get 12 months, unfortunately, where you have to stop the world and stop our business, but we certainly took full advantage of that to re-contemplate how we run our business.” – Bob Chapek
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