For the first time in history, the Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort, along with all their worldwide counterparts, have been closed for an extended and indefinite time. The current health pandemic has changed the world as we know it and we are all looking to the future for a glimmer of hope of life returning to some semblance of normal.
A big way for us Disney and Universal fans that hope will come is in the announcement of the resorts reopening. We’re starting to see a shining shimmering splendid future with the announcement of the Walt Disney World Resort retail and entertainment mecca, Disney Springs, reopening this week, on May 20th. Universal Orlando’s CityWalk beat Disney with their reopening last Thursday, May 14th.
So, this made us wonder, will this be the same pattern with the theme parks reopening schedules? Will Universal make the announcement prior to Disney? Will we be able to experience the new theme park normal at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure before we can get back to the magic at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Let’s take a look at what we know so far.
Disney announced first, but Universal opened first
Disney World made their announcement of their phased re-opening of Disney Springs before Universal announced they were reopening CityWalk. However, CityWalk opened first.
One could assume Universal is hoping to win the rat race, welcoming guests who have been cooped up for too long, to get that initial wave of excitement first. However, just like Disney is taking it slow, making sure their new health and safety operation protocols are working in Shanghai before jumping the gun, we think they might wait and see how Universal fares before making a decision just to be first.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has made that very clear in his recent interviews that they are being extremely cautious and conservative when dealing with reopening their theme parks. The company is putting guest and cast safety first and they will not compromise that in order to beat the competition.
Governor DeSantis’ Theme Park Reopening Plan Requests
The competitors are working together closely with the re-open Florida Task Force, following the guidelines set in place by the state, while also imposing their own. Theme parks were given the ok to reopen once the state hits Phase 2 in the plan. However, the resorts were also granted autonomy in making that decision.
Florida has been feeling confident about its current state in dealing with the health crisis, so much so that Governor DeSantis announced restaurants could increase their capacity from the original Phase One 25% guest capacity, to now 50% guest capacity. All other health and safety protocols imposed, such as face masks, hand sanitizers, among others, remain in place.
Could this mean Florida is closer to reaching Phase 2 of Reopening?
An exact timeline has not been defined regarding the Reopen Florida Task Force Phase plan, but rather a checklist of sorts to be able to enter that next phase. Theme parks will have the green light to make the decision to reopen once the state reaches Phase 2.
In a recent press conference, Governor DeSantis announced the state would be entering a second half to phase one that would allow increased restaurant capacity, as well as the reopening of gyms, schools, and bars with social distancing and diminished occupancy. DeSantis also shared the theme parks will be able to submit their reopening plans for approval soon. However, he did clarify he does not anticipate any of the major attractions in central Florida to reopen until at least June.
The plans requested will need to include the resorts’ reopening timeline, an official reopening date, health and safety guidelines for employees and guests, and an endorsement from Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.
No updates have been announced as to whether either theme park has submitted their plans to reopen yet.
Who will be First? Disney or Universal?
If Disney and Universal follow the same pattern they did with Disney Springs and CityWalk, we could potentially see Disney make the announcement first, with Universal still beating them to the punch and opening their theme parks first.
Photos are starting to surface online of social distancing markings already set in place in front of the gates of Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Disney World’s theme park access is much more controlled, so it’s hard to say if they are even further in the preparations. So far, no photos have surfaced of Disney’s theme park prep as of yet.
Time will tell, but we can all agree that once those announcements are made, both companies will be working swiftly to catch up with one another in what will be an interesting strategic race to get back to this new business normal.
What are your best guesses? Will the Walt Disney World Resort open up their theme parks first, or will they allow Universal to take the lead, observe, and make the decision with any necessary protocol adjustments to ensure an even smoother reopening? Let us know your best guesses in the comments!