Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida has implemented a phased reopening, which took place mid July. However, things certainly aren’t the same as they were prior to the temporary closures.
According to Click Orlando, over 75 million tourists visited Orlando in 2018, mainly due to all of the theme parks within the area including Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando, and of course, Walt Disney World Resort. The unfortunate news is that due to the current global pandemic, Orlando is no longer the most visited place in the United States.
In fact, during the week of Disney World’s phased reopening of Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, according to STR, the occupancy of resort rooms in Orlando was down more than 60% from the previous year. This alone is a much bigger drop in percentage than Florida as a whole, which declined more than 41%.
Cast Members Returning to Work
Walt Disney World Resort Cast Members have been returning to work over the last two months, but the amount of Cast Members who got their jobs back isn’t nearly as many as people think.
In fact, less than half of Disney World’s 43,000 unionized workers have been called back to work, but Disney has over 77,000 employees which is the nation’s largest single-site labor workforce. According to Click Orlando, this contributes to “two Orlando-area counties having the state’s highest unemployment rates last month — Osceola at 22.9% and Orange at 17.2%”.
The unfortunate news is several of those Cast Members who are still furloughed will lose federal benefits come the end of July.
“This is an extremely difficult moment,” Paul Cox, President of one of the local unions, stated. “There are still a majority of workers who are staying at home and they’re about to lose support. Things are going to get bad.”
How Cast Members Feel About Disney World’s Safety
A majority of Walt Disney World Cast Members feel extremely safe at Disney World. In fact, many leaders of the Disney World workers’ unions describe the newly implemented safety measures as “exemplary.”
Disney gave out personal hand sanitizer containers to the Cast Members so they can wear on their belts while at work. The company also added additional break rooms to help limit the number of workers within them. They also reduced the number of Guests allowed on transportation including the buses that bring Cast Members from the parking lots to inside the theme parks.
Julee Jerkovich, an official with a United Food & Commercial Workers union, told Click Orlando, “Singing their praises seems so strange. As far as this grand experiment, I would have to say Disney has done a really good job.”
Disney also has a policy in place which allows sick Cast Members paid time off. This gives these Cast Members the ability to quarantine and, according to Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here! Local 362, it really has made a difference. The Unite Here! Local 362 represents Disney World park greeters, attractions workers and custodians.
On the other hand, Clinton is left wondering if the current reopening protocols and procedures can last until the pandemic is over. “Disney is a strong brand. They have a great product, but does the novelty wear off? Do people want to go to a theme park now? Is it more appealing with less crowds?” Clinton told Click Orlando. “I’m hopeful but nervous.”
However, not everyone feels safe while visiting the theme parks. Cast Members complained about Guests walking around the parks with their masks pulled down while eating food. Disney World wants not only their Guests to feel safe, but they want their Cast Members to feel safe as well. This is why they recently updated its mandatory mask policy, which now requires Guests who wish to eat or drink, stay planted in one place while maintaining social distancing.
In addition, one of the unions has been having a dispute with Disney based on the safety of Cast Members. The Actors’ Equity Association, which represents several actors and singers for the company, recently filed a grievance with Disney World. The union states that their 750 Cast Members were “locked out of returning to work after they complained about Disney ignoring their demands for getting coronavirus tests since they can’t wear masks while performing”.
Will Guests Continue to Visit Disney World?
Kaila Barker, her husband and their five children have been so back and forth about going on their planned Disney World vacation in September. Barker told Click Orlando they consistently change their minds about whether to travel from their home in Connecticut to Disney World in a few months. “We keep going back and forth. It’s such a hard decision to make,” Barker said last Tuesday.
An Inside the Magic reader is also going back and forth about their upcoming November vacation, commenting:
My family and I have a trip booked for early Nov.
However, if the following is not back in full swing, we will not be going!
*Fireworks at the Castle
*Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
*Stage shows in front of the castle.
All of the stuff I have listed above, is what makes the visit worth the money.
Without all of this, there is nothing else.
But some people didn’t hesitate to visit Walt Disney World when it reopened a few weeks ago and many visitors are blown away with how Disney has handled things. One of Inside the Magic’s readers stated, “[Disney] have done an awesome job reopening the park.”
Another Inside the Magic reader shared “The parks are great! Less people so no lines and everything is so clean and safe!”
How do you feel about Walt Disney World’s reopening protocols? Do you plan on visiting? Let us know in the comments below.
If you want to visit Walt Disney World on your next family vacation, but aren’t sure where to begin planning, then don’t hesitate to reach out to our friends over at the Authorized Disney Vacation Planners at Academy Travel for a free quote.