Walt Disney World has revised the reopening timeline of its resort hotels, pushing back dates for a couple of hotels and removing them entirely for others. In this post, we’ll take a look at the schedule delay, why it’s likely happening, and offer some commentary about the changes.
To quickly recap, all Deluxe Villas and Disney Vacation Club resorts welcomed guests back at the end of June. (This includes the DVC wings of resorts listed as closed below.) We’ve done a couple of stays and have visited many of these resorts, and it’s clear that they are operating with a small fraction of their normal guest load. To that point, most have plenty of availability for the next few months.
Following that, Walt Disney World resumed operations at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Pop Century Resort as Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopened. Guests with existing hotel or vacation package bookings, regardless of where they booked, were relocated primarily to these two resorts, plus some of the DVC resorts. Beyond that, the other Walt Disney World resorts were given reopening dates…
Let’s start with a look at the resorts that are currently operating at Walt Disney World, followed by the hotel reopening timeline for August through November 2020…
Walt Disney World Resorts – Now Open
Here are the resorts that are currently open at Walt Disney World as of August 1, 2020:
Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary Resort
Beach Club Villas
Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge
Caribbean Beach Resort
Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Wilderness Lodge
Old Key West Resort
Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
Pop Century Resort
Saratoga Springs Resort
Villas at Grand Floridian Resort
Note that it might appear some hotels are listed on the ‘currently open’ list above and the ‘reopening timeline’ below. However, that’s because some resorts have both standard hotel room wings and Disney Vacation Club villa wings. In many cases, only the DVC wings of the properties are open, with the hotel side yet to open.
Walt Disney World Resort Reopening Timeline
Here’s the current timeline for Walt Disney World resort reopenings:
August 24, 2020 – Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
September 21, 2020 – Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
October 4, 2020 – Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
October 14, 2020 – Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
November 1, 2020 – Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Additionally, the following resorts now do not have reopening dates, at all:
Disney’s All Star Movies Resort
Disney’s All Star Music Resort
Disney’s All Star Sports Resort
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House
Disney’s Beach Club Resort
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
To be clear, this is not due to the NBA, MLS, or any other professional sporting event being held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. To the contrary, it’s worth noting that the resorts presently occupied by sports leagues are among the only resorts not seeing their reopening delayed.
This is presumably because those hotels have already resumed operations for the aforementioned leagues. It’s easier to just transition to regular guest operations than to undergo the process of shutting down followed by the process of reopening again later. (If anything, thanks NBA!)
While Walt Disney World might spin it differently, this schedule delay is all about demand.
Not only has Walt Disney World not filled up the Disney Vacation Club resorts, Contemporary, and Pop Century, but occupancy rates for on-property hotels are dropping rather than rising.
One thing we’ve noted is how Disney Vacation Club resort bookings would help backstop attendance. Due to the “use it or lose it” nature of points, DVC members have more of an incentive to visit this year than other guests. Because of the transparent nature of the room inventory for Disney Vacation Club, those bookings offer some insight into greater tourist trends.
In late June, we noted that there was still a ton of DVC availability for most resorts in July, August, and September. Way more than normal, which will present its own future problems (see our Disney Vacation Club’s Point Pool Problem). These months are all still wide open. You could book reservations next week for pretty much anywhere, which is something that never happens in a normal year.
At the time, October was the real turning point for Disney Vacation Club bookings, with that month plus November and December having far less availability. Consequently, we speculated that existing resort bookings for fall and the holiday season would account for around 5-10% of park capacity (meaning another 15-20% would be available for Annual Passholders).
Our expectation was that the remaining October through December DVC rooms would quickly fill up once the parks reopened and apprehensive members had the chance to observe Disney’s health safety protocol. Instead, here’s a glimpse at what inventory looks like as of this morning:
I wish I would’ve taken a screenshot of October through December when I checked inventory last month, but this is significantly more availability than a month ago. It’s also significantly more than at the end of last year or beginning of this year. (It should go without saying, but normally availability goes down closer to travel dates, not up.)
In fairness, this is Saratoga Springs Resort, but other popular resorts that would normally need to be booked 11 months in advance for some of these dates–like Beach Club, BoardWalk, Polynesian, Bay Lake Tower, and Grand Floridian–also have availability most dates. Only Disney’s Riviera Resort is light on availability, but most of its units haven’t sold and been declared by DVC, which is why it’s the outlier.
Keep in mind, Disney Vacation Club resorts are more likely to book up than other hotels at Walt Disney World. If this is how DVC availability looks, it’s safe to assume the situation is worse for traditional hotels.
In speaking to someone with knowledge of an on-site third party luxury resort, that’s exactly the case. After an influx of fall reservations when the reopening was first announced, occupancy rates there have plummeted as cancellations have far outpaced new reservations. Numbers are so low that a re-closing of that hotel for several months–not due to safety but due to economic realities–is now on the table.
Given all of that, it’s now our expectation that many of these resorts that have “TBD” dates won’t reopen this year at all.
We’d be surprised if any of the All Stars or Port Orleans Resorts operate in 2020 given the former’s reliance on special events and group bookings (all of which have been cancelled) and the latter’s layout and transportation. Disney’s BoardWalk and Beach Club Resorts seem more likely given their locations and that their sister properties are already operating, but who knows. (We really hope Wilderness Lodge opens.)
Of course, Walt Disney World could offer huge general public discounts to incentivize tourists to book trips and fill unsold hotel rooms. That’s exactly what Disney has done with the “Rediscover the Magic” Deal of up to 40% off Hotel Roomsfor Annual Passholders and Florida Residents.
The problem with extending this deal to the general public is optics. Walt Disney World already was hammered in the media for reopening at the same time Florida cases spiked. Timing wise, it wouldn’t be a good look to offer deals enticing tourists to travel to a hotspot right now. And conversely, tourists are understandably unwilling to pay full price for a reduced experience. In the immediate future, there’s no good solution to this dilemma.
Ultimately, this is not a huge surprise given what we’ve observed at the Disney Vacation Club resorts, hotels, and in the parks thus far. In fact, the entire commentary section of this post was lifted from another post I’m in the process of writing: “It’s Eerily Uncrowded at Walt Disney World,” which discusses the current attendance levels, their sustainability, and predictions for the rest of the year. That should be coming later today, but then this news broke, “undermining” some of the speculation I made in that post.
Suffice to say, the trends we’re observing are concerning and could be a harbinger of more cuts throughout the Central Florida theme park industry. At least Walt Disney World is able to alter course here before reopening more resorts that would operate at a loss, with occupancy rates at a fraction of their normal levels. We remain hopeful that Walt Disney World’s safe and methodical phased reopening plan can continue, but we’re nonetheless nervous. It might be slower going than previously expected, as it’s simply not pragmatic from a business perspective to resume operations as “aggressively” as once planned. Stay tuned for more on this…
What do you think about these reopening dates for Walt Disney World hotels? Any surprises on this list for you? Disappointed that Art of Animation and the Poly are being pushed back? Think any of the TBDs will end up opening later in 2020, or are those resorts looking at 2021? Will you be attempting to visit Walt Disney World this summer or fall, or are you waiting until next year? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!