Following today’s big announcement that Walt Disney World will begin the phased reopening of its theme parks in July 2020, we noted that several questions remained unanswered. This includes when Disney Vacation Club resorts and select other resorts would reopen, and whether all hotels would open initially. (Updated June 6, 2020.)
Subsequent to the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force meeting that covered the opening dates of Magic Kingdom & Disney’s Animal Kingdom, followed by Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we’ve received more information about the reopening of the resorts, as well as clarifying info about how the parks will operate.
First, a CNBC interview with Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who declined to offer a reopening capacity for the parks, but did state that attendance caps would be dictated by the 6′ minimum social distancing guidelines plus recommendations from health experts. Chapek indicated that Walt Disney World would work to loosen restrictions and increase capacity as health guidelines change.
Chapek went on to say that Walt Disney World will have plenty of hotels that will not be reopening right away. Note that this squares with rumors of the NBA using Walt Disney World as a bubble-site to finish its season. While Chapek talked up consumer confidence and guest enthusiasm to return to the parks, this also makes sense from a demand perspective, and squares with what occurred post-9/11.
Additionally, we have other information courtesy of a press release from Walt Disney World. Here are a few interesting tidbits about a range of topics from that.
With regard to tickets, capacity, and reservations to visit the parks:
“Because theme park capacity will be significantly limited as we welcome guests back to the magic, we will manage attendance through a new theme park reservation system that will require all guests to obtain a reservation for park entry in advance. At this time, we are temporarily pausing new ticket sales and Disney Resort hotel reservations so we can focus on guests with existing tickets and reservations (Disney Vacation Club members can still make new reservations).
Existing ticket holders and Annual Passholders will be able to make reservation requests in phases before new tickets are sold; we’ll be reaching out to these guests soon to provide additional details. We will resume new ticket sales and hotel reservations after that period of time. Theme park reservations will be limited due to attendance limitations and will be subject to availability. More details about this new reservation system will be available soon.”
With regard to character meet & greets and other entertainment:
“Certain experiences we know draw large group gatherings – such as parades and nighttime spectaculars – will return at a later date. In addition, “high-touch” experiences such as makeover opportunities, playgrounds and character meet and greets will remain temporarily unavailable, but characters will still be in our parks to entertain and delight our guests.”
With regard to the opening date of Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World (and beyond):
“Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World will reopen to members and guests and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground will begin to reopen on June 22. Disney Vacation Club resorts in Vero Beach, Florida, and Hilton Head, South Carolina, will also open to members and guests starting on June 15. Plans to support required physical distancing as well as enhanced cleaning measures, along with a number of other safety and cleanliness protocols, will be implemented as part of this planned phased reopening.”
Note that while this does not specifically address the non-DVC side of these hotels, we’d expect them to reopen at or around the same time as the Disney Vacation Club wings of the resorts.
Even the banner on DisneyWorld.com is unclear about this. Above is the original banner (see current one below), which states that the phased reopening plan calls for “Walt Disney World theme parks and Disney Resort hotels to open beginning July 11.” If this is to be taken at face value, at least some resorts will open to the general public on July 11, 2020.
May 29, 2020 UPDATE: Directly above is the current banner notice you’ll see if visiting DisneyWorld.com. This is very similar to the previous one, with the key difference being the removal of a line that Disney resort hotels would begin to reopen on July 11, 2020.
This makes it even more unclear when the hotels will officially reopen. As we note below, it makes sense to reopen many at the same time as DVC resorts from a practical perspective–but demand will likely be minimal for the hotels until the parks begin to reopen on July 11. Either way, we should have official news from Walt Disney World very soon.
June 6, 2020 Update: A couple of quick updates to supplement our longer Walt Disney World Resort & Restaurant Reopening Changes ‘Know Before You Go’ Info post.
First, guests are starting to receive “Action Required before returning to the magic” emails that request they confirm, modify, or cancel upcoming visits that are set to occur during the closure of the theme parks, and while many benefits and amenities may be temporarily unavailable. We received this email, and below is what the “Review & Confirm Booking” page options looked like:
Second, it would now appear that we also might have a reopening date for non-DVC hotels at Walt Disney World thanks to these same emails. Guests with reservations between June 22, 2020, and July 4, 2020 who are booked at hotels that are not among the Deluxe Villas that will be open during that time are being offered a reservation adjustments. During this window, Walt Disney World will move guests from closed to open resorts at no additional cost.
However, they won’t have an option to choose the resort if modifying for this date range. (This means that guests with a booking at Pop Century, for instance, could be relocated to BoardWalk Villas. You could not request to be moved to Beach Club Villas or any other resort.) If your reservation is on or after July 5, you may modify your resort choice and choose an alternative, but you must pay the difference in cost.
While this does not definitively state that regular Walt Disney World hotels will reopen on July 5, there is little other explanation for only offering this guest recovery/relocation option through July 4, 2020.
Moreover, reopening the hotels on or around July 5 makes sense for a variety of reasons, and would mean the regular resorts are reopening about a week before the parks (and likely during the soft opening preview period). We’ll await official confirmation of the hotel reopening date from Walt Disney World, but we’re reasonably confident that’s it.
Another reason it makes sense is because the majority of DVC resorts are add-ons at existing Walt Disney World hotels, and they share infrastructure, staffing, and other resources with the hotel side of the complexes. Reopening only the Disney Vacation Club side of the property for an extended period of time isn’t a particularly efficient move.
If the hotel reopening occurs in phases, following the hotels with Disney Vacation Club wings, we’d expect the next phase of resort openings to include those connected to the parks by non-bus transportation (Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation, Pop Century), followed by the remaining resorts.
The process of Walt Disney World reopening its hotels could take a few months.
There might even be some resorts that don’t reopen this year at all if there’s a lack of demand or if they’re being utilized for events or other purposes (think Coronado Springs, the All Stars, both of the Port Orleans Resorts). If that does happen, guests with existing bookings at those properties would be relocated elsewhere. This already happens now when resorts are overbooked, and frequently entails an upgrade.
Disney concludes its press release by noting that the company is being deliberate during these phased reopenings, and is encouraged by how guests are responding at Shanghai Disney Resort and Disney Springs. Disney is doing its part, and requests that guests do their part too, as everyone works together to focus on safety. We’ll keep you posted on additional developments (we’re expecting more) as they’re released, so stay tuned!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Do you have a hotel or Disney Vacation Club stay booked for July or beyond? Will you keep the reservation, or are the new rules and eliminated entertainment simply too much to make the vacation worthwhile to you? Optimistic that things will be “back to normal” at Walt Disney World sooner rather than later? A variety of viewpoints are welcomed here, but we will not tolerate insults, arguing, or politically-charged comments. Don’t ruin a 95% fine comment with an unnecessary cheap shot–that 5% will get it deleted. Additionally, please do not debate the efficacy of masks or other health safety policies–all such comments (for, against, otherwise) will be deleted. Those arguments are played out and isn’t the appropriate forum for that. (Saying you will or will not visit in light of certain measures is fine.)