Will Disney World Stay Closed Until 2021?
“Will Walt Disney World reopen before 2021?” and “will the parks stay closed through summer/Halloween/Christmas/[insert month, year or specific date]?” have become increasingly common thanks to one already infamous expert opinion.
With so much uncertainty in the air about when Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and the resort hotels will reopen, these questions are unsurprising. Accordingly, we’ve been doing an ongoing speculative series that attempts to offer balance, nuance, and our best guesses with all things considered. To recap, here are questions what we’ve addressed:
- When Will Walt Disney World Reopen?
- Will Walt Disney World Offer Huge Discounts Once It Opens?
- How Bad Will Crowds Be at Walt Disney World After Reopening?
Previously, the common question we were receiving was “when will Walt Disney World reopen?” Due to recent commentary from Swiss bank UBS analyst John Hodulik that has gained traction in the Disney fan community, there has been rampant speculation and fear-mongering that Walt Disney World will not reopen until 2021. In large part, this post serves to rebut and contextualize that…
However, we first want to emphasis the speculative nature of this post. We do not own a (working) crystal ball nor have we consulted Nostradamus about this particular matter. While we’ve been asked these questions a lot in the last month-plus, the reality is that we don’t have a credible answer as to how long Walt Disney World will remain closed or when the parks will reopen.
The reality is also that literally no one does. Not any third party bloggers or vloggers. Not any Cast Member friends you might have, bus drivers or otherwise. Not even senior leadership at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. This is an unprecedented and constantly evolving situation. Our collective knowledge tomorrow will differ from what we know today–and next week it’ll be totally different.
Disney is scrambling to get ahead of this and is developing a range of tentative plans for modified operations, but the key word there is “tentative” (and also “range of,” meaning that several potential plans are being developed). Even Bob Iger’s controversial statements were only possibilities, and not procedures that definitely will be used when it comes to the future of the parks.
Another category of individuals who are taking stabs at when and how the theme parks might reopen are analysts. These individuals typically have no expertise in theme park operations, but instead understand the financial contours of the Walt Disney Company and its many business units.
There have been numerous predictions and forecasts of when Walt Disney World will reopen from respected financial experts, most ranging from June through October. None of these have gained traction in the Disney fan community because they’re more wonkish and less salacious.
As contrasted with the more moderate predictions, the 2021 date has been shared widely because it’s more controversial and attention grabbing. In this increasingly polarized environment, it vindicates those who believe shutdowns should last longer and enrages those who think we should reopen the economy ASAP. It’s being spread by those nodding in agreement and hate-shared by those who it upsets.
We’ve read or heard at least a half dozen predictions from analysts over the course of the last month, but didn’t feel a single one merited reporting on, just as we haven’t reported on the guesses of random friends and neighbors. Frankly, this one does not merit a blog post, either. Unfortunately, we’ve received a lot of confused and concerned questions from readers about it, so thought we’d clarify and contextualize this to the extent we can.
One of the things I’ve learned in following financial analysts is that you can validate your own preconceived notions, economic outlook, and general worldview–no matter what they may be–if that’s what you’re seeking to do. The Great Recession vindicated doom and gloom pundits, turning them into veritable celebrities and giving rise to a lucrative market for dire prognosticators who want to repeat that and star in The Big Short 2. The more extreme, the more likely the soundbite will be shared far and wide.
In a sense, there are actually some parallels to Disney fandom–polarization plays well, and anyone can find material that supports extreme positions that Disney has never been better or worse. This is almost akin to the intersection of these two things. Optimistic that parks will reopen June 1? Analysts support you! Skeptical and thinking they should stay closed until 2021? An analyst supports you!
With that preface out of the way, this prediction comes from UBS analyst John Hodulik, who offered it in his “Eye of the Storm” investor note. This memo served as his justification for downgrading the Walt Disney Company’s stock from buy to neutral, and cutting his price target on TWDC’s stock to $114 from $162.
This is predicated upon a bleak outlook for every single one of Disney’s business units save for Disney+, with a particular emphasis on troubles facing theme parks and live sports. In addition to Walt Disney World and Disneyland not reopening until 2021, Hodulik also believes that there are real risks to the fall sport seasons (while failing to acknowledge that ESPN would be well-positioned if sports do resume without spectators).
With regard to theme parks, Hodulik’s expectation is that “economic recession plus the need for social distancing, new health precautions, the lack of travel and crowd aversion are likely to make this business less profitable until there is a widely available vaccine.” That does not mean the parks won’t reopen until 2021, just that they won’t be as profitable once they do reopen.
MarketWatch’s FactSet tracks 27 analysts who cover the Walt Disney Company’s stock, and 18 rate it a buy and 9 rate it a hold. The average price target is $129.96, which is actually 26% above recent levels. In other words, Hodulik is objectively pessimistic on Disney as compared to other experts.
There is no disputing the assessment that Disney faces a lot of pressure right now and for the foreseeable future. The film business, live sports, media production, and theme parks all face uphill challenges. My perspective is also fairly pessimistic on Disney’s financial outlook, but for me the conclusion is different. I think that Disney will be more aggressive in attempting to bounce back, as the company’s future viability is on the line.
Even though summer is no longer peak season at Walt Disney World, it is still Florida’s prime tourist season. The resorts have offered numerous deals for the summer months, including Free Dining and the Fun & Sun discount. More recently, Walt Disney World started accepting reservations for June 1, 2020 or later. Likewise, the Free Dining Recovery Deal begins June 1, 2020 and runs through September.
Beyond that, Shanghai Disneyland is currently going through the motions of trial operations with test guests to practice social distancing, guest entry, and other aspects of modified operations. If this goes as anticipated, the park will reopen before having been closed 100 days. A similar timeline would put the reopening of Walt Disney World right around early June 2020.
Further supporting this is Governor Ron DeSantis’ Reopen Florida Task Force, which has an Industry Working Group subcommittee to determine how and when to reopen parks and other attractions in the Sunshine State. We covered these discussions and tentative possibilities at length in Potential Plans for Walt Disney World Phased Reopening.
It’s noteworthy that the Reopen Florida Task Force has not released a timeline for reopening theme parks, nor have Universal or Walt Disney World expressed their goals. However, in listening to press conferences by Governor DeSantis on the matter, who has stated that “the curve has been flattened in Florida,” it’s fairly clear that he wants to start the process of reopening the state. (To that point, on Sunday he said: “we’re gonna make an announcement pretty soon.”)
Between Florida wanting to begin reopening its battered, tourism-dependent economy and the Walt Disney Company wanting viable business units that are not the Disney+ streaming service, the 2021 prediction does not seem particularly plausible. From our perspective, a date closer to June 1, 2020 seems much more likely than one closer to January 1, 2021.
Suffice to say, there is more than ample reason to believe that both Disney and Florida want to be back in business by summer, and take advantage of whatever pent-up demand might exist then. Missing the more lucrative summer, Halloween, and Christmas tourist seasons to instead open for the January off-season doesn’t pass the smell test when considering the internal targets of both Disney and Florida. However, perhaps something will change again and so too will those internal targets.
None of this is to say that we think Walt Disney World should reopen this summer or stay closed until January 1, 2021. This is arm’s length analysis about what we perceive is most likely to occur, not what we ourselves want. This is truly a complex and multifarious problem, and total harm reduction modeling will need to be utilized. Neither of us are so deluded as to believe we have all of the answers or even a fraction of the information necessary to dictate what “should” happen.
We’d likewise encourage humility from everyone thinking about commenting below. Rather than condescendingly assuming you have the one valid perspective, have empathy. People are understandably worried about their health, both physical and economic. Try to put yourselves in the shoes of others who may be justified in their divergent perspectives. Those who tout themselves as the smartest person in the room seldom are, and never are viewed as such by the room’s other occupants.
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 think Walt Disney World will reopen by June 2020? If not, what’s your predicted date/month? Think the UBS analyst’s prediction is plausible? Keep comments respectful, apolitical, and on topic. Anything not following these requirements will be removed.
IMHO, as someone who has no theme park expertise and no insider information, I would (if I was in charge, but I’m not) do a staged re-opening.
Phase One – Florida residents who are AP holders only….why? Test out new procedures and keep the numbers down. If things go well then…….
Phase Two – Florida residents only. Beta test new procedures and keep numbers down. If things go well then……
Phase Three – Americans only. Park capacity at 50%. Hotel capacity at 50%. If the new procedures keep going well then ……
Phase Four – full reopen. Park capacity at 50%. Hotel capacity at 50%.
Then, gradually ramp up capacity.
I envision things like social distancing, lots of hand wash stations, more frequent cleaning of ride cars, dinning tables, chairs, bathrooms ……, increasing use of virtual ques in place of fast passes, Disney themed masks, increased spacing of tables in restaurants, increased covered – but outside – dining. Cast members stationed at the entrances and other key crossing points with spray bottles filled with hand sanitizer spritzing guest hands as they pass (just like cruise ships).
I think a lot of people don’t realize that the shut down/flatten the curve/ social distancing isn’t about NOT getting sick but about SLOWING the rate of transmission so that medical facilities don’t get overwhelmed and the people who need medical help (from covid-19, heart attacks, cancer, accidents,….) would be able to receive medical attention. Covid-19 is going to be around for a long time unless a “cure” is found, but we can’t cure viruses as it is – treatment protocols are immune system support (so your own immune system fights it off) and herd immunity (natural or vaccine based). The best hope is an effective treatment protocol followed by natural herd immunity (to contain and minimize outbreaks) and then, maybe, a vaccine. A vaccine is likely 18 months (most optimistic) to never away (it is unethical to just try a vaccine that shows promise in a small test group on a large cohort, look up viral amplification and well as side effects). Natural herd immunity is likely 2 years away (60 – 70 % of the population has antigens so any transmission will be small, local and contained). Small antigen tests show that a much larger than expected number of people do show the covid-19 antigens in their blood (meaning they were exposed but never tested) so herd immunity may happen faster and the virus may not be a lethal as previous thought (if preliminary results translate to the larger population). An effective treatment protocol could happen in just a few months and is the best hope for the short term.
I think this sounds well thought out and plausible.
“The flu is deadlier killing more people then the corona virus.”
I don’t know where you’re getting you’re information, but this is completely untrue. Covid-19 has killed many more people and this is with us under shelter-in-place orders in effect. Coronavirus is not the flu; it’s unique in that 25% of its carriers are asymptomatic and can spread it to many others without knowing. The long-term effects of Covid-19 such as lung-scarring and mental health issues are not something you will get with the flu. I’m not sure how they can open up WDW safely in a month or 2.
I believe we will experience a harsher 2nd wave as things start to open and people come in contact again. If Disney opens as that happens it will close again, probably for the rest of the year.
Hear from Hodulik himself in an interview with CNBC about his UBS reporthttps://www.cnbc.com/video/2020/04/21/ubs-disneys-businesses-are-in-the-eye-of-the-storm-when-it-comes-to-the-virus-lockdown.html
Pretty clear his assumption is a January 1, 2021 opening. Personally, I think it will be later, unless an effective vaccine or treatment is developed sooner than that. And assuming those things quickly become widely available – ongoing shortage of test kits, anyone?
2K a month will solve very little. And there is no such thing as “Free” anything. Either someone else is paying for it in taxes or donations, and it won’t only be the rich because if you taxed them all 100 percent it won’t pay for a year of every giveaway that certain politicians are touting, or it’s just paper rolling off printing presses. And just plain printing money, which is where the trillions we’ve thrown at this situation so far have come from, leads to disaster. See Argentina, the Weimar Republic, Venezuela. lots of examples. And if you are going to talk Denmark, please realize that along with their high taxes, they have a vibrant free market economy to support their welfare system.
You either have a Smartphone or a computer. Use them to do some research and study economics instead of parroting talking head profit-seeking morons. You might just learn something.
Is wdw going to let the Construction start back soon so park be ready for 50th anniversary.
All Disney need is the virus to break out in Disney
Then have to shut down again
Im hoping for a June opening, and booked a trip a last week to go in September 2020! Florida is opening with guidelines so curious to see what happens and what “extra” measures disney takes above florida mandates.
On a separate note i love your opinions and most are spot on! If you said it wasnt opening til jan 21 i would believe it more than some random money guy
There are risks associated with everyone’s lives on a daily basis. WHENEVER WDW is reopened, will you take the risk to your family and to others by driving your car/van down to Orlando? Through no fault of your own, or maybe it will be your fault, you could have an accident and seriously injure or even cause the death of a family member or some totally unknown person. This is a risk that I am willing to take and have for many trips there and all other places that I go when I drive my car. I think of this risk as similar to the one I pose by going to WDW and practicing good common sense mitigation measures while there to make the risk as small as practical that I will get or give the virus to someone. I realize that everyone I will come in contact with is in the same situation and are a similar risk to me. Yeah, when they reopen, I will be there as I have planned for sometime now.
I am ready to go when the parks open this summer with my mask on and gloves !
Shanghai Disney is apparently conducting fireworks tests. The learning continues.
Um your gloves are useless. The purpose of gloves is to prevent cross contamination. So once they’re contaminated by touching something the medical staff throw them away and get new ones. If you think gloves don’t harvest viruses and bacteria then you need to do some research on correct usage of PPE.
Harbor** not harvest. Stupid autocorrect.
Actually, gloves do help if you use the proper protocol for removing them. Of course, you should dispose of them. They are only one use items. If you want to see the proper way to wear a face mask and gloves, it is all available online. Use your smart phones for something other than social media.
True. But I read something recently wherein a doctor said that if having the gloves on reminds you to NOT touch your face…well, then, they’re good for that.
mask and gloves in 95 degree heat,,,I dont believe it!!
Leave Disney closed until sometime in 2021.
Why risk it!!!
Everything needs to be back to normal to enjoy Disney.
I’m predicting March 2021 is opens and it’ll be something else.
I actually don’t know how I would feel about getting to Disney if parks reopen by June or the summer in general. While I would love to travel (from Canada) and enjoy a week in the parks, a vacation we are taking usually every year, I don’t know if I would enjoy my trip the same way.
Not by fear of catching the virus, I work as a manager in a big retail chain and I’m on the floor every day facing people obviously challenged with the words ” social distancing “, so while I’m still careful, I learnt how to not be paranoid.
What is bothering me is, would I enjoy my vacation the same way with having to follow a ton of social distancing measures, most likely restrictive measures.
With that kind of money on the line and so many questions that are yet to be answered, it’s really tough to picture myself into the parks as of today, so wait and see I guess.
But if it works for florida residents and other people, then great, really. Chances are borders won’t be open for leisure by then anyway so we will have a bit of time to see how everything unfold.
I intend to remain optimistic! Our last two visits have been to Disneyland so we started planning (that’s part of the fun!) our return to WDW before we knew about coronavirus. We have plane tickets to Orlando for June 2 and a reservation at the newly renovated Pop Century. It’s a waiting game but we’re still planning on going. If anything, we might have to adjust the dates by a week or two. We’ll roll with it!
I am so hopeful the parks will reopen this year as we have plans to visit the parks in November. Of course the health and safety of my family, especially my kids, will always be top priority but we really have been looking forward to this trip so we are hopeful. We were really looking forward to the Mickey Christmas Party but understand your thoughts in a previous post about Disney possibly canceling or restructuring some of those after hour special events. We will be disappointed if we can’t go to the Christmas party but it wouldn’t be a dealbreaker for rescheduling our trip. I appreciate your practical and non-hysteria promoting thoughts on the reopening issue (as well as on all things Disney). I will keep watching your blog for updates!
I love going to Disney but they get more and more and more crowded and expensive every year. I understand that they are losing money by being shut down but if they jack up all their prices AGAIN which they most likely will do, people should stay away for awhile to send a message that they already charge too much for everything already. (Like $7 for a small water that they buy in bulk for probably 35 cents, or $7 for a Mickey pretzel they make with 10 cents worth of dough.