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Disney CEO: CDC mask rule will spur ‘immediate’ jump in theme park attendance
Disney’s chief executive said he believes Disney World and Disneyland will reach full capacity this fall — but admitted that the theme parks are still hammering out some of the details.
At a virtual tech-and-media conference hosted by JPMorgan on Monday, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said theme park guests will experience more relaxed safety protocols from now until the end of September as COVID-19 restrictions ease nationwide and vaccinations rise.
Already, Disney World customers are experiencing those changes as the park dropped its outdoor mask mandate.
Nevertheless, the Mouse House also is debating social distancing policies like “the famous zero feet, versus six feet versus three feet,” Chapek said. While those issues are being figured out, the CEO noted that international travel remains a “wildcard” and that a full-capacity global reopening would vary by park.
For instance, while Disneyland Paris is reopening its doors on June 17, there’s a new COVID surge in Japan that has caused Tokyo Disneyland to cap its hours and attendance.
Disney World in Orlando, Fla., reopened at limited capacity last July, while Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., only opened its doors in late April at reduced attendance.
With the increase in vaccine distribution, coronavirus cases have been on a steady decline, which prompted the CDC to loosen safety protocols nationally earlier this month.
The road to recovery has been a tough one for Disney. Parks were forced to close a year ago in March and were crushed financially as a result. The company took a $6.9 billon hit in its parks division last fiscal year, and continued to be get beat up in the January and March quarters.
But Chapek said the division is resilient and he quoted an “intent to visit” survey that indicated that customer interest in visiting Disney World has returned to 2019 pre-COVID levels.
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