Here's an interesting tip I've received from some insiders at the Walt Disney World Resort. Disney is considering whether to "soft open/beta test" some proposed social distancing and operational changes at one theme park before reopening all of its parks to the public.
Keep in mind that this is just a proposal at this point and not something that's been approved to happen, according to my sources. And there's no date set for it, either. But it's certainly an intriguing idea, and frankly, one that makes a great deal of sense.
The idea is that Disney would reopen one of its parks to a select number of guests — likely cast members and then annual passholders — to visit under new restrictions put in place to support social distancing. Health screenings might also be part of the new procedures to be tried.
Universal Orlando earlier this month surveyed its passholders and previous visitors about proposed operational changes, to gauge potential public reaction to them. But talking about hypothetical changes is one thing, seeing actual reactions to those changes in practice provides far more useful feedback.
A in-person test also would allow cast members to make on-the-fly adjustments to the new procedures to see how they would affect operations, in real time. Park managers could see how the new procedures work and how they do - or do not - scale to actual public use. And, of course, the whole exercise would provide cast members with training and experience in implementing a new set of standard operating procedures.
Given how much theme parks test new attractions before they open to the public, it's hard to believe that any park would consider a hard reopening if they had to implement new social distancing and testing practices without doing some form of controlled testing of those practices first.
So where would this happen? It would make the most sense for the first tests to occur at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It's just a process of elimination, really. Epcot is a construction zone, so it makes sense to keep guests out of there for unimpeded demolition and construction work once that can resume. Opening the Magic Kingdom requires opening the TTC and running either the monorail or ferryboats in addition to parking lot trams. Disney's Animal Kingdom has the additional variable of the animal exhibits, plus being a huge park to operate.
But Hollywood Studios is relatively limited in size, easy to access with its new parking lot and already has been implementing a virtual queue on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. With virtual queueing expected to be park of any pre-vaccine reopening plan, the DHS cast would be the ones with a head start on managing guests trying to use it.
All Disney theme parks worldwide are officially closed to the public until further notice.Tweet
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