Views of the Disneyland theme park, still closed due to COVID-19 on July 11, 2020 in Anaheim, California.
AaronP / Bauer-Griffin | GC Images | Getty Images
It has been over a year since Disney’s two theme parks in California were forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the company’s theme parks division has not been idle while waiting to reopen.
From renovating the iconic carousel to laying the final brushstrokes on the Avengers campus, which opens June 4, Josh D’Amaro and Disney’s Parks, Consumer Products and Experience division have had it all.
As it plans to reopen Disneyland and California Adventure on April 30, the company shared a number of updates with media and stakeholders during a webcast Thursday.
For starters, the parks will operate at around 15% of their capacity and will only be open to residents of California. Wearing a mask and social distancing will be required for guests visiting the park.
10,000 workers recalled
Last year’s shutdown led Disney to lay off tens of thousands of workers and cut a major source of revenue for the media company. The parks, experiences and consumer products segment accounted for 37% of the company’s total revenue of $ 69.6 billion in 2019, or roughly $ 26.2 billion.
A year later, revenue fell to $ 16.5 billion, or about 25% of the company’s $ 65.4 billion in total revenue.
“It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do personally in my career,” D’Amaro said of the layoffs in an interview with TBEN before the webcast. “I’m very passionate about the cast members here. I think they’re the real reason people come to these parks. These little interactions that they have with chained guests are great and I think that’s what it is. is the reason we are different from the rest of the world. “
D’Amaro said that when the Disneyland Resort opens at the end of April, the company will have recalled more than 10,000 cast members.
“We’ve changed a lot of our processes around the way people access and experience Walt Disney World parks and we’re doing the same here at Disneyland,” he said.
Cashless payment and other technological options
Customers are encouraged to use the cashless payment options, either through the parks’ magic bands or their phones, and to use the parks mobile ordering system to purchase food.
“The idea of these things had existed and, in fact, in some cases, it had actually existed in our theme parks,” D’Amaro said. “This Covid era that we’ve been through has put that at a high speed in terms of adoption and how we use it in parks.”
In fact, before the coronavirus, Disney saw single-digit adoption of its mobile ordering system. Today, around nine out of ten customers choose to use it.
“Cashless transactions are faster. It’s best to skip the queues,” D’Amaro said. “So we know this has helped create a better customer experience.”
Other technological innovations include virtual queues, which help maintain social distance, and an online reservation system, which facilitates crowd control. Parks will continue to offer these different technologies even after the pandemic because of how this has helped improve the experience for customers in the parks.
Disney is also getting closer to launching “Genie,” a new digital offering that helps customers plan their entire trip to the parks. Guests tell the app exactly what they want to do and eat during their stay, and the program creates an optimized itinerary. It’s designed to be customizable and flexible, so if customers decide not to take a stroll or try another restaurant in the park, Genie will rearrange the schedule.
And Disney’s focus on technology is getting behind consumers’ monetary transactions. The Imagineers who work behind the scenes have been busy creating new ways for guests to experience the company’s iconic stories and characters.
TBEN took a peek behind the curtain of the research and development lab and saw firsthand how Disney is inventing new technology to turn the park experience into something no other company can easily replicate. Disney is expected to share more about these innovations in the future.
“Innovation, inventing new technologies and trying new things are at the heart of the TBEN of our parks,” D’Amaro said during the webcast.
The park will also continue to implement ephemeral cavalcades and impromptu character encounters, which have replaced parades and large-scale fireworks. Even when the parks can once again produce massive fireworks displays and processions, these little surprise events will continue.
“In particular, over the past year, the Parks group has become much more nimble in terms of being able to respond to what’s hot and relevant,” D’Amaro said.