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Disney World faced some dark times in the early days of the Covid pandemic. The entire massive resort, consisting of four theme parks, two water parks, the Disney Springs shopping area, and countless hotels, fully closed their doors in March 2020.
It was a bleak time that led to tens of thousands of what Walt Disney (DIS) – Get Walt Disney Company Report calls “cast members” (employees) being laid off. Disney rarely closes its Florida theme parks and the closures generally happen due to weather. During those brief closures, its hotels keep running, trying to still offer as much fun as possible for guests.
That was not possible during the pandemic and the entire resort closed from mid-March through early July 2020. And, once the parks reopened, the rest of the resort came back slowly. Disney had used some of its hotels for the NBA playoff “bubble,” but most of its properties remained closed.
That slowly changed as reopening dates for hotels slowly started to get released and more and more Disney-owned resorts restarted operations. Now, for the first time since March 2020, the company has hit a meaningful milestone.
Disney World Has All of Its Hotels Open
While its theme parks are the obvious draw, a huge part of the appeal of a Disney World vacation comes from its immersive nature. Many visitors choose to stay “on property,” meaning that they’re staying in a hotel that’s inside Disney’s transportation system.
In some cases, like the Disney Boardwalk hotel near Epcot, that means being steps away from a theme park. At the Animal Kingdom Lodge, you are so close you might see animals from your hotel room’s window. In other cases, you might need to hop on a bus, take Disney’s Skyliner, or take a boat or monorail to reach the theme parks.
It’s an enticing way to vacation where you’re never far from the fun and you’re fully immersed in the Disney experience. As the pandemic wore on, Disney slowly returned its hotels to operation, but it wasn’t until the last day of March in 2022 — roughly two years after the closures began — that the company has opened all of its hotels.
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“Milestones are for celebrating – whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, graduation or personal achievement. And now, for the first time since March 2020, guests can celebrate new milestones and stay in the magic at all Disney Resort hotels that are part of the Disney Resorts Collection at Walt Disney World,” Disney Public Relations Manager Amie Gorrell shared in a blog post. “The final resort to reopen is Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, which began welcoming guests back today.”
Disney’s Theme Park Business Bounces Back
After a long, bleak two years, the opening of the final Disney World resort hotel puts a cherry on top of the company’s theme park comeback. CEO Bob Chapek was bullish on the theme park part of his company’s business during its first-quarter earnings call.
“Over the last several years, we’ve transformed the guest experience by investing in new storytelling and groundbreaking technology, and the records at our domestic parks are the direct result of this investment,” he said. “From new franchise-based lands and attractions, to craveable food and beverage offerings, to must-have character merchandise, there is more great Disney storytelling infused into every aspect of a visit to our parks than ever before. “
He also shared that some of the changes the company has made at its theme parks have paid off.
“In the quarter, more than a third of domestic park guests purchased either Genie+, Lightning Lane, or both. That number rose to more than 50% during the holiday period. While demand was strong throughout the quarter at both domestic sites, our reservation system enabled us to strategically manage attendance. In fact, their stellar performance was achieved at lower attendance levels than 2019,” he said.
That’s something the CEO expects to continue.
“As we return to a more normalized environment, we look forward to more fully capitalizing on the extraordinary demand for our parks, along with the already realized yield benefits that took shape this quarter,” he added.