Disney reopens after 13 months

latimes.com

The gates of Disneyland are opening again Friday to welcome customers for the first time since the resort was closed at the start of the global pandemic. Only California residents will be allowed to visit, and daily crowd sizes will be limited due to safety protocols.

Visitors can once again enter the “Happiest Place on Earth” but the experience may not appear as happy as it was pre-pandemic.Both theme parks will be limited to 15% capacity upon reopening, in line with the guidelines set by California. The two parks have been closed since March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Disney fans will need a reservation specific to the park and day they visit – a tool that the resort said will help it manage capacity.

Health guidelines will require guests to go through a temperature screening before entering the park and to wear face masks. They’ll also need to remain 6 feet apart from other groups. People who visit together will be limited to no more than three households. Other measures to reduce the chance of viral transmission include cashless transactions and enhanced cleaning practices, the Walt Disney Co. said.

Guests are encouraged to use cashless pay options, either via the parks’ Magic Bands or through their phones, and to use the parks’ mobile ordering system to purchase food.

“Cashless transactions are faster. Avoiding queues is better,” D’Amaro said. “So we know what this has done is create a better guest experience.”

Other tech innovations include virtual ride queues, which help maintain social distancing, and an online reservation system, which helps with crowd control. The parks will continue to offer these different technologies even after the pandemic because of how it has helped improve the guest experience at the parks.

Disney is also getting closer to launching “Genie,” a new digital offering that helps guests plan their whole 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 guests decide they don’t want to go on a ride or want to try a different in-park restaurant, Genie will reorganize the schedule.

The “magic” began returning to Disneyland this week when the resort lit up Sleeping Beauty Castle and ran trains on its Disneyland Railroad for a special welcome day for cast members and staff.

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The pandemic has forced the Walt Disney Co. to carry out thousands of layoffs at its resorts and cruise lines. Overall, the company operated at a net loss in the 2020 fiscal year, it said in January.

Friday’s long-awaited return to the theme park will bring an emotional moment, Laird predicted.

“I guarantee in our family there will be tears at some level,” he said. He added with a laugh, “I can actually feel my heart speeding up as I’m just thinking about it.”

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