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Disney World Finally Has a Plan to Reopen

By Rick Munarriz – May 27, 2020 at 8:10AM

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Disney World and SeaWorld Orlando are presenting their reopening plans on Wednesday.

Some of the smaller regional amusement park attractions in Central Florida have been reopening after pandemic-related closures, and now we will hear from the Big Cheese itself. Walt Disney (DIS -0.15%) will be presenting plans to reopen Disney World before the county's economic recovery task force on Wednesday morning. SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS 1.42%) will also be making its presentation before the committee.

All reopening plans have to include the dates when they expect to get back to business, and that will be the biggest takeaway from the presentation. The mayor's committee and governor's office have to approve the proposals, but there haven't been any rejections yet. Comcast's (CMCSA -2.00%) Universal Orlando had its plans approved last week. It will open to select annual pass holders on June 3 and all day guests come June 5, so it's fair to say that just about any date in June that SeaWorld Orlando and Disney World offer up at this point will fly given the state's aggressive pro-business reopening stance.  

Mickey Mouse with arms outstretched, welcoming guests back to Florida's Magic Kingdom.

Image source: Disney.

The bare necessities  

There's a lot on Disney's plate when it comes to Florida these days. It's been learning a lot about consumer behavior since partly reopening its Disney Springs shopping, dining, and entertainment complex last week. The NBA has confirmed that it's negotiating with the media giant to play the rest of the pro basketball season at Disney World's Wide World of Sports starting later this summer.  

It's still not a surprise to see Disney World likely being one of the last area theme parks to open. It may have been the first one to announce that it would be closing down in mid-March, but smaller players are a lot hungrier to get going. They don't have Disney's financial resources or the thriving broadcasting and streaming empire that will helping take some of the sting out of the closure of its theme parks, cruise ships, and retail stores. 

The opening date is obviously not the only thing that investors and theme park enthusiasts will be clamoring to learn about here. How will Disney break up the phased reopening of its gated attractions? Will all four of its theme parks and two water parks open at the same time? Will masks be required to wear if Disney World goes with a reopening date that is sooner rather than later? Will online reservations be necessary the way that the theme park giant has done in Shanghai Disneyland? How will social distancing measures play out given the strong possibility of virtual queues?

Comcast hasn't discussed an online reservation system for next week's Universal Orlando relaunch. This is an important distinction because Disney is not starting the billing clock on its annual pass holders in Shanghai until the reservation requirement is lifted. Given Disney World's massive capacity and lack of out-of-state tourism in the near term and limited on-site resort capacity if the NBA comes down it may be able to get by without requiring advance reservations. SeaWorld Orlando also isn't likely to have a problem staying below its initial capacity limitation in the new normal. Safety concerns and fears of the looming recession will also keep the historically busy summertime crowds away. 

Theme park enthusiasts have had a lot of questions about how Disney World will reopen. By late Wednesday morning many of those questions will likely be answers.  

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Comcast and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short July 2020 $115 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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