The last Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) branded theme park resort to announce reopening plans will surprisingly enough be the next one to unlock its turnstiles. Tokyo Disney announced on Tuesday morning that its two theme parks will start greeting guests on July 1. Earlier this month, Disney World, Disneyland Paris, and the original Disneyland in California revealed that they will open their gated attractions between July 11 and July 17.
The Japanese theme park resort will be doing things a bit differently than the other parks when Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea resume operations next week, namely in the realm of mask requirements and online reservations. In order to prevent heat strokes, Tokyo Disney will allow guests to remove their masks when outdoors during the summer season when temperature and humidity levels are high -- if adequate social distancing is possible. Tokyo Disney is also not technically going the online reservations route like Disney's stateside parks, because it's not allowing annual pass holders in at this time. Only guests purchasing dated admission media will be allowed on any particular date as the park keeps capacity levels in check.
It's not a surprise that Tokyo Disney would march to its own beat as it's the only resort that Disney itself doesn't have a financial interest in right now. The media mogul has full ownership of Disneyland Paris and its stateside resorts along with significant minority stakes in Hong Kong and Shanghai, but Tokyo Disney is fully owned by The Oriental Land Company in Japan. Disney does have a hand in designing the attractions and it receives licensing fees. It also naturally benefits from consumer product sales and the brand ambassadorship that Tokyo Disney offers, but the popular Japanese destination is not technically a Disney-owned property.
Tokyo Disney's approach to admissions is interesting. Online reservations have been required at Disney-owned destinations, a reasonable approach given the tight capacity constraints at the parks in their initial reopening phases. There have been some hiccups along way, but the system is working for the most part. Social media was ablaze when Disney World's online reservations platform opened on Monday morning, but that was largely the result of folks circulating a 7 a.m. launch time that Disney itself never offered. The world's largest theme park resort simply set Monday as the day when reservations would be available for visitors with upcoming stays at on-site hotels, but it never published an actual start time to the platform's rollout. You can't blame the House of Mouse for overambitious fans.
Tokyo Disney limiting initial admissions to only those buying dated tickets will mean that the meter won't be running on its annual passes, but it also means that every visitor is generating new cash for the resort. It will be interesting to see how that transitions into the window for pass holders and guests with other admission media to start visiting the two popular Japanese theme parks.
The mask requirement is another thing that will bear watching, especially given the policies in place for the media giant's other parks. Guests have to wear face coverings at the other Disney parks except when dining or in designated relaxation zones. The summertime exception at Tokyo Disney is interesting, as heat stroke is a common concern in Florida with its equally high temperature and humidity levels.
Disney World isn't likely to immediately follow Tokyo Disney's lead when it officially starts to open its parks on July 11. Unlike Japan where new COVID-19 cases plateaued more than two months ago, Florida cases are currently at new highs. However, it could be something to watch if the worrisome trend reverses in Florida and California in the weeks leading up to next month's resumption of operations.