Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) has been welcoming visitors to its Florida resort since mid-July, but Disney World isn't anywhere close to firing on all cylinders. The four theme parks are now open, but Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach -- the country's two most visited water parks -- remain closed. Many of Disney World's on-site hotels have also yet to reopen, and this week Disney is conceding that its signature Polynesian Village Resort won't be checking in overnight guests until the summer of 2021.
Taking the Polynesian offline is a pretty big deal, especially since it was already booking visitors to the resort for stays starting next month. It's also a surprisingly long outage for the iconic property. It's one thing to delay a hotel's reopening a couple of months, the way Disney did with the South Pacific-themed resort when it pushed its initial mid-August restart to Oct. 4. However, tacking on what will be roughly another eight months of closure is a grim admission that things won't be getting better in the coming months at the world's most popular theme park resort.
Lei it on the line
Disney's Polynesian Village Resort is one of the resort's most popular hotels. It was one of just two on-site resorts available when Disney World opened in 1971. It's one of the three resorts that are on the Magic Kingdom monorail line. It's also conveniently steps away from the Transportation and Ticket Center that houses the Epcot monorail line.
Things haven't gone as Disney planned, and that's not a shock. These are unprecedented times. Disney has never had to close any of its domestic resorts for months. We're in a pandemic. We're in a recession. Even the best-laid plans are being scrawled in crayon.
Disney's theme parks business isn't currently profitable, but as the industry leader pointed out last month, it's not losing as much money as it did when the resort was entirely closed through the first few months of the coronavirus crisis. The results started to fall short of Disney's initial expectations as COVID-19 cases started to spike in Florida through June and early July, but the counts have been trending sharply lower since mid-July.
What does Disney see that investors don't? Are advance bookings that bad? Disney obviously knows its own business better than anybody else, but it's not as if it has the inside track on when the pandemic will fade or when global tourism will pick back up. There's a lot of guesswork here, and for now you may as well pass the crayon box.