It's been a little more than a month since Disney (NYSE:DIS) installed walk-through metal detectors at the entrances to all four of its Disney World theme parks. Its Central Florida rivals followed suit. We're starting to see why it's better to be safe than sorry in the industry of fun these days.
A guest was detained on Thursday while trying to check into one of the onsite hotels at Disneyland Paris, the European resort in which Disney owns a sizable stake. A security scan of his baggage unveiled a pair of handguns and ammo.
The initial headlines played up the facts that the 28-year-old European traveler was also packing a French-language Koran, and his female companion initially fled. However, as of last night, French authorities continued to question the guest without turning to France's anti-terrorism squad. In short, this is shaping up to be more of a case of poor judgment than a potential act of terrorism. Sometimes a Koran is just a Koran.
Disney's heightened security initiatives closer to home have been scrutinized. We don't know if any catastrophic events have been thwarted, but we do know that guests now have to deal with a new layer of inconvenience before enjoying a day at one of the theme park giant's gated attractions.
Having visited all of the major Central Florida theme parks this past holiday season as the new measures were taking place, I can say Disney was the least cumbersome. Only a small number of guests were asked to queue up for the metal detectors after the initial bag check. It's not like rival Universal Orlando, where most of the guests are being scanned on the way in to the resort. The long queues to get through security on busy days are a popular gripe in online communities, with waits reportedly stretching as long as 45 minutes at peak guest arrival times.
It's easy to argue that guests will come to accept the enhanced safety checks as the new normal. Folks expect to be screened at the airport or when entering some government buildings. Many regional amusement parks in troubled markets installed metal detectors years ago. However, when Disney does something, people notice.
There may very well come a day when Disney's measures aren't enough. It would be an unfortunate day on many different levels. However, for now it seems as if Disney's timely push to more actively screen guests for guns, knives, and even selfie sticks is the right call.