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There are six theme park resorts with the Disney name on them around the world and right now all of them are closed. At this point, there is no estimated date for when they might reopen, but beyond that, it's far from clear what will happen when they do. Will people come rushing back to Walt Disney World and Disneyland when the gates reopen, or will people be hesitant to return to crowded places? Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger is well aware that people may need some degree of reassurance that the parks are safe, and the idea of checking people for illness at the gate is on the table.
As with many public places where large number of people gather, Disney parks have their share of security. Currently, you can't walk into one of Disney's domestic theme parks without walking through a metal detector and having your bag searched. At this point, it's something many people expect in order to feel safe, and Bob Iger tells Barrons that we could see some sort of addition to the security procedure that could, as an example, take people's temperatures as they enter the park. According to Iger...
One of the things that we’re discussing already is that in order to return to some semblance of normal, people will have to feel comfortable that they’re safe. Some of that could come in the form ultimately of a vaccine, but in the absence of that it could come from basically, more scrutiny, more restrictions. Just as we now do bag checks for everybody that goes into our parks, it could be that at some point we add a component of that that takes people’s temperatures, as a for-instance.
Bob Iger doesn't say this will absolutely happen, and it's certainly possible that it could take a different form, but clearly there are conversations about how to handle this when the parks reopen. At some point, businesses will reopen, but it's unlikely that the virus will be entirely "gone" when that happens. This might make people hesitant to visit the parks. Considering how much the closure is hurting Disney, the company wants to make people as comfortable as possible as quickly as possible, so it's not surprising something like this might be considered.
Bob Iger says that in China, where things are slowing getting back to business as usual, steps like this are currently be taken, people are having their temperatures taken before entering the subway or high rise buildings. Disney is looking at what China is doing in order to figure out to handle the situation when we get there. Iger fully expects that steps like this will be taken at other places, like schools, when they reopen here.
Certainly, there are some pretty hefty logistical issues to work out to implement something like this. What will be needed to take the temperature of thousands of people a day? How will it be determined if somebody is "too sick" to enter the park? What happens to the tickets that were purchased if somebody isn't allowed in? Considering that, in many cases, a person may be carrying a virus without showing symptoms, how successful will something like this even be?
It will also certainly add to the wait time if a temperature taking station is added to the bag check location. In the end, Bob Iger thinks that guests to the parks will make the trade of convenience for safety. In fact, he thinks people will insist on it.
So we’ve asked ourselves the question, let’s prepare for a world where our customers demand that we scrutinize everybody. Even if it creates a little bit of hardship, like it takes a little bit longer for people to get in.
It seems, based on Bob Iger's words, that some sort of new process will be added to park security. Of course, all this is moot until the parks actually reopen. At the moment, both Disneyland and Walt Disney World are taking reservations from June 1 on, so it seems Disney is hoping to have things back up and running by then.