Shanghai Disneyland opened up this week and so far, with the park attendance being kept low, things seem to be working out. If things continue forward without difficulties in Shanghai, it will certainly only be a matter of time before Walt Disney World and Disneyland begin to open as well. However, Disney CEO Bob Chapek expects that the U.S. will see one one major challenge to a successful opening that wasn't an issue an issue in Shanghai, the requirement of guests to wear to masks in the park.
While Bob Chapek stopped short of stating as fact that masks will be required for guests when Walt Disney World and Disneyland open, he admitted to CNBC recently that such a move, that is a requirement in Shanghai currently, was likely, and he knows that while asking people to wear masks is not a huge ask in China, it potentially is in North America. As Chapek said...
I think that the masks for the guests will be something that culturally is, is different. In Asia, as you know, it's fairly commonplace, even before COVID for folks to walk around in public with masks on. That is not the case in the U.S.
It's certainly true that masks are not uncommon accessories for people from Asian cultures when dealing with illness. In fact, it's quite possible that if you've spent any amount of time at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, you may have seen a few people here and there wearing them.
Especially considering that we could be looking at the U.S. parks opening in the summer, where it's hot in both Florida and Southern CA, and humid in Orlando, guests might be less than excited about covering their nose and mouth. There has already been something of a backlash as other retail and public facing establishments have required masks, as some customers have pushed back against the new rules.
It will be interesting to see just how a rule like this plays out. Certainly, many people who really don't want to wear a mask in public, will stay away. Although, considering that the parks will be opening with a limited capacity, it's unlikely there will be any difficulty selling tickets. The bigger question becomes, what happens to people who wear a mask to get into the park, but then want to take it off? How will the park be able to enforce individuals wearing masks among the crowd? Will there need to be threats of removal from the resort for any who remove their mask inside the park? Will peer pressure from the rest of the crowd be enough to keep people in line?
There's also a less tangible question. Does it change the way the Disney magic feels? Part of the joy of places like Disney World is the feeling that reality has been left behind, which will be tough if everybody in the park is wearing a face mask.
Still, for most the mask will likely be a small price to pay for the opportunity to return to their happy place. At this point no reopening date has been set for Walt Disney World or Disneyland, though both locations are only accepting hotel reservations for July 1 forward, so we almost certainly won't see either park open until July at the earliest.