Episode 24: How Disney is Navigating Coronavirus (Transcript)

Jun 30, 2020



Intro (00:01):
Pixie Dust and Profits is a podcast for small business owners who love Disney and want to sprinkle some of that magic onto their own businesses. Join your host, Nicole Boucher and Yasmine Spencer. As they explore the mouse’s $12.6 billion operation and break down exactly how you can apply these big scale concepts to your own business.

Nicole (00:26):
Welcome to this week’s episode of pixie, dust and profits. This is going to be our last episode of season two. So stay tuned. We might have a couple of bonus things coming out this summer, but we’ll be starting again in the fall and this week, we’re going back to seeing what Disney’s doing and the coronavirus times, and you know, it is currently June 22nd as we are filming this and they just opened up reservations for preserving time and the parks. It’s a completely new process. And we’re going to dig in to see what’s changed how the Disney experience has changed and how it stayed the same, how they’re communicating with their fans and cast members and everyone else. And so can’t wait to jump right into it.

Yasmine (01:14):
So when Nicole and I first started talking about Disney and coronavirus times, we’re like, well, make one episode about it. And then more things changed. And we’re like, okay, we’ll do another episode. And I think the last time we talked about it was a couple episodes ago and we were like, okay, we’re not talking about Disney in coronavirus, but things keep changing in like really drastic ways. And we feel like we’d be remiss not to at least take a look at what Disney is doing from a strategic point of view because so many eyes are on the company right now. So as Nicole said, we’re going to dive into changes and there are three key things that have ultimately change. What makes Disney, Disney, the first being no more parades, no more fireworks and no more character meet and greets or even like character dining experiences. They’ve clawed all of those things back as a way to maintain safe, social distancing amongst park guests, and to diminish risks both to guests and to their staff. Now I can’t imagine a Disney trip without fireworks at the end of the night. Can you, Nicole?

Nicole (02:20):
No, no. One of my favorite things is watching the fireworks shows. I mean, we’ve gone enough that we’ve done the rides and rides are great, but I’m there for the shows and the experiences. And so not having the three o’clock parade or wishes. I mean, I still miss wishes even though it’s not the nighttime show anymore. It, it really, it isn’t, it doesn’t feel as Disney to me. And, but you know, it’s not the end of the day. Like I would still be happy to see all the stores and everything that is open because everything is themed so well, but yeah, it’s a big component to revisiting Disney at the very least,

Yasmine (02:56):
For sure. And like we had talked about all the trips that we had planned. I was so looking forward to going in late November to celebrate my daughter’s first birthday, but, you know, with everything going on and especially with those experiences changing, I really rethinking it because you know, the one year old who attends Disney, they’re going to have fun at the parades. They’re going to have fun taking cute photos with, you know, all the characters and like it’s a bippity boppity, boutique open. Is she going to get her princess makeover? Like, I don’t know. And those were all of those like Disney first experiences. I was so looking forward to her, having as a mom.

Nicole (03:34):
And a lot of the reason you go for their first birthday is for you more so than the pictures and the memories. The first time I took my son was he was like 18 months old and he doesn’t remember much if anything, but we have the photos that we look back on as a family and he loves it and we love it. But how much were you going to have while you’re there second guessing? Like, did she touch something? Did I touch something? And so all of that would play into like, I don’t, I don’t feel safe at Disney. Like that’s, what’s going to go through your head while it’s all happening. So

Yasmine (04:07):
Yeah. And that definitely takes away and it takes away from that magical experience that you want to have. The other rumors that are going about are with the rides. Like some attractions are going to be closed. I don’t think they’ve released which ones just yet. There’s rumors that it’s going to be one family per car. And the way that they’re going about making this happen is they’re restricting park attendance. It’s obviously they have to do that. If they want to maintain social distancing guidelines, if you’ve ever been to Disney pretty much at any point, it’s always crowded. The only time I feel like I’ve seen what may be similar to what Disney will look like once it opens with all of these new changes was when we did Disney after dark.

Nicole (04:53):
I’ve gone in in September when it’s hurricane season and kids are back in school and you can kind of walk on rides in September at some points, but even then, I don’t think it comes close to how it’s going to be. And even then you have the cast members saying, like fill in every available space. Like if you’re not hugging each other, you’re not close enough. You know, they’re trying to pack as many people as they can into like the holding room that they waited until they attraction. And it it’s always been this, if you see the floor, you’re not close enough to the person next to you. So it’ll be interesting to see how this changes even after you know, the coronavirus goes away, you know, it’s not going to go away, but even after the initial, Russia’s die down how it’s going to change how Disney does

Yasmine (05:38):
For sure, for sure. And to really manage the number of people in the parks. So they actually have the ability to keep people, you know, far apart that we can actually see floors and holding rooms is Disney is instituting a ticket reservation policy where you have to reserve, which park want to go to on a specific day that you want to go and having a hotel reservation doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to get into the parks at all. They have gotten rid of park hopping and for the rest of 2020, you can only make part reservations. If you already have a ticket from a future canceled trip, or if you’re an annual pass member, you can only reserve three days at a time. So that’s a huge change from how we’re used to doing Disney. It’s, you know, people joke that, Oh, Disney is so much planning. It’s overwhelming. You have to pick your restaurant six months out and your fast passes, 30 or 60 days out. And it’s all this work. I mean, Nicole and I love that. That’s like one of my favorite things to do.

Nicole (06:40):
I love the planning part of it isn’t even vacation it’s you know, you get it planned beforehand so you can show up and just have fun and you don’t have to plan while there that’s as a, as a planner in my day job, I don’t want to plan while I’m on vacation. So if it’s done before I get there, I’m happy. Behind tunes is everything, but you know what I want to say, that Disney having the fast pass system and having this entire $1 billion thing that they built, allowed them to be able to make these adjustments on the backside, like relatively quickly, because they had their processes in place. And I’m sure that things had to change. And I’m sure they had bugs along the way, but if you already have an online system, people are used to reserving with it’s just another step to that system. Right? So this could have been much more difficult for them than it probably was.

Yasmine (07:32):
Oh, absolutely. There, like so many other little changes and updates that have come about what’s going to happen at Disney in the future. The last thing that I want to talk about is that with the reduction in, you know, park visits, it obviously also means a reduction in hotel stays as well. And the one way that Disney is going about managing this is rumor has it. And this isn’t like an official source, but what we sort of read based on our research is that Disney is moving anyone in a value or moderate resort to a DEC or deluxe resort. So the examples that I’ve seen are people who have reservations that pop century, which is a value resort, are now being moved to animal kingdom or Riviera for their stay. And they’re apparently only instituting this. If you don’t change your like hotel reservation stay if you do need to make changes, only DVC resorts are apparently available and you can like, you don’t have the option of moderate or value resorts and you have to pay full price. So that’s a pretty steep pricing increase for you know, the family who’s used to sort of staying in the old stars, doing rope drop to happily ever after now, because wishes sadly is gone. And you know, is looking to do a budget Disney trip, like a DVC stay is, is not cheap if you’re paying cash for it. That’s what like between four to a thousand dollars a night, right. Nicole,

Nicole (09:07):
I like to say that the price for a Disney vacation club room, if you’re not using member points is priced so high. So that way they can tell vacation club members, how much of a value they’re getting. You’re like, you know, when you get those sales pages that are like 7,000 value, only $27 today, I kind of feel like that’s what the pricing is like for vacation club rooms, because it’s like $600 a night starting. And even if it’s a room that only takes, you know, 14 vacation club points. So it’s a, it’s a lot, it’s more than people would probably spend you know, some of the reasons that they might be opening vacation club only is, you know, contractual obligation to have their timeshares open because they do have contracts with all of the members who own vacation club. So those other resorts don’t really have that contractual relationship that requires them to be open.

Nicole (09:59):
But of course, with fewer guests coming, fewer resort stays. They don’t want to be paying for full staff management of every single hotel. So it makes sense for them to only open a certain amount of them and have that limited staffing available. The deluxe resorts tend to have fewer rooms than the bigger resorts. So it makes sense that that’s why they would use those because staffing some of the like staffing art of animation, for example, if they could probably staff two of the deluxe resorts with how many people they need to run art of animation. So be interesting to see what are the first resorts they start opening up and how they’re continued to handle that situation. But even within the resource that will be open. They don’t have every single restaurant or area open. A lot of them have, have like the pools

Yasmine (10:48):
And stuff too. Yeah. was a storm along Bay at beach beach and yacht club. That’s going to be closed.

Nicole (10:55):
Yes. And that’s one of the reasons why people stay at that resort. There’s also rumors that, that might be aware the NBA is staying while they finish out their season at Disney.

Yasmine (11:07):
Ah, yeah, I think I did see a post somewhere about which hotel rooms that they’re staying at or which resorts I should say. What other reason why Disney might be doing DVC. In addition to all of the very accurate reasons that Nicole had mentioned is they might be wanting to people to sort of, self-select out of going to Disney, like keep in mind the rooms are more expensive. So that instantly makes it unaffordable for everyone. And then the people who are willing to pay at least with all the money that Disney has lost, they’re probably getting a lot higher margins from the revenue that they’re collecting for hotel stays around that time.

Nicole (11:48):
Yeah. And the people who aren’t canceling their trips in are coming and staying in this type of resort hopefully they’re like revisiting Disney people, like people who have been there before. So, you know, the loss of the fireworks that character shows this, not so scary, Halloween party, all of those things, maybe there will be less complaints. I mean, I think that might be a little bit of wishful thinking, but they can kind of try to guide people toward like, well, you know, you didn’t get that room at the value level and we upgraded your day and what came to the lodge. So I, I’m sorry that, you know, coronavirus happened and the parks don’t have fireworks, but there’s an wills outside your room. So, you know, that’s probably a little bit of their thinking here and that kind of leads into what we wanted to talk about from like the small business side of things that you know, some of us, especially if you’re a service provider, you may have had to change, reschedule, cancel services.

Nicole (12:48):
The wedding industry was hit particularly hard. Everyone’s either rescheduling their wedding or changing it entirely. And so this approach to what can we do when they’re not getting what they signed up for, you know, that, that big, you know, elephant in the room of how can I still make my customer happy, whether I still have that cash in my account and my cashflow, or I’ve already spent it, or I’ve already invested it. Like what, what can we do? And so there’s definitely lean on your contract or your terms and conditions to see what that allows you to do. But I’m always a proponent that if you’re able to think about it from your customer’s perspective, like if you are the customer buying from you, what would you feel satisfied with and kind of let that guide the discussion? You know, we talked about this in the past with pixie dust andprofits live, that we felt like it wouldn’t be safe to have our guests fly to Florida, stay together for, you know, four nights and go from there.

Nicole (13:52):
And so we’ve turned that into an online mastermind accelerator type experience. And you know, it’s not exactly what it’s going to be, but we did promise that we will have that live component as soon as things are safe for us to do so. And that they will be reinvited back. We’ll have select seats for those people who did not get to attend. And, you know, we’re doing lots of different things in order to keep that experience alive. So look at how you can upgrade your experience in other ways consider refunds. I know we don’t love refunds sometimes, but consider them are partial refunds. Different options fluctuates flexible options if you’re a service provider and you had some sort of in-person component get on the phone with those people who booked with you and find out like what their goals are like, what they wanted to get out of working with you and find a new way that works for both of you. It might mean that you have to do more one-on-one time than you were originally planning. It might, it might mean some sacrifices on your side, but in the end, everyone can come out of this with a win-win. If you go into it with the mindset of, okay, here’s what I need, here’s what you need. What can we create together to make sure we’re both getting served?

Yasmine (15:11):
The other thing that Disney has done that we also want to draw everyone’s attention to is just really being open and communicating things. Like, obviously they’re a big company, they’re still trying to figure things out and we don’t have all the answers, but I truly think that they’ve done a good job of keeping us in the loop, letting us know when changes are happening. Once they’ve been able to make decisions based on rules, laws, data being made available to them. And like they’re letting us know what to expect. They’re not hiding anything. They’re making it very clear what the rules are when you want to attend the park, what the experience is going to be like. So no one is going to Disney spending the money flying there, driving there during these times only to be disappointed they are being squeezed.

Nicole (16:00):
Can you imagine, can you, could you imagine flying, you know, weighing, if you should fly or travel doing it, getting there, and then you walk up to a lion it’s like this attraction is temporary really closed and fireworks aren’t happening. Like they have done a really good job of saying we can’t have, you know, these big in-person things like fireworks and parades because it encourages people to gather next to each other, which is not okay right now. So we’re not going to have them. And, you know, putting that messaging out there, like you said, might turn people away from going to Disney. But it, some other people might still be perfectly fine with that because they just want to ride roller coasters and right.

Yasmine (16:42):
And not have to share their car with anyone so they can always get the front seat. I mean, that, that would be a Perkin. In my opinion, I’m actually thinking how a tower of terror work be like one party on each half.

Nicole (16:55):
I saw a couple of photos that looked like they were testing the weight of the boats for the Pandora the boat ride, the boat ride. Yeah, yeah. The, the river journey. And they were putting people in every other row so that there would be space between like there’s an empty space between, so I imagine that’s probably what they’re doing was definitely tower terror, where there was probably two rows and maybe they encourage people not to scream. I don’t know if you can do that on tower of terror, but yeah, I mean, definitely interesting to see how it all plays out. Universal has been open for, I think at least a week or two now. And I think Disney intentionally decided to open about a month after the other amusement parks so they could see how things went. See how COVID cases are on the increase or decrease right now. It seems, it appears they’re on the increase in Florida. So I think they’re probably just kind of testing and seeing what works. They also have, you know, data and essence from their park in China and Shanghai. So they can kind of see what’s working there and what’s not, and have some at least guidance to guide the way.

Yasmine (18:06):
The last point that we want to make is that you can’t make everyone happy and you just kind of have to do your best. Unfortunately. I mean, I look at what Disney is doing and like, it sucks that I’ve had to cancel three trips this year. I do, we get to activate my annual pass. Nicole is looking to get a refund on hers because she’s not going to go back and actually be able to use it in the, in the timeframe that’s going to be available once the park opens. And like that sucks. But there are people who are legitimately upset that Disney is requiring anyone above the age of two to wear masks. And, you know, I understand that everyone has a right to be upset about things, but they’re saying things like, you know, I can’t, I can’t expect my four or five-year-old to like keep a mask on all day. And so like Nicole, you were legitimately concerned about your son being able to keep his mask on because it’s not always easy. You know, to tell a kid to do something, especially when they’re at Disney.

Nicole (19:02):
Oh yeah, definitely. We through luck, we were able to reschedule our room in January when we went with my parents and get a different hotel that was less vacation club points. And so we had enough points left over to just book a quick like weekend ish trip for my son’s birthday. And then when all this started happening, we had to reschedule. And so we were rescheduling down to when he’s still not in school, but still somewhat close to his birthday. And that would be August. And we’ve been in August before it is extremely hot. It’s basically too hot to function. As I usually tell people, we go out in the early morning and the evening, and then we hide out in air conditioning in the middle of the day. But the thought of wearing a mask and that my, for myself let alone for my kid. It just, it’s not something I was willing to do. And I understand what the precautions are in place and they require a mask. So I don’t want to be in the August heat wearing a mask, then I’m okay. Going to Disney and other time. There’s definitely been some commentary out there about the requirement for masks and I’m not boycotting Disney over and I’m just choosing to go later when, you know, I don’t have to worry so much about wearing a mask in a hundred degree weather.

Yasmine (20:15):
So you’re not going to make everyone happy. Some people will understand others won’t and that’s one of the unfortunate situations when you deal with an issue like this, like, you know, try as you might, but there’s always going to be one person or a handful of people that just isn’t cool with how things are turning about. And, you know, at that point it just might make sense to be like, okay, like, here’s your money back? I’m sorry. You know, it didn’t work out and part ways with them because at the same time you don’t necessarily need those people bringing you down. So

Nicole (20:48):
Yeah, I always recommend responding to them with, I hear you. I hear what you’re saying. You have valid concerns. However, these are our policies. And in fairness to everyone, we need to follow these policies there for the safety of X, Y, and Z. And you know, it’s important to hear those voices, even if it’s not what your stance is. And then, you know, maybe we’re not for you right now. Here, take your bag, I guess, for Disney and really take your bags and come back later, see you real soon.

Yasmine (21:22):
Like just going back to some of Disney’s like rules, like they’ve been doing some pretty fun ways of like reinforcing the mask policy at Disney Springs, right? Nicole.

Nicole (21:34):
Yeah. I was watching some of the videos coming out from Disney spring was because that’s like the shopping downtown area of Disney Disney world. If you haven’t been there recently and they are requiring masks and they’re policing it there by asking people to leave if they don’t have their masks on, but they’re doing it in a really fun, Disney way. They have stormtroopers out. I saw them on a balcony talking to people. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were walking around too much, like they do at Galaxy’s edge, but the storm troopers are, you know, up on a balcony calling out, Hey, you in the mask. And you’re just kind of playfully saying like, look, we’re enforcing lists and we see you here and we’re using storm troopers to be the police kind of. So it’s, it’s pretty fun that they’re incorporating Disney in it somehow.

Yasmine (22:23):
Yeah. So they’re, they’re trying to reinforce the rules in a fun way. We can’t always do that in our businesses, but you can try, right? Yeah. Well, we hope that this episode was like insightful or at least brought you up to speed with what’s happening at Disney world right now. Again, we’re, we’re genuinely bummed that we probably won’t be able to go back in 2020, but we understand like why these things are in place and or continuing to watch Disney and, you know, see if there are any other takeaways that we can take for our business. And as Nicole said this is our last episode and we’re kind of sorry to end it on a bummer note, but we thought it needed to be shared. And we might be back with with more Corona virus updates. If if Nicole lets me know, cut that out.

Nicole (23:12):
All right, everyone, thanks for joining us today. We hope that when season 2 comes that we will have, it’s so much more to share with you that the parks will be back in full force with fireworks and action and pixie dust to all around. Make sure you hang out with us this summer because we definitely have some fun things up our sleeves, even though new episodes might not be coming out. And yeah, we’re just thankful that you’re here and we’ll see you real soon.



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