Disney Theme Park Downtime Not A Total Wash As Company Eyes More Immersive Attractions, Greater Efficiency, CEO Bob Chapek Says

Jill Goldsmith
·2 min read

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Monday that despite how rotten it was to have theme parks closed for so long, the forced downtime was also an opportunity to tinker with technology and data to reopen better than before, for both guests and for shareholders.

Speaking at a Morgan Stanley media conference, Chapek was cautious about the speed of recovery, which depends on the vaccine rollout and “travel readiness” by guests – when they’re willing to hop on a plane. That said, “We are making sure that when they re-enter, that we have a better guest experience” including attractions with increasingly immersive storytelling. Personalization efforts may draw on consumer data to develop things like customer park itineraries.

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“There are changes, things we always wanted to do, improvements to the guest experience,” said Chapek, who has been at the helm of Disney for about a year, the seventh CEO of the company that turns 100 in 2023. He cited Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Disneyland: “There’s a million lines of code in the program that runs Rise of the Resistance. Which makes it extremely complicated but also makes it extremely immersive storytelling. We imagine that that’s the world going forward.” He didn’t name other specific attractions but implied there’s been a lot of thinking and planning over the past year during the forced hiatus.

He believes demand will rebound “quite handsomely when we can put more folks in our parks or open up the ones that are closed,” including flagship Disneyland. The theme park, including California Adventure, will partly reopen March 18-April 5 for a shopping and dining event.

Expanding on measures brought on by Covid and likely to stick around, Disney is working on a “frictionless” guest experience including keyless check-in, mobile ordering of food so guests don’t have wait in the park — “your food’s ready” — and contactless screening.

More sophisticated dynamic pricing – where ticket prices vary according to date – will help boost the margins at the division, he said, promising the parks sector will once again drive the company’s numbers higher instead of the drag it’s been since last March. Parks and resorts took a $6.9 billion hit last fiscal year on Covid.

“There will be reopening costs. We have to rehire labor, which we are more than happy to do. We want to put people back to work. But there will be more efficiency.”

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