Thoughts About Reduced Hours at WDW
With the announcement that Walt Disney World theme parks are going to have their operating hours reduced next month and rumours of the parks going to a 5 day per week schedule, it's worth discussing the impact it will have on guests.
Without spoiling the rest of the blog, as you guessed, money is the deciding factor and the impact on guests is minimal.
The fall is typically a slower time of year except around halloween, which is why the Food and Wine Festival was originally created at EPCOT and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom. This year will be particularly slow with the cancellation of the after hours halloween party and a dramatically scaled back version of the Food and Wine Festival (Taste of EPCOT) and ongoing COVID-19 precautions in place.
Based on the quarterly results call, it is clear that the majority of daily guests to the resort are local guests (meaning those within easy driving distance to the parks), which reduces the impact of a park closure on those staying on property. Similarly, with no nighttime shows, keeping the parks open after dark is not a priority and having the parks empty out earlier in the evening is easier, since guests are fine with driving home, and minimal numbers of resort guests staying on property can go to Disney Springs or otherwise entertain themselves on property.
The loss of lower cost Disney College Program (DCP) and cultural ambassadors means that it will cost more per employee in salary and benefits costs than normal, the need to offer discounts to lure guests back, and other increased operating costs (such as those for PPE and increased cleaning) means that they need to take action to remain profitable.
For Disney Parks and Resorts, closing each park either earlier or even for 2 days a week enables them to reduce the number of Cast Members they need (since they can work longer hours or even in multiple parks), giving the ones still employed full hours and reducing operating costs while still managing park capacity.
So, while it is sad to see the scaling back of the things that make Disney, well, Disney, it's going to happen and in all honesty, for the right reasons. With this, I think they need to be cut a little slack and if it becomes an issue, I'm sure they'll make the necessary tweaks to get it right.