You say resorts, we say hotels. It’s like saying potato or spud. At the moment, there are a lot of unknowns around the world and it will be some time before we know the full impact of COVID-19. With everything going on it does raise the question, what could happen to the Disney hotel projects? Let’s jump in our timerover and see if the future is really in the past!
First stop, 2001. The last time we saw any Disney hotel projects impacted by the happenings from around the world was a day every American will never forget. September 11, 2001. Earlier that year, in January of 2001, Walt Disney World announced a new Disney hotel project, Pop Century. The original concept called for two separate resorts, Pop Century, The Classic Years, and Pop Century, The Legendary Years. Each resort would have their own check-in areas and be connected by The Generation Gap Bridge over Hourglass Lake. The resorts would be built in phases with Classic Years first (2002 completion) and the Legendary Years later (2003 completion).
In the months following the national tragedy, travel to Walt Disney World and everywhere decreased sizably. We were in an economic slowdown. With fewer guests coming to the parks the demand for a new resort lessened. The future of the Pop Century came into the question. The Classic Years Resort was planned to open March of 2002. Due to tourism plummeting around the world Disney canceled the opening of The Classic Years, as well stopped all construction of the Legendary Years.
Disney did ultimately open the Pop Century Classic Years in December 2003. The Legendary Years was left “abandoned” for ~10 years. Once guest attendance returned and exceed previous levels, Disney shifted gears and turned The Legendary Years resort in the Art of Animation.
Back in the timerover! Fast-forward to today we could be in a similar situation. At both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, there are multiple Disney hotel projects underway. Could we see any of the projects impacted? The three main projects under consideration would be Reflections, A Disney Lake Side Lodge, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, and the Disneyland DVC Resort.
Each of the resorts is in a different stage of development, with the Star Wars project the furthest along. Additionally, with the Star Wars resort being more a “boutique” size hotel, we would expect this project to continue. If, and it’s a big if, at the moment, Disney decided to walk away from any of the projects our assumption would be Disney’s Reflections. Moving away or scaling back on this DVC resort would make the most sense, as the sales of the recently opened Disney Riveria Resort (DVC as well) have been slow. We would expect sales would continue to be slowed through this unprecedented time.
The Disneyland DVC resort should continue forward as well. It is well known within the DVC community that the demand for a second DVC resort on the west coast is through the roof.
UPDATE: A rumor around the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser has surfaced. The rumor is Disney will be defunding the project and diverting funds to the Tron coaster and Guardians of the Galaxy coaster. When Disney defunds a project it doesn’t mean they are walking away but instead looking to complete the project at a later time. For the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, early reports are saying the project may be completed a year or two behind schedule. We would expect this project to be completed at some point, as it is well-known that this concept of Disney Resort is a Bob Chapek “pet-project”.
UPDATE: On April 3, 2020, Walt Disney World filed a variety of permits as it relates to the construction of Reflections, A Disney Lakeside Resort. The permits included: a tables service restaurant, bus stop, and covered walkway, security kiosk, transportation dock, pool restroom building, and outdoor structures. With the filing of permits, it leads us to believe the resort is all systems go, compared to our original thinking.
We’re crossing our fingers none of the Disney hotel projects are impacted. However, if the past tells us anything, even if they are impacted, Disney could very much revisit the impacted project in the future. At this moment, there is nothing confirmed by Disney. It will be some time before we hear if any of the plans change. For now, let’s jump back into our timerover and head home. Stay safe everyone!