ESTA Travel - safety spotlight on Walt Disney World Resort

ESTA travel to Walt Disney World Orlando

How US tourist attractions are preparing for a new normal

22 July 2020 – Although the US has yet to reopen its borders to travellers from the UK, one beacon of hope is that domestic tourism has seen a measurable uptick in the US, and in Europe many countries have begun to welcome regional visitors again. The restrictions on entry, an ESTA travel ban, is actually something the US government has had in place since mid-March for all travelers from Europe and Schegen area countries due to the novel coronavirus.

In the US airlines have begun to ramp up their schedules along with initiating new safety protocols. Southwest Airlines has added more routes to cater to business travellers and United Airlines plans to triple domestic flights in August―a sure sign that people are on the move. In response to the coronavirus, hotels, businesses, and attractions are initiating new safety measures. And, in the height of summer holiday season hotels in popular tourist destinations are selling out, especially those in close proximity to US national parks and beaches. 

Several major US tourist attractions—such as the Statue of Liberty, casinos in Las Vegas, Disney World Resorts, Universal Studios Orlando, the Grand Canyon, New York Central Park, Niagara Falls, Yellowstone National Park, Times Square, and the Golden Gate Bridge, among countless others—have reopened to eager visitors. 

To ensure the safety of tourists, tourist attractions are adopting new comprehensive safety protocols. And for many UK tourists the most beloved tourist attraction in America re-opened this month after a hiatus of almost four months…

Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando Florida is open

Walt Disney World Resort (affectionately known as "Disney")  reopened on 11 July with the first in a carefully calculated reopening plan. One can almost hear the cheers from children, and perhaps some adults as well, as the “happiest place on earth,” opened its magical gates! 

The beloved theme park employs more than 70,000 people and hosted an incredible 58 million visitors annually. Disney is well known for their consummate attention to detail. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that they are addressing safety during this time so comprehensively. 

In a post on the Disney Parks website, Dr. Pamela Hymel, the Chief Medical Officer of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products stated that as Disney Parks "continues the phased re-opening of our parks and resorts across the world, promoting health and safety for our guests, cast members, and the larger community is a responsibility we take very seriously." She also stated that Disney Parks remain "deeply committed to focusing on your well-being when you visit or work at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. From increased cleaning and disinfecting across our parks and resorts, to updated health and safety policies, we have reimagined the Disney experience so we can all enjoy the magic responsibly. We implemented our health and safety measures after considering the guidance of government and local health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in addition to the U.S. Travel Association and Disney’s team of health experts.” 

Walt Disney Orlando is a popular destination for ESTA travellers from the UK.
Some of the new protocols implemented by Disney’s theme parks
New protocols to ensure the safety of visitors that travel from around the world to visit Walt Disney World Orlando
•    Face coverings are mandatory for all employees and guests when entering the parks.
•    Staff and visitors will undergo temperature screenings to identify potentially sick people and limit exposure.
•    Disney will for the foreseeable future operate all its parks at reduced capacities.
•    Parades, fireworks, and other crowd-causing events are on hold for now at the resort properties.
•    High-touch activities such as character meet-and-greets, makeover opportunities, and playgrounds are temporarily unavailable. 
•    The resorts will also deploy more contactless payment solutions.
•    Disney has increased the number of hand-sanitization stations available at the resorts.
In fact, responding in real time the company has already changed a policy related to minimizing exposure. Guests may remove facial coverings to eat, but now must eat in a stationary location. The resort giant realized that park visitors meandering while snacking was causing too many instances of non-compliance with the strict policy for face coverings.

All guests shall be required to obtain reservations for park entry in advance. This is due to the theme park capacity being significantly limited as a result of new safety measures. Disney will manage attendance through a new park reservation system to make sure that all things are done decently and in order. Currently, they have paused all new ticket sales and Disney Resort hotel/resort reservations in order to focus on those guests who have already booked tickets and reservations. 

Other Disney resorts and theme parks are scheduled to reopen soon or have already reopened. Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World have reopened to guests. Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground reopened on the 22 June. Disney Vacation Club resorts in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Vero Beach, Florida have also reopened. 

At a coronavirus briefing on the 6 July, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis stated that he does not doubt that Disney Resorts will be a safe environment. He said, “The folks who put a premium on safety, that’s showing you that, you know, we’re able to handle this, have society function still when people go into work, but do it in a way that you take some basic precautions, and so we’re really impressed with what Universal has done, and I’ve looked at Disney’s plan… it’s very, very thorough.”


How to stay safer while travelling during coronavirus

While travelling during the current coronavirus pandemic has risks, taking precautions can make travel relatively safe. Experts―including those from health care, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree―there are some meaningful precautions that are important to prevent the spread of viruses.
The top 3 recommendations to prevent transmission of coronavirus
1.    Wash hands thoroughly regularly whenever possible and other times use hand sanitizer that is 60% alcohol or more.
When you wash your hands, use soap and water and wash for at least 20 seconds. 
2.    Cover up. Wear a face covering or mask whenever you are near anyone who is not a member of your household 
3.    Social distance: Maintain a physical distance from other of at least 6 feet and avoid crowds.

Additionally, health experts advise practices for 
•    Avoid touching your face—eyes, nose, and mouth—with unwashed hands as the virus can enter the body through these routes. 
•    Monitor your own health daily, especially for cough, fever, and shortness of breath.
•    If you feel sick, stay at home, and do not travel or mingle within your community. 
•    Avoid contact with people who appear to be sick in any way, especially if they exhibit symptoms of viruses including coughing and sneezing.
•    Be consistent about your sleep schedule and wellness routine to help build immunity.

If you are travelling with children under 5 years of age, here are some tips to consider
•    Bring some toys for children to play with on the flight so they are less prone to want to wander around the plane or airport. Children of this age do not understand social distancing.
•    Bring along lots of snacks. Some airport concessions are closed and there are minimal food options aboard most flights.
•    Choose masks that fit properly. Children may feel more restless if their masks do not fit properly and are uncomfortable.
•    Keep hand sanitizers or disinfecting wipes within easy reach of every family member. 

We all understand that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it, some experiences can return to a new normal that we crave. US travel is surely part of this.

Can I apply for ESTA now? 

Everyone is eager for ESTA-approved travel from the UK to the US to resume and Britons have said they hope to be able to travel to the US under the ESTA Visa Waiver Programme by the end of 2020. And yes, ESTA applications are being processed during this time. An approved ESTA is valid for 2 years; learn about eligibility now.

Bookmark our blog to keep up with the latest United States ESTA travel news. 

Travelling to the United States? Do you have your pre-planning checklist in order? Visit our ESTA Guide for more information about obtaining your travel permit. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your comments or questions for travel assistance.

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