ORLANDO, Fla. — It's a big week for the currently dormant hospitality and tourism industry in Central Florida during the coronavirus pandemic. The phased reopening of Disney Springs will begin Wednesday, and experts say other parks will be watching.
The Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida has a seat at the table in Orange County as reopening continues, with Dean Youcheng Wang on the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force.
While theme parks are busy putting forth their plans to Gov. Ron DeSantis for re-opening, Dr. Alan Fyall Rosen College Associate Dean of Academic Affairs said Disney Springs is doing the right things by gradually reopening.
"Whatever Disney does, others will do to varying degrees because of resources, but essentially it is the benchmark," Dr. Fyall said.
He said Disney will be relying on data to decide when to fully reopen.
"They will just watch very, very carefully to how people respond, how they dine, how they above, and above all are they enjoying themselves," Dr. Fyall said.
Consumer confidence during the pandemic is crucial, he said, in a company that people are loyal to.
"It's not so much when you open, it's how confident people are to actually come out," Dr. Fyall said.
Dr. Fyall thinks smaller theme parks will do will once they're able to reopen.
"I think a lot of people will actually opt for the slightly smaller option in the early days," Dr. Fyall said.
We also asked Dr. Fyall about the hospitality job future. He's hopeful a large percent will return, but doesn't think they all will because things could be running differently, including more automation particularly in hotels.
Amanda Zulia was furloughed by a third-party restaurant of Disney Springs and told us Monday, her unemployment application now said "eligible."
"Not the best that it took exactly 2 months to get here, but it gives me more hope that something is being done," Zulia said.
When we spoke to her three weeks ago, she told us she was deemed ineligible.
While her restaurant isn't reopening yet, she hopes Disney Springs reopening goes well.
"It'll be interesting to see how many people are actually utilizing that area," Zulia said.
Sign up now for one of our coronavirus newsletters that will show up in your inbox every weekday at 1 p.m. The newsletters highlight the most important coronavirus stories of the day that you need to know for your area.