Whether you believe that the virus affecting our world is deadly and highly contagious or it is just another flu, we can agree that-until now-businesses did not pay enough attention to measures of hygiene at their facilities. This week I had the opportunity to visit Disney Springs to determine the value of the actions they have enacted to ensure the minimal transmission of viruses amongst guests and cast members.
Some of the welcome changes were touch-less temperature checks at entry, touch-less payments, and an increased focus on disinfecting. While much of what Disney implemented is high-value, there is an opportunity for improvement. Some areas that Disney can refine are directional signage, face-covering requirement adjustments, and restrooms.
Moving About and Physical Distancing
There is an escalator at the exit of the Orange Garage temperature check. Your initial intention is likely to avoid touching the handrail. But what if you can't, or you lose your balance while you are on it? Upon arriving at the bottom, there is a hand wash station and hand sanitizers. Score! While the hand wash stations seem to be a great solution, they are challenging to use. You have to touch the station multiple times to get the water flow, and it splashes tremendously. It was a great effort on Disney's part to install these throughout Disney Springs; however, more hand sanitizers are likely more useful as it requires less touch to achieve the desired result.
While I strolled around trying to figure out where I wanted to begin my adventure at Disney Springs, I had not noticed the subtle directional signage. While I understand the intention to keep the Disney Springs atmosphere's visual experience, these signs were easy to disregard. Even the person who tries their best to follow the signage will make gaffe as the signs subtlety allows them to blend in, making them hard to notice. More noticeable directional signage would assist in lowering the chance of guests of different parties bumping into one another.
Wearing Face Coverings in the Heat
While walking around, I noticed an abundance of people not wearing their face coverings. They weren't eating, and they weren't drinking. It is required for cast members and guests to wear appropriate face coverings during their visit to Disney Springs. The bulk of the people not wearing masks were groups of teenagers hanging out. There were some adults as well. At no time did I observe a cast member directing anyone to wear their face covering. I even saw cast members take off their masks.
On the day of my visit, temperatures reached 100 degrees in the Florida humidity that can be deadly. I checked the weather before I headed out and chose to bring my surgical mask over my cute reusable face covering. I am sure that, apart from the teenagers, many of the people removing their face covering needed a breath of air. Many face coverings are thick and difficult to breathe through. Coupled with high heat, one can become overheated.
Disney needs to add more facilities for guests to sit and recover from the heat. Florida heat is impactful on its own, but a face covering can make it deadly. Including more socially distant covered seating areas will allow guests who are overheating to recuperate. You can catch your breath while dining at one of the many restaurants, but what if you ate just an hour ago? More covered seating is a must.
There are two reasons that I love Disney Springs, World of Disney, and FOOD! During this visit, I wanted to know what the third party dining establishments were doing to make their guests comfortable. Social distancing signage, check. Acrylic partitions at checkout, check. Touchless payment, almost.
I went to pay for my meal using Apple Pay. Lo and behold, I have to sign for my payment, and there is no hand sanitizer in sight. Also, there is not a restroom inside the restaurant in many establishments, and you have to leave the facility to wash your hands. I prefer to have the protection of signing for my bill (it was rather sizable) without sacrificing the safety of my health. This scenario is where a hand sanitizer pump would make sense, next to the almost touch-less payment station.
I then go to the self-serve drink station to grab a sweet tea. I'll grab a soda instead because I am not going to touch the spigot for the tea. Maybe I would have been bolder if there were a sanitizer station there or a team member wiping down the drinks area.
Once I was at my table, and dining like a queen, another set of guests sat at a nearby table (3 feet away). They took their masks off and proceeded to wait for their food to arrive. While they waited, another member of their party came looking for them, and they proceeded to get up without their face covering and YELL for that person's attention. As it wasn't possible to move the tables farther apart, it would be prudent to add signage to remind patrons to keep their masks on while awaiting the arrival of their food.
Restrooms After Reopening
The most significant opportunity that I noticed at Disney Springs was the restroom. The one I visited was quite empty. I faced a dilemma once I finished washing my hands. I could use the touchless hand dryers or use paper towels. I chose the paper towels as I know that I would have to pull the door handle once I needed to exit the restroom. Disney should install foot door openers or push paddles, or they should install more paper towel dispensers. The hand dryers are quite lovely, but once you arrive at the door, you have defeated the purpose of handwashing.
Despite the hot weather and the limited facilities, I had a lovely time at Disney Springs. As I exited, I was presented with a QR code to complete a survey about my stay's comfortability. Disney is not a company to rush into anything, and they are always learning. They take guest's feedback seriously and will implement ideas that will make guests and cast members feel safe. I look forward to seeing how they will pivot in the coming weeks.