Without warning, Disney World has suddenly banned a decades-long practice in the parks, leaving shattered dreams and a loss of income in its wake.
In October, guest Nicholas Deniz and his clients were standing in line, waiting to enter the parks at the Walt Disney World Resort in Central Florida. Deniz is a bit of an expert when it comes to Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney Springs, because he visits the parks regularly. It’s part of his job.
But just before the gates opened that morning, Deniz was pulled from the line by Disney World park management and detained by two Orange County Sheriff’s deputies.
“It felt like he had done something terribly wrong, the way that they pulled him aside and spoke to him,” said Corinne, one of Deniz’s clients who was waiting in line with Deniz at the time. She says she “felt horrible” for Deniz as she witnessed the scene playing out in front of her.
Banned With No Warning
After a conversation with Disney World management, Deniz was handed a trespass warning by one of the Orange County Sheriff’s deputies, who then shared the awful news: Deniz had been banned indefinitely from any part of Disney’s Florida parks property. According to the officer, the ban can be appealed in a year.
Deniz had no choice. Though he works as a third-party tour guide, assisting guests in navigating the sprawling Disney World resort, Orange County statutes will permit deputies to arrest him if he fails to comply with the order.
“Unauthorized commercial activities are not permitted at Disney World as clearly stated in our property rules,” a Disney spokesperson explained in a statement.
A Decades-Long Practice, Suddenly Prohibited
Deniz isn’t alone. According to Insider, several third-party tour guides have recently been met with the same fate at Disney World’s entrance–being stopped in their tracks and handed trespass warnings. But most of them say that assisting guests in experiencing the parks and navigating the ins and outs of the massive theme park resort is something they’ve done for years. One of the tour guides said it’s been his job for almost 30 years.
Tour guides and business owners who offer similar services say there has never been an issue with them providing tours at the Walt Disney World Resort. Now, however, Disney’s apparent ban on those activities is costing the guides their financial security and livelihood.
Many third-party tour guides in Central Florida help their clients with things like booking reservations at Disney World dining venues, planning out their days in the parks, and securing Disney Resort hotel reservations. Guides also accompany guests to help them physically navigate the parks to make the most of their time–a service they offer at a far more affordable rate than guests would have to pay for a private tour at Disney World.
Depending on the time and duration of the tour, guests often pay between $450 and $900 per hour for private tours of the resort. Third-party guides’ per-hour rates often vary from $180 to $300 per hour. Disney World tour guides usher guests to the front of the line at attractions, whereas third-party guides don’t have that accessibility to offer to their clients.
“None of us are attempting to portray Disney in a negative light,” says Alayna Crutchfield, a guide and the owner of Elevate Amusement, who received a trespass warning in October while waiting to enter the parks. “[We’re] just desperate for answers. Crutchfield’s business assists many guests who have disabilities as well. “I’ve had to cancel, and a lot of my families have children with disabilities.”
Ramón Rodriguez, owner of Theme Park Concierges, also received a trespass warning. He points out that while his business offers a service to clients, it also serves Disney as well.
“We provide a service to Disney itself by bringing clients–high-end clients,” Rodriguez said. “My clients aren’t eating hamburgers and hot dogs and popcorn. They go to Disney’s high-end restaurants. They stay at Disney’s luxury hotels.”
Murray Krasnoff owns a concierge and tour guide business, Suntastic Service, and says he’s been in the business since 1996. Krasnoff specializes in assisting guests with disabilities in the parks. He had never had a problem until October 11, when he received a trespass notice from Orange County.
“I have four families in November, and I have a party of 17 over Christmas week with three people with special needs,” Krasnoff said. “I’ve been on the phone with [my clients], saying, ‘I’m sorry to tell you this.’ Now they’re all stressing about what can be done.”
What’s Behind the Sudden Crackdown?
Krasnoff says he knows that Disney World is private property, but he doesn’t understand why the crackdown is happening now after allowing these businesses to operate for decades. “Why now, all of a sudden, is this happening?” he asked.
Many of those affected by the crackdown on third-party tour guides say they just want to understand what happened, and they’d like to work with Disney World management to come to a potential solution. They say the sudden ban on their services in the parks has not only instantly stopped their income and their means of providing for themselves and their families, but it has also forced them to tell their clients–who have been counting down the days to their respective Disney World trips–that they have to cancel.
“We’re not trying to bash Disney,” Krasnoff said. “We’re just confused, saying, ‘What just happened?'”