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One Year With No Disney World: The Fallout From a Year in Which No Guests Walk Through the Gates

cinderella castle no guests
Credit: Becky Burkett/Canva

In a world in which life is becoming ever more fast-paced and the daily demands of our jobs, our home lives, and our communities continue to mount up, the parks at the Walt Disney World Resort often stand as a beacon, a lighthouse on the hill above the crashing waves.

Planning and enjoying a trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth often serves as a permissible exercise in escapism, albeit an expensive exercise in escapism. In fact, many Disney fans take solace and find refuge in the simple assurance that Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth, the Hollywood Tower Hotel, and the Tree of Life stand erect, towering high above all else in a place of wonder situated in the centermost part of the Sunshine State.

four parks at disney world

Credit: Disney Parks/Canva

But what would become of it all in a year in which no guests walked through the gates at the four Disney World theme parks? If no guests checked in to a single Disney World Resort hotel? If Disney Springs was suddenly devoid of window shoppers, diners, and entertainment lovers?

Simply stated, the fallout would be wide-reaching and devastating.

An Apocalyptic-Type Event at Disney World

On March 12, 2020, Disney announced that its theme park resorts in California, Florida, and France would close to guests, effective March 15, in response to the ever-expanding global coronavirus pandemic.

empty magic kingdom

Magic Kingdom minus the magic, March 2020/Credit: Twitter/X/bioreconstruct

Disney’s parks in Japan and China had already closed their gates, and for the first time since 1955, the world returned to an unmagical, monochromatic Disney Parks-less existence. The scenario stirred eerie and unsettling feelings in the hearts of diehard Disney fans who grieved the loss of the magic and fretted over the uncertainty about the parks’ eventual reopenings.

The Physical Fallout: An Eerie and Empty Disney Resort

Imagine the iconic Cinderella Castle standing silent and still, devoid of the usual childlike laughter and excited chatter of guests taking in her splendor. The streets of Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom would lie deserted, and their respective facades and structures would seem almost to fade into nothingness.

The Big Thunder Mountain attraction at Magic Kingdom would become only a grouping of red rocks and rickety-appearing tracks with no shrieks of excitement from guests and no moving mine carts to be found.

big thunder mountain with no guests

Credit: Disney Parks/Canva

Stages and streets at Disney’s Animal Kingdom that regularly serve as the backdrops to live entertainers and dancers would be nothing more than lifeless flat surfaces, and the overall absence of humans in the parks would almost immediately turn the once-bustling resort known for its shoulder-to-shoulder masses during peaks seasons would be reduced to Disney-esque ghost towns.

The Emotional Fallout: Missing the Magic 

For Disney enthusiasts and fans worldwide, a year without Disney World would evoke a profound sense of loss and a longing for the magic that once was.

Disney World has always been far more than just a vacation hotspot. It’s a symbol of childhood innocence, nostalgia, and wonder–a source of unbridled joy for guests who regularly visit. The undeniable void left in the wake of its absence would lay heavy on the hearts of diehard fans who never dreamed they’d experience a Disney World-less world.

cinderella castle no guests

Credit: Becky Burkett/Canva

Though they’d relish the cherished memories they’d forged in years gone by, many of Disney World’s biggest fans would likely crumble under the emotional weight of the inability to make new ones.

The Financial Fallout: Disney’s Disgraced Bottom Line

To guests, Disney World is a magical theme park resort and one of the most popular vacation destinations on earth. But it’s also one of the most profitable economic powerhouses in the world.

Disney Parks–including the Walt Disney World Resort–are vitally important to the generation of revenue for The Walt Disney Company. In a year in which there are no guests at Disney World, Walt’s beloved company would suffer a devastating financial blow.

disney company no guests

Credit: Disney/Canva

The loss of revenue from Disney’s flagship theme park resort would quickly strain the company’s resources. Though the Disney Company boasts a diversified financial portfolio which includes its media networks, its film studios, and its streaming services like Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ might offer some insulation initially. But such a massive loss of revenue would be undeniably felt throughout the organization.

Every source of income from the Central Florida Disney parks would be stifled. No merchandise would be purchased. No resort hotel bookings would be made. There would be no advanced dining reservations made, and every restaurant at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and at Disney’s resort hotels would stand full of neatly dressed tables surrounded by diner-less chairs.

No guests in the parks also means that no park tickets would be sold. No tickets being sold means Disney World would generate zero dollars in revenue from fees assessed for Disney’s Genie+ and Lightning Lane features.

cinderella castle

Related: Disney Ticket Prices Will Soar in 2025. Here Are the Least Expensive Days to Visit

The overwhelming scenario would result in unprecedented financial losses for The Walt Disney Company, the likes from which Walt’s enterprise wouldn’t soon bounce back.

Fallout Far Beyond Disney Alone

But the repercussions of such an apocalyptic-type year at Disney World extend far beyond the parks themselves–and beyond The Walt Disney Company itself.

A year with no guests at Disney World would have a massive impact on the myriad of businesses that have been built on the certainty of the arrival and presence of millions of visitors going to the parks. No Disney World guests means there would be no visitors to the Central Florida area booking non-Disney World hotels. Businesses that draw revenue from the fees assessed as part of vacation home rentals including smaller, private businesses and larger enterprises like Airbnb.

Restaurants outside the parks would also be impacted, as would local shops and other businesses in the area. Transportation companies that service the Walt Disney World Resort would also feel the fallout, including those that transport visitors from Orlando International Airport to Disney World and back.

Such a fallout underscores the harmonious and symbiotic relationship that has long existed between Disney World and the Orlando community–to say nothing of Florida tourism as a whole.

Fallout Felt at Orlando International Airport

Orlando International Airport has long served as the primary gateway for visitors traveling to Disney World. Millions of passengers land at MCO each year, anticipating the magic ahead.

mco with no passengers

Credit: Orlando International Airport/Canva

But in the absence of theme park visitors, activity at the eighth busiest airport in the country would nearly grind to a halt as a dramatic deficit in passenger traffic would render terminals empty and concourses deserted. Airlines servicing Orlando, Florida, would likely feel the drop in passenger traffic, and some would be forced to find additional sources of revenue from other vacation destinations in an attempt to account for the dip.

Related: Major Airline Cancels Its Decade-Long Partnership With Disney World

Beyond MCO and its airline partners, the ripple effects of the massive drop in Florida tourism would poison ancillary services, as well as businesses in the area that cater to passengers arriving and leaving Orlando International Airport.

The Long-Lasting Fallout: Devastation to Be Felt For Years

In the hypothetical scenario of a guest-less year at Disney World, the impact on the resort, the Walt Disney Company, Orlando International Airport, and the airlines servicing the area would be profound, and some of the entities affected could ultimately face bankruptcy.

The physical, emotional, and financial implications would serve to underscore the all-important role Disney World plays in the tourism industry in Florida, as well as its symbiotic relationship with various types of businesses and organizations in the Central Florida region.

cinderella castle

Credit: Becky Burkett/Canva

Despite the devastation that such a fallout would cause, one thing remains hopefully certain. Disney’s enduring magic would do exactly that–endure. And in the following year, as guests return, so would hope and the undeniable feeling of optimism, magic, and childhood wonder and enchantment.

Such enduring magic is what ultimately sets Disney World apart from any member of its competition.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

One comment

  1. Matthew Brewster

    You didn’t mention the effect of a year-long closure of WDW would have on the WDC! Anyway, the pandemic only kept WDW closed for THREE MONTHS!!! However, Disneyland was actually closed for ONE WHOLE YEAR!!!

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