Neil Armstrong’s famous lunar moonwalk quote could be fairly apt for today’s Central Florida tourism landscape—one small opening at Disney, one giant leap (of hope) for tourist-kind.
By Susan & Simon Veness
That is how it felt being back at Disney Springs yesterday morning, witnessing the first stirrings of Central Florida’s giant economic engine—otherwise known as Walt Disney World—after more than two months on the COVID-19-enforced sidelines.
Yes, it was only a partial reopening, and yes, the crowds weren’t overwhelming (which was probably a good thing). But the first step in the normalization of our most famous international brand is definitely something to be positive about, even if it’s just a cautious optimism at this stage.
There remains no date or timetable for the return of our theme parks, but the chance just to be in a Disney environment once again should give everyone a lift at a time when we need to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Of course, there was a different vibe to the place. Having to wear face coverings, undertake a temperature check on arrival, and maintain the by-now statutory social distance at all times kind of ensures our ‘new normal’ is unmistakably atypical of the usual experience.
But, right now, that is to be accepted. We need that feeling of safety and reassurance from our headline attractions; that sense of circumspect progress, even if it comes at the expense of a small level of personal comfort. We know this is not forever, and just strolling through Disney Springs once more is heartening.
And, given what is at stake for Florida as a whole—and its 125 million or so annual visitors—we were definitely encouraged by the way Disney went about re-engaging us with the World of Walt.
Health and safety were the watchwords pretty much throughout this one-mile-long district and, even though there were still shuttered windows and closed doors, there was plenty to focus on and enjoy on an idyllic Sunshine State day.
Now we need a bit more of the “Steady as she goes” governance that we have seen from our civic leaders in the past few months; we need a few more attractions to open up with the same level of careful rebirth; and we need guests to be equally prudent in their reaction to it all.
Like Disney, Armstrong took just one small step, but the ramifications were huge. Let us all give thanks for this forward progress—and hope we can take the next, larger steps in the weeks to come.
Editor’s Note: Susan & Simon Veness freelance write for a number of publications, ours included. But here they write on behalf of the Central Florida Tourism Collective, a group they formed, and in which we are a part of, that aims to give visitors a reassuring message of life in the heart of the Sunshine State during these unprecedented times.