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There’s a remarkable statistic circulating the internet that “It's a Small World (After All)” has been played somewhere in the world every minute of every day since the opening of Disneyland Paris in 1992. That is, until now.
Earlier this month, Disney and Universal announced the temporary closure of theme parks across the globe to protect guests and employees from potential exposure to COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) — taking thousands of theme park guests by surprise.
Rather than excitedly packing for their fun-filled spring break vacations to Disney and Universal theme parks, clients are deciding whether to cancel or postpone their trips, and travel advisors are trying to navigate the process.
“Agents are a beacon of calm and sanity in a sea of uncertainty and anxiety,” said Sue Pisaturo, owner and founder of Small World Vacations in Washington Township, New Jersey. “And when this is over, clients will trust and rely on them like never before.”
“Agents are a beacon of calm and sanity in a sea of uncertainty and anxiety. And when this is over, clients will trust and rely on them like never before.
We reached out to several theme park specialists for their advice on helping clients with theme park cancellations and rebookings during this unprecedented situation.
Stay CalmSue Ellen Knebel, director of travel services for DreamFinder Travel in San Marcos, Calif., notes that the most important thing advisors can do is to reassure clients that there is no need for “gut-reaction cancellations” if clients have stays booked in the future.
“It is difficult enough dealing with the closures and travel restrictions that have been implemented, but knowing that we will still be paid for what we worked hard for is a welcome relief during this stressful time,” she said. “It can be tough to maintain a sense of calmness when dealing with all of these uncertainties. However, the calmer you are — and the more reassuring you are to your clients — the easier it will be for everyone.”
Be PatientDisney and Universal have relaxed their change/cancellation policies to give clients more time to make informed decisions. Because of that, Knebel is advising her clients to determine whether to cancel or rebook closer to the trip’s departure date. If there isn’t a financial detriment to the client, waiting makes the most sense, she says.
Meredith Wallace of Minnie Memories Travel in Bedford, New York, agrees.
“I have found both Disney and Universal have been very agent-friendly with cancellations,” she said. “I have clients scheduled to go to Walt Disney World the week it is scheduled to reopen, and since Disney has been so great at refunding clients’ money, I am encouraging them to wait.”
But since nobody knows for sure when the parks will reopen, clients who have bookings for later in the year may still be able to go on their trip — and if they can’t, they will get a refund. Therefore, Wallace considers it a “win-win” to be calm and see what really happens.
Work TogetherPisaturo of Small World Vacations says advisors at her company are working tirelessly to help their clients and one another. One way they’re doing that is through an online chat room where her team can share information; get answers to questions; and even modify or cancel reservations for other agents’ clients when one of them gets through to a company while on the phone.
DreamFinder Travel’s Knebel also points out that advisors are in a much better position to advocate for their clients by being proactive and knowing what the cancellation and refund policies are (as well as current exceptions to those policies) before contacting the parks. That way, she says, agents can communicate accurate information to clients, and clients won’t expect exceptions that aren’t reasonable.
While everyone understands that the parks needed to close in order to protect the health and safety of parkgoers and employees, that doesn’t erase the disappointment caused by having to cancel or change a planned theme park vacation — especially for kids.
The good news is that parks will not stay closed forever. The gates will reopen, “It's a Small World (After All)” will play again, and agents will be able to offer theme park magic for their clients.
- Walt Disney World Resort- Disneyland Resort- Universal Orlando Resort- Universal Studios Hollywood