The absurd year of 2020 is finally coming to a close, having changed the way we approach just about everything in our world. Travel has taken the biggest hit of all, with borders closing to visitors domestic and international, a move that has seriously stunted my lifestyle and coping mechanism for everyday life.
But in times like these, I try to look to the future, plan ahead for future travels and think of all the wonderful things yet to come that I will never take for granted again. For me, that includes returning to my happy place, Disneyland in California. In planning this, I face several problems, two of which are as follows: the fact that we as Australians cannot leave our country (fair enough, 'cause it's working, but still annoying) and that Disneyland isn't currently open. Minor details, right? You know what they say, where there's a will, there's a way... eventually, that is.
All this planning for my grand return got me thinking about a few ways that Disneyland could benefit from the example set by Walt Disney World, and one of them came well before this pandemic even started: MagicBands.
Had I been asked this question before 2020, I would have said no, absolutely not. Disneyland is a stand-alone institution that doesn't need to follow suit with its much larger yet younger sibling just to fall in line. We did quite well without MagicBands all these years, thank you very much, I would have said, self-righteously stating all the reasons why they are unnecessary on the West Coast. But just like everything else in 2020, my opinion on this one has changed. So much so that I now believe they might be the key to a responsible re-opening. Allow me to elaborate.
Think about the power your MagicBand holds when visiting the Orlando-based parks. It's your park entry, your FastPasses, your room key, your credit card; you know the drill. And what do all of these have in common? They make every chime of your wrist a contactless transaction. Think of all the surfaces you no longer touch or make direct contact with when using your MagicBand. You don't exchange cash that hundreds of people before you have touched. You aren't punching in your PIN to that credit card machine. You no longer use the entry fingerprint scanner that literally thousands of people will handle on the same day. You aren't exchanging paper FastPasses or touching the device they came out of. All in all, you are really making a dent in how many communal surfaces you are coming in contact with. In a mid/post-pandemic world, those eliminated touchpoints can make a big difference.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking, Disneyland and its surrounding areas and resorts function in a very different way; and that is true, however, there is nothing a little modification can't fix. While they may not be able to do the same job they do in the East, they can undoubtedly provide a safer and more efficient practice for re-opening; a function we have never valued them for previously.
Perhaps they could repurpose some of the ticket booths, situated in the middle of Disneyland and California Adventure, allowing them to accept cash or credit cards in return for credit on one's MagicBand. This addition would cater to guests not connected to a Disney resort or Good Neighbor hotel. By accepting cash in one location outside the gates, a cashless system can be nurtured within the park to stop the spread of any germs that might linger on our currency, which we know is exchanged frequently once inside.
MagicBands would also make for more efficient contact tracing. As we tap our way around the parks, any known cases that emerge after our stay could be pinpointed down to certain times during a stay, making it easier for other guests that were in the vicinity to be notified. Furthermore, this practice might even save the good old Park Hopper, allowing it to stay in play between the two gates.
In an age where we all depend on devices to get us through the day, maybe the very technology we are all used to using in one Disney park will influence the others to create a safe environment for guests and staff going forward.
Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, let's be clear that I am not suggesting this is the only measure that needs to be taken, nor that it would provide a foolproof solution to this health crisis. Simply acknowledging that it might be time for a change, a step forward in a much-needed direction for the Happiest Place on Earth.
So what do you think? Could MagicBands help guide Anaheim through a more streamlined and safer re-opening process for Disneyland?
*Feature image credit: Disney Parks Blog