A major component of Disney's reopening: Contactless tech

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A screenshot of Josh D'Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, who spoke during the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions virtual expo.
A screenshot of Josh D'Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, who spoke during the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions virtual expo.

Technology that enables contactless interactions has been a key component in reopening Disney's theme parks around the world.

That was one of the points Josh D'Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, discussed during the virtual International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo.

For example, when Walt Disney World in Orlando reopened in July, Disney introduced a parks reservation system, the Disney Park Pass System, that required guests to not only buy a ticket to the resort's four theme parks but also use a new online system to reserve a daily spot at the park.

Normally, D'Amaro said, that kind of project would take a year to develop. But Disney's team pulled it together in five weeks, said Tilak Mandadi, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products' executive vice president of digital and chief technology officer.

Once the parks reopened, guests were more apt to use existing technologies to facilitate contactless interactions -- some at astounding rates. Before the pandemic, D'Amaro said, 9% of food orders were conducted through mobile ordering. Today, the number is up to 84%.

Mandadi said that nearly 90% of all payments within Disney's parks are now cashless.

Though the pandemic will likely delay projects to bring about new attractions and activities in the parks, D'Amaro said, innovation is still underway. Construction continues, for instance, at the Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure. Work also continues on the revamp of Epcot in Orlando.

D'Amaro has tasked Disney's Imagineers to "dare [to] dream bigger and differently," he said.

"These dares don't just apply to big, new moonshot products and experiences," he said. "They apply to our products and experiences today."

For instance, he asked, why is capacity measured by the number of riders that can cycle through an attraction each hour, and not Disney's ability to engage with guests anywhere inside a park?

"Why do we accept friction points as a necessary byproduct of the environments that we create?" D'Amaro asked. "Do you really have to wait in line? Why can't guests choose exactly what they want to do, when they want to do it? After all, isn't this what our millennials expect of us today? Why can't a trip to Walt Disney World be simple?"

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