Crowd Calendar and Coronavirus

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There was an error in the update that was published March 23, at 1 pm. A second update was published at 9:40 pm to correct the error.  If you received a Crowd Calendar Tracker email, disregard the first one. All Crowd Level predictions are tentative until we know when the parks reopen.

Everyone’s number one priority right now is to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by practicing social distancing. Disney did their part by closing the parks. It is unknown how long the closures will last, but we on the stats team are looking ahead at some possible scenarios and how they might impact crowds.

We at touringplans.com use historic data to derive our Crowd Calendars. A pandemic closing the parks is unprecedented. We have data from hurricanes closing the parks for a few days, and causing people to cancel trips.  The September 11 attacks closed the parks and disrupted travel. During the 2008 recession, people reduced spending on vacations. The data for all these disruptions in Disney’s operations shows an initial reduction in attendance, and then a bounce back.

Once Disney opens, we expect that it will take 8-10 weeks for Disney attendance to reach normal levels, and then attendance will be above normal as people reschedule their canceled vacation. This means it would take a year for Disney to get back normal crowd levels.

The length of the pandemic and a potential subsequent recession will affect crowds returning to the parks. We will update our Crowd Calendars on a regular basis, but without knowing when the parks will open our adjustment curve will be reapplied to our models. The shape of the adjustment curve will stay the same, but the length and magnitude of the curve will likely change.

Below is a chart showing the adjustment curve applied to the average weekly crowd for Walt Disney World if the Re-Opening Date is April 1, May 1,  June 1, or August 1, 2020.

Maybe you had a trip that has been canceled or have one that looks likely to be disrupted. Maybe you are looking at economic concerns, travel challenges, or concerns about health and safety. At some point, however, we’d expect most of our readers to make a trip to Walt Disney World. So we’re asking you:

When will you go back to Walt Disney World after the parks reopen?

View Results

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We’ll keep you updated here on the blog as we get updates about park reopening schedules and the impacts those changes will have to the crowd calendar. Thank you for your support during this challenging time.

Steve Bloom

By helping TouringPlans.com continue to reach the most accurate crowd level predictions, Steve finally found a way to meld his training in statistical analysis with a lifelong passion for Disney. He first visited the Magic Kingdom in 1972, just a few months after it opened. Now he enjoys frequent trips with his two kids. At age four his son insisted on wearing cowboy boots to reach the height requirement for Test Track, and his daughter believes that a smoked turkey leg and Dole Whip make a perfectly balanced meal. Even though she doesn't quite get it, Steve's wife is supportive of his Disney activities.

51 thoughts on “Crowd Calendar and Coronavirus

  • March 24, 2020 at 1:39 pm
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    Interesting article and very much appreciate your thoughts on this. It would be interesting to include the pre-COVID-19 curve Walt Disney World Weekly Average Crowd Level – to compare the projected impact due to the current closure.

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    • March 24, 2020 at 2:23 pm
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      I agree. I updated the chart to show the pre-closure crowd level.

      Reply
  • March 24, 2020 at 1:42 pm
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    Be interesting how many spring break and early summer trips that were cancelled get moved to late summer, fall break, or the Christmas holidays. Locals and die-hards will go back immediately (thus poll results above), but I know for our out of state family we moved our Spring Break/Star Wars running weeklong trip to fall break in October since that is when everyone will be off from work and school again. It should be safely after this crisis is over.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 1:59 pm
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    I live in the UK and have a trip booked for September. If that gets cancelled then it’ll be 2022 for me. I know loads of people who are planning to reschedule next year and I’d rather avoid all the crowds. So next year will be Disneyland California and Aulani for me.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 2:03 pm
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    I’m not sure how useful that poll is. Most of the people reading this site are planners and have their 2020 trips already planned. The only determining factor on how long after the parks reopen that they’ll return is based on when their already-planned trip is. And we don’t know when the parks will reopen, which makes this an impossible question to answer.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 2:10 pm
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    Trip is currently scheduled for April, we already have May and July backup dates planned.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 2:19 pm
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    1 — those curves are inapplicable, because of the economic toll. The curves need to be combined with SEVERE economic recession.
    2 — Those curves are inapplicable because WHEN the parks re-open, it will likely come with capacity restrictions in order to allow for some measure of social distancing for the foreseeable future.
    3– Those curves are inapplicable because when the parks re-open, there will likely be severe travel restrictions both domestic and international. How much would it affect crowds, if New Yorker’s can’t fly in? Or they can’t take any international guests from South America for the summer months?
    4– When a natural disaster like a hurricane is over, there isn’t a continued fear. How much will exposure fear continue to create issues.

    Combine everything…. you really can’t build a good model to account for it all, especially with so many unknowns. But, it is highly doubtful that crowds spike high just 8-10 weeks after opening.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 2:27 pm
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    I liked the idea of a poll and answered it, but it was a guess because I also don’t know when the parks will open and that isn’t what sets my plans. But I do know when I’m planning on going back as do some others on this thread and if the parks have been open a month or 3 months, that doesn’t factor into the decision- it is time of year, activities… the normal stuff. One thing you could do next round is ask for a month we are planning to go back – for me it is September (it was fun just to change the date of my personalized touring plans to the new one and check optimize- but now I will have to do again as parks have jumped for 1 to 6- thanks for doing your best to guess!)

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  • March 24, 2020 at 2:40 pm
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    We are UK liners and have a trip booked in August but if that gets cancelled we will have to wait a couple of years to rebook because of the flight booking logistics in school holidays.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 3:07 pm
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    This is truly unknown territory. Thanks for taking a stab at predictions though and explaining your reasoning. My trip is in September, so still hopeful it will happen, but realizing that even that far out, it isn’t going to be business as usual. How it will be different isn’t possible to know, so if there is a time to be open to changes and flexible, this is it!

    will

    Reply
  • March 24, 2020 at 3:08 pm
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    I’d really like to get an updated crowd calendar. If crowds are low shortly after re-opening, I’ll go immediately. Otherwise I’ll go during one of the next traditional slow periods (September after Labor Day or the first two weeks of December). That’s my main criteria.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 3:16 pm
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    I love Touring Plans and use them often, but I really don’t understand your update to the May estimates. I’m traveling (hopefully) to WDW this May 19-22. The estimates have really jumped significantly. This does not seem to match your graphic above (for either a April 1 or May 1 reopening). What reopening date were the most recent changes to the estimates based on? Something sooner? Thanks!

    Reply
  • March 24, 2020 at 3:19 pm
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    Those are some drastic changes for early September, particularly Epcot going from a 1 to 7 on September 3rd? What reasoning do you see such a drastic change occuring?

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  • March 24, 2020 at 3:46 pm
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    My trip in November had dates jump from 2 to 8, 1 to 10, and 2 to 10 (November 18-20). I don’t really see that addressed in the blog post – can you please provide some clarity into why those had such extreme changes?

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  • March 24, 2020 at 3:50 pm
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    My trip is in May and I think it is very unlikely that it would happen because even if the parks are open, I have to travel internationally to get there. If by some miracle everything is settled for May, then we would try to travel then, if not, we are looking at January for reschedualling. Hopefully wont have crazy crowds after Christmas period. But who knows.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 3:56 pm
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    But why are some of the days jumping from 1 all the way to 9’s? I don’t get that. That’s one heck of an increase, while some increase 1 level.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 4:00 pm
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    Took a guess at a somewhat correct answer to the poll. Our trip is planned for mid-August. If the resort/parks are reopened we may still go but too much is uncertain at this time. IF we had to reschedule it would be the following August.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 4:13 pm
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    Hmmm… these numbers seem pretty far fetched. Jumps from a 3 up to a 10? I think there’s a lot of factors not being taken into account here, such as economic impact. I also don’t see how numbers after closures from 9/11 are all that relevant for these predictions. The situations are far too different in the type of impact. I think it’s a bit premature for this kind of speculation.

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    • March 24, 2020 at 4:38 pm
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      There is a problem with the last update for some dates. Another update is coming soon.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 4:28 pm
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    Thanks for starting to work on this, and for proving to the kids doing math IS useful… I’m sure it must be difficult with so little data, but a guess is better than nothing at all. We planned to go in October during a low crowd time (based on your crowd calendar, yay!), but depending on how things shake out we may rethink that!

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  • March 24, 2020 at 4:41 pm
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    I hope the revised crowd updates received into my inbox turn out to be wrong aswell. Midweek in early Nov rising from 4 to 10. That would be a nightmare. Thanks for trying to predict the crowds however as most people have said it’s almost impossible. So many random questions to answer. When will the parks reopen? Will many be wary of flying and going to large gatherings initially? If there is a recession how many people will lose their jobs? Would everyone still be able to afford it? Finally the parks could reopen and cases spike again causing another closure. If my trip is cancelled I will probably delay until 2022.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 4:47 pm
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    We were planning July 2021, going as late in the summer as possible increasing the chances the new Tron and Guardians of the Galaxy coasters would me open, but before coming to this blog this morning I started debating whether I should wait for 2022. When we go, we go for 2-3 weeks at a time so we can see much if everything (including Universal). Adam Brown brings up a good point that the economic impact of Covid-19 may cause a decline in crowds, but as Disney really caters to the more well-to-do families, I’m not sure if this is true. Once things get back to normal, I will definitely be watching the crowd reports to see what me and my family

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  • March 24, 2020 at 4:50 pm
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    From reading other Disney FB groups, most of the members who were rescheduling their upcoming spring trips (April-May) are rebooking for the fall. Many said September, the other popular answer was December. So I imagine that the end of the year will see larger crowds than previously predicted. I guess we will all find out how it goes when we get to that point! I have a trip scheduled for May; I’m holding off making a decision to cancel or reschedule for a few more weeks. I have several things to consider: 1. how our state’s shutdown of businesses affects my cash flow 2. how much work picks up once the crisis is over (may be too busy to get away)

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  • March 24, 2020 at 4:52 pm
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    It’s hard to answer the pool because I don’t know when the park will open. We have a Christmas break trip planned. Right now it’s far enough out that I’m keeping it at Christmas. That could me 6 months out or more or less. I’m not timing my trip on when the park reopens. More on school schedules and such.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 4:52 pm
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    Disney really caters to the more well-to-do families, so I’m not sure the 2021 crowds will be effected much by recession. Yes, it did hurt crowds and spending in 2009, but Disney is going for big spenders now and that group will have the money to make the trip, recession or no recession.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 7:08 pm
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    Has the fact been considered that so many families with school-age children visit Disney Parks and so many of those children will have MISSED (POTENTIALLY) 2 to 3 months of school?
    I would not consider taking my children out of school for a Disney vacation until 2022.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 7:52 pm
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    I am not suprised to see the predicted increases. We were going to go this fall and now are considering 2021 because of the likely increased crowds.
    My question is why the weekends are actually decreasing, while the usually quiet Tuesday to Friday is drastically increasing. We just received updates for three different weeks, Oct Nov and Dec and all had the same pattern. What is the reason for the weekends becoming quieter and the weekdays busier? Thank you.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 8:49 pm
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    Hi Steve – I always appreciate the crowd calendar updates. I think perhaps something happened to the October numbers. My MK non-party days have dropped to 1s (10/17 and 10/24) while some party days have jumped higher. I’m also not sure how Hollywood Studios would be a 7, 10, 7 and then drop to a 1 on a Saturday?? (10/22-10/24)

    Lastly, a more general question while we are here, you guys are predicting AM EMH 4 days a week in October for MK. I’m not seeing that suggested anywhere else. Do you have confidence in this?

    Thank you!

    Reply
  • March 24, 2020 at 9:42 pm
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    Yes. A new-update just got published. You should receive another email this evening.

    Reply
  • March 24, 2020 at 9:50 pm
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    How is this affecting May fast pass availability? The fast pass availability tool is currently not working. Thanks!

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  • March 24, 2020 at 9:53 pm
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    I am an out of state annual passholder who has (had) a trip planned for spring break right after Easter. I already have a June trip planned before my AP expires. We are not planning to renew. As a teacher, I have to look at the school calendar. IF the park reopens and I can manage a weekend trip over Memorial Day weekend, I might try it to catch flower and garden. If not, we’ll hope to keep our June trip.
    I think a previous person made an important point as far as schools go. Some school districts are like mine and are doing eLearning and won’t have to make up days. Other districts will most likely have to extend the school year which will most likely throw your usual predictions off.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 9:54 pm
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    Hello, I have my trip scheduled for Oct. 30 -Nov. 8. I appreciate the CC updates. I usually go this time of year because it’s not too busy. Looks like I’ll have lots of company. I will definitely be avoiding weekends in the parks. It will be interesting to see how things evolve. Thanks to the Touring Plan team and be safe.

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  • March 24, 2020 at 11:58 pm
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    Though I love the crowd calendars, what is happening now is completely uncharted territory. I think the crowds levels should have remained untouched because nobody even knows when the parks will reopen. And when they do, you will have pent-up demand but also a massive recession. Just an email with general information seems more appropriate.

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  • March 25, 2020 at 12:40 am
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    I appreciate the analysis, but I have to echo a previous comment that there’s just too many unknowns for any of this to be of true value at this time. I think one of the biggest issues is the airlines. They will not be able to simply flip a switch post-COVID and provide the same capacity as they were a month ago. Some airlines will likely no longer exist and the ones that survive will likely do so with a lot of cost cutting through layoffs and furloughs. Even if demand returns to its pre-COVID levels at WDW, and I doubt it will in 2020, it will take the surviving airlines a while to get capacity rebuilt, and if this is done in the middle of cash strapped global recession, then it will take longer. I think this thing is a totally different beast than one we have seen before in that it’s global, it will linger, and there’s a fear element to all this that involves being in close proximity to other people. You combine these notions with macroeconomic drag and I would guess WDW will be substantially less crowded when compared to pre-COVID levels for many, many months to come.

    Reply
  • March 25, 2020 at 1:19 am
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    Disney released info that they will allow people to use their reservations/purchased tickets until December 15, 2020, so I’m wondering why so much of an increase in the beginning to mid January (when it is not valid), and September is now a majority of 1’s. I know September is normally lightest crowds, but people who wanted to go in Spring and avoid Summer scorching days, would now go in the fall, which is Sept/Oct. School is a factor, sure, knowing kids missed so much school already. But how would it add that much more for January, 2nd lightest crowds typically, yet go from 4’s and 5’s to 8 and 10’s?

    Reply
  • March 25, 2020 at 4:34 am
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    This update still has problems. While some revised down, others still shot up bonkers levels. December 5th is a good example. A 1 to a 9 at AK? I just think this is way too premature and not helpful for people trying to decide when to rebook. Writing posts on speculation is one thing, but revising numbers without little factual information isn’t helpful or responsible.

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  • March 25, 2020 at 4:49 am
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    I also think there is much unknown, we have a trip booked end of August beginning September from UK. I think IF the parks are open then they will have to seriously reduce admitted numbers to manage social distancing as this virus will rumble on and on until a vaccine is found. I can’t see them opening for a long time in all honesty

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  • March 25, 2020 at 6:57 am
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    I will go as soon as possible… But not if it’s a phased opening like I have heard might happen. I have a mid May trip booked but I have already booked back up dining for a late July if I have to move it. I haven’t pulled the trigger though on moving the actual trip reservation.

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  • March 25, 2020 at 8:21 am
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    Steve, thank you. This is a pretty good theory on what may happen when the parks open. I especially enjoyed the optimism of including the April and May opening possibilities. I did find the 8-10 weeks after opening bounce back a useful and interesting prediction based on previous events. Everyone one here plans to the minute. I know I speak for the majority when I say that if the park is open on the dates of my scheduled vacation, I’m going. I do agree with Adam Brown that if Disney changes park hours or limits ride capacity due to “social distancing” our touring plans will be drastically impacted in a way we won’t be able to anticipate. My trip is scheduled for mid May. I am hopeful. Thank you for helping me to joyfully and obsessively plan my Disney trips for many years. 🙂

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  • March 25, 2020 at 8:51 am
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    Steve, thanks for making the correction. Could you tell us when the adjustment curve starts? Was the adjustment applied in the correction? Thank you.

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    • March 25, 2020 at 10:22 am
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      The current adjustment is assuming the parks will open on April 1. Even though I do not believe the parks will open on April 1, it is the official word from Disney. When Disney changes the re-opening date, we will move the adjustment curve. If Disney re-opens with restriction we will adjust the curve.

      Reply
  • March 25, 2020 at 9:58 am
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    Have you look at using 9/11 or the economic downturn to predict crowd returns? Unless there is a vaccine when the parks open, it seems like people will be more cautious about coming back.

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  • March 25, 2020 at 10:24 am
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    Love your guys product!

    The thing I don’t know you would account for in your model is that I don’t buy that the crowd spike you forecast will be so evenly distributed across weeks that school are in session vs. ones that it isn’t. Looking at the crowd calendar it seems like the previous estimates are multiplied by a factor to account for the curve you produced. I think that falls apart when you account for school breaks.

    Lets take everyone that missed out on their Spring Break trip. I *think* it’s a safe assumption that those people are biased towards traveling when schools are out of session. Unless you have to go when schools are out, there are no reasons why you ever would (higher prices and higher crowds provide huge disincentives to travel when schools are in session).

    My gut says if the economic fall out and fear isn’t too bad (who knows?) there will be spikes in re-bookings for holiday periods and the spikes in non-holiday periods will be smaller.

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  • March 25, 2020 at 11:28 am
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    Interesting read. I’m due to be flying over from the UK on September 5th. Fingers crossed everything is open by then (and we aren’t still banned by Mr Trump), so hopefully we can still get out there. Apparently it’s a relatively quiet time so will be interesting to see the crowd levels if and when we get there. Stay safe all.

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  • March 25, 2020 at 1:39 pm
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    Richard: We like September too, but be ready for some very un-British high temperatures! 🙂

    will

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  • March 25, 2020 at 3:30 pm
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    Lots of comments above here mention the notion of the parks reopening with modified operations. I have to say, I think any suggestion of the theme parks being able to reopen while employing meaningful social distancing techniques is absurd.

    They are not going to sanitize lap bars, seat belts, Rock & Rollercoaster restraints, Space Ranger Spin blasters, Toy Story Mania pull-strings, or Flight of Passage handles between every rider (and EVERY SINGLE RIDER touches them). They are not going to expect people to keep several feet apart on transportation, in queues, or while watching shows. They are not going to operate with all buffets and restaurant condiment stations closed.

    The parks will stay closed until this is under control, and every expert (the president is not an expert) tells us that here in the US we haven’t BEGUN to get it under control.

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    • March 25, 2020 at 4:27 pm
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      I totally agree with you. I don’t see how a theme park could operate and be profitable under social distancing rules. I don’t expect to see the parks open until June.

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  • March 25, 2020 at 5:48 pm
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    I think the reason it’s being brought up is because of Shanghai Disney. It has reopened with modified operations and rules which include guests having to get their temperature taken before they’re allowed entrance, being required to wear a mask at all times except eating, and observing ‘proper social distancing’ at all times. Obviously, though, that’d never fly in the US parks. If we’re lucky it might be sometime in May, but I agree June or even July is more likely.

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  • March 26, 2020 at 4:23 am
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    Is it possible to show how much busier each WDW park have been in the past 6-9 months before the closure vs a year before? It would be interesting to see if other parks saw an uptick lately due to popularity of HS. TIA!

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  • March 26, 2020 at 4:36 pm
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    Hello! I find it extremely stressful to see such a spike in the days I have tracked. In the past we based what parks we would visit daily on your crowd levels and it has always been very good. Sometimes a little higher, sometimes a little lower. Nothing ever that drastic in change. My FP+ picks come up on May 14th and now I’m a little confused on what days to plan for. If WDW follows CDC guidelines then Mid May will the absolute earliest they can open. There is just too much to assume before changing the crowds this early in the game. Perhaps I’d suggest to reset it to the normal crowds until official notice.

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  • March 26, 2020 at 4:38 pm
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    Also, may I suggest making another poll? Asking for the month they plan on attending. That should give a better understanding, no?

    Reply

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