The pandemic changed a lot for Walt Disney’s (DIS) – Get Walt Disney Company Report theme parks. Aside from having to close for Disney World for about four months, Disneyland remained closed for over a year.
When the parks reopened, all was not normal. The rules varied a little between Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California, but capacities were limited, masks were required, temperatures were checked, and lots of other rules existed.
As time went on, the rules changed, but one thing didn’t, the situation around the world due to Covid meant that Disney not only did not have guests from many countries, it also did not have its Cultural Representatives.
That may seem like a small thing, but the Cultural Representatives are workers from around the world who help give Disney more of an international feel. In some cases, those workers simply fill jobs and, in others — like at Epcot — serve important roles as representatives of their country.
Epcot Tries to Offer A Global Experience
World Showcase at Epcot features 11 pavilions devoted to different countries. Traditionally, these pavilions are staffed by people from the countries they depict. That was not possible during the pandemic and it was somewhat jarring to visit a “country” and find it staffed by Americans.
During the pandemic period, some Epcot World Showcase pavilions also had to offer fewer experiences because some of their offerings required staffers from the country. It was a problem caused by global travel rules that Disney had no easy way to solve.
Now, however, that’s about to change and Disney has a plan to bring back its Cultural Representatives.
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“Today, we’re thrilled to announce the Disney Cultural Representative program will return in phases and begin welcoming the first new participants in August,” the company shared in a March 25 press release.
Why Is This Good News for Disney Guests and Shareholders?
The impact of having workers from the countries depicted in World Showcase seems like a clear benefit, but having a global perspective has been a key part of the entire Disney theme park experience,
“The Cultural Representatives play an important role in our storytelling by helping us create authentic, immersive experiences for our guests as they share their countries’ culture, heritage, and traditions that have inspired our resorts, pavilions, and theme parks,” the company wrote.
Disney had to wait until the pandemic stabilized around the world in order to bring the program back. The company plans to start by reaching out to workers who had been accepted into the program before the pandemic hit.
“We are doing this in a thoughtful and responsible way with the safety of our participants and working cast top of mind. With this phased re-introduction, initial recruitment will start in Germany, Norway, Italy, France, U.K., and Canada for World Showcase at EPCOT. We look forward to bringing additional countries on board and sharing applications with them once they clear travel restrictions and/or have CDC-authorized vaccine availability,” the company shared.
This matters because some Disney visitors don’t want to spend the thousands of dollars a Disney theme park trip requires until everything returns to normal. Not having workers/cast members from around the world may not be noticeable in the other parks, but it’s very important at Epcot in World Showcase, where the Cultural Representatives add an important layer of authenticity.
“We know how much our guests and cast love the program and have been waiting for just the right moment to reintroduce it. As we continue to bring back more cast and guest experiences, we are encouraged by the progress we’re seeing in recent health trends, including the return of international travel and the expansion of vaccine availability around the world.,” the company added.