Disney’s Josh D’Amaro: Turning Today’s Challenges into Tomorrow’s Optimism
From Disneyland in Anaheim, California, Josh D’Amaro delivered a message of hope and inspiration to the global attractions industry in the first keynote session of IAAPA Expo | Virtual Education Conference. “Our industry is hurting. It’s hurting from the presence of COVID-19 in our communities. But unlike some industries impacted by the pandemic, our industry is here to stay and it’s here to grow,” the chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products said.
The company was set for another successful year in 2020 with new projects set to open around the globe, community partners relying on their support, and cast initiatives rolling on. Like most of the attractions industry, however, Disney was then heavily impacted by the coronavirus—changing operational norms, putting off capital projects, and enacting capacity measures like never before.
The guest connection remained forefront and the company rolled out the #DisneyMagicMoments campaign, which brought the excitement of a park visit into homes all over the world. And when time came to reopen, they applied lessons learned from park to park, relying on technology to reduce touchpoints in the facilities, encourage social distancing, and more. Throughout, the company relied on its connection to the industry. “In our industry it’s more important than ever we reached out both for help and for support to others in the travel and tourism business,” he said. “That included airlines, hotel companies, and others who have been outstanding partners with us throughout the years. These businesses were hurting just as bad as we were and it’s going to take teamwork throughout our whole industry to recover. The good news is now more than ever people need shared experiences. They need adventure. They need travel.”
D’Amaro highlighted the continued work on previously announced projects at all Disney locations, including Avengers Campus at Disneyland Resort, Zootopia at Shanghai Disney Resort, and Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea. Some of the big changes are also happening internally. In September this year, the company announced it would be adding a fifth key to its “Four Keys” guiding principles: inclusion. “Events in the U.S. forced us to look across our entire business with an updated lens and frankly we have some work to do both on stage and backstage. And at Disney, a company steeped in traditions and heritage, change isn’t always easy,” D’Amaro said. “When we say, ‘To all who come to this happy place, welcome,’ that means everyone, both cast and guests. And … that’s a tradition that goes back to Walt Disney himself.”
The cultural change at the company has already begun. The company will be deepening its relationship with historically Black colleges and universities to create a stronger pipeline to careers in finance, human resources, legal, communications, production, and technology. “We believe that truly inclusive environment is critical to fostering ideas from all people to help us grow, innovate, and create the best stories possible,” D’Amaro said. More information about Disney’s backstage commitment to inclusivity will be rolling out in the next few months. Guest facing changes, like the reimagining of “Splash Mountain,” have been expedited to ensure that all who visit the company’s parks do feel welcome as well.
“In the world that we find ourselves in today, optimism, innovation, and courage, they will ultimately win the day,” D’Amaro said. “With the emboldened spirit that comes from the challenges of the COVID crisis, with the hope and optimism that our brand captures even in the toughest of times, let’s ask ourselves why not take our guests to the moon or bring the moon to our guests? Why not dream as big as possible? And challenge the very meaning of the word impossible.”