This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Nicholas Deniz was waiting to enter Disney World in Orlando with his clients last month when a park manager pulled him out of line.
Deniz is a third-party tour guide. He said he was waiting with clients at the time to help them navigate the park.
When Deniz walked away with the manager, he said two Orange County police officers greeted him.
Corinne, one of Deniz’s clients who was present at the time, said she “felt horrible” as she watched the scene unfold.
“It felt like he had done something terribly wrong, the way that they pulled him aside and spoke to him,” said Corinne, whose last name is known to Insider and has been withheld for privacy concerns.
After speaking with park staff, Deniz said a police officer handed him a trespass notice and told him he was indefinitely banned from all Walt Disney World properties. He said the officer told him the ban could be appealed via a handwritten letter addressed to Disney’s security director after one year. Insider has reviewed a copy of the trespass notice.
Those who violate the order could face arrest, according to local law.
“Unauthorized commercial activities are not permitted at Disney World as clearly stated in our property rules,” a Disney spokesperson told Insider in a statement. A spokesperson for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office told Insider they have deputies assigned to work at the park every day.
Insider spoke with nine third-party business owners and tour guides impacted by a crack-down on their services, five of whom have received the notices themselves. Several say they’ve been operating for years — one for nearly three decades — and have never before had an issue.
Many of these businesses help clients secure dining and lodging reservations at Disney World, design their itineraries, and help them navigate the parks.
Several third-party business owners also told Insider that they provide services at a lower rate than Disney, which charges $450-$900 per hour for private tours. One third-party operator said their prices range from $180-$250 per hour, while another said their rate can go up to $300 per hour. (It’s worth noting that Disney’s tours can get visitors to the front of lines and into backstage areas that third-party operators can’t.)
Now, several owners and tour guides say they’re facing financial insecurity as their jobs vanish, and they just want a seat at the table with Disney to find a solution.
“None of us are attempting to portray Disney in a negative light, but are just desperate for answers,” Alayna Crutchfield, a third-party guide and owner of Elevate Amusement, told Insider.
Third-party tour guides at Disney say they’ve been providing services for years with no problems
Ramón Rodriguez has run his business, Theme Park Concierges, for 12 years. He received a trespass notice, which was reviewed by Insider, on October 4.
“We provide a service to Disney itself by bringing clients, high-end clients,” Rodriguez said. “My clients aren’t eating hamburgers and hot dogs and popcorn. They go to Disney’s high-end restaurants. They stay at Disney’s luxury hotels.”
Murray Krasnoff runs a third-party concierge and tour guide business called Suntastic Service. He told Insider his company has operated since 1996 and never had an issue with Disney security before last month.
Murray Krasnoff pictured at Disney World. Courtesy of Murray Krasnoff via BI
Krasnoff said his company specializes in helping visitors who have disabilities navigate the park. He received a trespass notice on October 11 from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office when he walked onto Disney property.
“I have four families in November and I have a party of 17 over Christmas week with three people with special needs,” Krasnoff told Insider. “I’ve been on the phone with them saying, ‘I’m sorry to tell you this.’ Now they’re all stressing about what can be done.”
Crutchfield said she runs a similar business to Krasnoff and works with him often. She also received a trespass notice last month.
“I’ve had to cancel,” Crutchfield said. “And a lot of my families, they have children with disabilities.”
Disney World does offer specific services for visitors with disabilities, including the Disability Access Service — designed to help those who have difficulty waiting in lines for long periods of time — and rental vehicles to help people navigate the park.
Since implementing the Disability Access Service in 2013, however, Disney has faced multiple lawsuits concerning its treatment of disabled visitors in both Florida and California.
A 2014 lawsuit filed on behalf of dozens of plaintiffs claimed Disney violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by making disabled guests wait too long in line. The majority of the plaintiffs cited experiences at the Florida location. A Florida judge ruled in favor of Disney in 2022, according to court documents.
Disney says a rise in unauthorized activity and rule abuses led to the crackdown
Krasnoff said he understands Disney is private property, but he’s confused about why the industry was allowed to operate for so many years: “Why now, all of a sudden, is this happening?”
A spokesperson for Disney said the company is serving trespass notices to these businesses because they are conducting unauthorized activity — even if clients are paying outside park property — because the delivery of the service is occurring on park property.
The spokesperson also said there has been an uptick in abuses of the Disability Access Service and other services, which impede park operations. The spokesperson declined to provide any documentation of this increase.
Several third-party tour guides and business owners agreed that not everyone in their industry behaves ethically.
One third-party tour guide, who has been in the industry for six years, said there are several companies that are “widely known” to abuse Disney’s rules. Her identity, which is known to Insider, has been withheld for privacy concerns.
“For instance, these companies might tell guides to tell guest services they have Irritable Bowel Syndrome to get a disability pass for themselves,” the business owner told Insider.
Deniz said he had also witnessed unethical behavior in the industry.
“I initially worked for a different company,” Deniz said. “I left because their owner was involved in some of those unethical practices, and I didn’t want to be associated with that any longer.”
Nicholas Deniz poses with Mickey Mouse. Courtesy of Nicholas Deniz. via BI
The business owners and families that spoke to Insider said they did not participate in these practices.
Both Deniz and Hanks said they also spoke to Disney employees who told them they could operate on park property as long as they did not abuse park systems, like the Disability Access Service.
Business owners say they’re searching for answers — and want to work with Disney to find a solution
Several business owners and their employees told Insider that their only source of income has now disappeared.
Melinda Hanks has run her business, Create a Dream, since 2008. She told Insider it’s her family’s only source of income.
“This was my livelihood, and it’s completely stopped,” Hanks said.
Summer, one of Hanks’ employees at Create a Dream, said she’s lost her primary source of income, too. She asked to withhold her last name — which is known to Insider — over privacy concerns.
“This was the only income that I was bringing in,” Summer told Insider. “Now I have to move, and I don’t have a place to go.”
Meanwhile, Rodriguez said he had to return $25,000 to his clients. He was forced to cancel their trips after receiving his trespass notice.
Several of the business owners and tour guides told Insider all they want is to work with Disney to find a solution.
Hanks told Insider she hopes that third-party guides can get a seat at the table with Disney to find a solution for both sides.
Krasnoff agreed — he said he hopes third-party tour guides can work with Disney to find a solution that benefits both parties, such as a third-party tour guides association approved by Disney.
“Why can’t we have an association for the many guides here? Let’s have an association. Let’s put together guidelines of what’s accepted, what’s not accepted, and work together as affiliates,” Krasnoff said.
Krasnoff said he and his fellow tour guides ultimately just want answers.
“We’re not trying to bash Disney,” Krasnoff said. “We’re just confused, saying, ‘What just happened?'”
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