Written by David "Indy" Graham
First, along with myself and everyone at UDN, we hope you and your loved ones are safe during this crazy 2020. Hopefully this will soon be a memory of a year and we can get back to normal. But what will that normal be is now the question-and especially for theme parks? Like many all we can do is speculate at this point but in the beginning of nothing else there are changes coming until humanity can get a handle on Covid-19.
Let's start by taking a look at what we do know so far for the theme parks. In China the theme park chain Fantawild has opened about 24 of its parks back in April. Belgium can start opening parks as of June 8th and in Germany parks can start opening on May 4th. Taiwan parks are open but with only 50% of normal capacity. However that seems to be common across most international parks. Along with the number of guest allowed into the park, other changes include loading attractions every other seat, temperature checks to enter, face mask, additional hand sanitizer locations and new cleaning processes between rides and in general. None of the big players like Universal or Disney have opened internationally but Shanghai Disneyland back in April 22nd had some cast members onsite testing out social distancing for the attractions in addition to parades and even castle shows. Currently there is no news if any if the international Universal parks have started any testing that has been reported. So why is this important information? Currently the international theme parks are the testing grounds for what works and what doesn't work. Now let's take a look at Central Florida parks.
One of the smartest things I think Orange County did when they came up with the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force was to have such a diverse group from small business owners all the way up to theme park representatives. This past week the group released what they considered with Phase 1 as Florida's Stay Home order just ended. One thing the group did was break down the different business from including the theme parks. Parks like Fun Spot and Gatorland being smaller would have just slightly different guidelines than Universal, Disney and SeaWorld. While Disney and SeaWorld during this haven't really said much, we have been fortunate to hear what Universal has been doing. Much like the things mentioned for the international parks Universal also indicated that planning was underway for virtual lines on rides as well as online food ordering according to Universal Orlando Resort CEO John Sprouls.
As someone who has worked both in my past for Disney and until December 2019 I called Universal Orlando my home for over 5 years before going to work for the county, I can tell you theme parks are one of the cleanest places prior to this. Additionally, knowing the dedication their leadership has to keep their employees and guest safe I can only imagine how spotless these parks will be when they reopen. During my time at Universal I was lucky enough to actually work with a member of the Sprouls family (and still consider them a good friend) as well as meet John Sprouls and his lovely wife. Not only will I say is he a great leader for Universal, but personally an outstanding person whom I have the utmost confidence in to lead Universal through this and can't wait to visit the parks again. The man has truly earned his favorite cookies from me after this, Oreos.
In closing there are still a lot of unknowns- like how this will affect attendance for events like Mickey's Not So Scary or Halloween Horror Nights which is the top Halloween event in the United States. Will this change how scare actors can interact with guest or even how they funnel people through houses? Looking further down the road could this change the design layout of the recently delayed Universal’s Epic Universe as we move to a post Covid-19 world. Only time will tell on these questions as well as how theme parks will recover. I do actually think John Sprouls recently said it best when it comes to how theme parks reopen, “If they don't feel safe, they won't attend” and to me no truer words have ever been spoken.
So what do you think? Please let us know in the comments below and as always thank you for being a part of the Universal Disney Nutz family.