By now, you’ve probably heard the big news about Shanghai Disneyland’s official reopening date.
But you might be wondering where that leaves us here in the United States. Just how far away are our major theme parks from reopening?
While we can’t tell you any exact dates (because everyone’s keeping pretty tight-lipped about that sort of thing right now), we’ve scoured the news for details regarding what preparations several nationwide theme parks are making. These include some of the modifications they will be implementing upon reopening. Let’s take a look at what’s being discussed.
Disney’s Theme Parks Reopening Strategy
We’ll start with the parks that are most near and dear to our hearts, Disney World and Disneyland. Yesterday, Disney’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pam Hymel outlined a series of potential options they are exploring ahead of the parks reopening.
“Together, with our colleagues in operations, and local health and government authorities, we’re evaluating several new and enhanced safety measures to do our part towards helping us stay well while we work, stay, and play at a Disney resort,” Hymel wrote.
She indicated there will be five key factors of Disney theme parks’ reopening plan.
1. Phased Reopening
Most likely, the reopening of Disney World and Disneyland will occur in stages. Disney will assess all of its businesses and locations separately to decide how and when it will best to proceed.
Learn more about Disney’s gradual approach to reopen stores and restaurants before the theme parks here!
2. Physical Distancing and Capacity Measures
Upon reopening, Disney will be implementing physical distancing guidelines. These will be based on guidelines from local health authorities, as well as the CDC and federal agencies. This will likely include the implementation of guest capacity measures, and Disney is “exploring ways to use technology to aid us in these efforts,” such as virtual queues.
We’ve already spoken about the possibility of more virtual queues when the Disney parks reopen, so we will be closely watching as they announce plans to implement this technology more.
Virtual queues are being considered for Disney World and Disneyland upon reopening! Read more details here!
3. Cleanliness and Sanitization
Increased measures of cleaning and disinfection high-traffic areas are also being discussed as Disney is determining which cleaning products and processes they’ll be using.
It’s possible they’re considering pressure-washing their restrooms or using hospital-grade cleaners like the ones being used by some airport facilities in Florida right now, according to Joe Lopano, CEO of Tampa International Airport.
4. Screening and Prevention Support
Following the guidelines set in place from the government as well as the medical community, enhanced screening procedures and prevention measures are being talked about.
Some measures, like adding hand sanitizers and handwashing stations across the parks were already implemented before they closed, but whether or not all guests and Cast Members will be required to wear masks at Disney World and Disneyland has yet to be decided. Bog Iger also spoke recently about the possibility of temperature screening all guests, but no official statement has been released.
5. Cast Training
Since safety at the parks is one of Disney’s biggest concerns, they are currently working on ways to provide new training to Cast Members.
That way, as the parks get closer to reopening, Disney employees will understand these new procedures and how to implement them properly once guests return.
Other Social Distancing Measures Disney May Decide to Implement
Bob Chapek stated that when Shanghai Disneyland reopens on the 11th, strict social distancing measures will be implemented. This will include the use of masks, temperature checks, contact tracing, and other early detection systems. He also shared that masks in Shanghai will be worn by guests and employees. Face characters will not wear masks but will be kept at a distance from crowds.
While Shanghai Disneyland’s normal capacity is 80,000 visitors a day, Chapek stated a government mandate will not allow more than 24,000 guests at the park at once.
Even so, Disney is only planning on selling a limited number of tickets available each day during the initial reopening phase.
Guidelines for the Disney Parks to Reopen
Based on the latest federal guidelines issued by President Trump, Disney can decide to reopen the theme parks at their discretion, in accordance with Florida and California government guidelines.
But clearly, they won’t move forward until they’ve got the perfect plan in place. When it’s time to discuss a reopening date, we expect their plan will be a responsible and carefully-calculated one, following the recommended procedures of each local governing agency.
Guidelines Disney World is Following
Disney World in Orlando, Florida falls under the jurisdiction of Governor Ron DeSantis who leads the Re-Open Florida Task Force. The team of business leaders (including President of Walt Disney World Resort Josh D’Amaro) meets regularly to propose and implement new safety regulations for businesses to reopen. While Disney World hasn’t been specifically mentioned, other major theme parks such as Universal Studios Orlando have (which we’ll talk more about in the Universal segment shorty).
Florida’s Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force led by Orlando Mayor Jerry Demings is also setting the pace for Disney World’s gradual approach of re-opening theme parks. They’ve recently been discussing reopening theme park locations based on their size. Smaller theme parks would be permitted to open sooner than large parks such as Disney World and Universal.
Guidelines Disneyland is Following
Disneyland’s Anaheim, California location is presided over by Governor Gavin Newsom’s California Business Recovery Task Force (executive chairman and former Disney CEO Bob Iger is a member of this committee).
California is moving to phase 2, which includes opening select dining and retail locations. Florida began reopening restaurants and shops on May 4th with limited capacity and new safety protocols in place.
Now that we’ve discussed what Disney is up to, let’s explore what some of the other major players in the theme park industry are doing.
Universal’s Theme Park Reopening Strategy
Temperature Checks Are Required for Employees
Universal has also stated they will be temperature screening their employees including vendors and contractors. Those with a temperature of 99.9 degrees or greater will be sent home and 72 hours must pass before they can return to work.
John Sprouls, CEO of Universal Orlando Resort and Executive Vice President of Universal Parks & Resorts, proposed a number of guidelines Universal might be implementing in a recent Re-Open Florida Task Force meeting.
Increased Technology, Sanitation, and Safety Measures
Sprouls said Universal is considering the use of virtual queues like the ones they currently have at Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Park and implementing more technology such as Mobile Order and Mobile Pay to reduce contact when ordering and paying for food and merchandise.
He also said Universal would be encouraging their workers to employ good sanitation practices at home and at work, and will most likely require all employees wear masks when in the parks.
Limited Capacity and Other Modifications
Sprouls expects Universal’s reopening to be a slow ramp up with potential caps on attendance. In addition to working diligently on reducing the number of frequent contact points throughout the parks, he also said they are planning on using primarily outdoor queues when the parks reopen.
Sprouls also anticipates Universal will likely employ a staggered seating method on most rides and shows.
SeaWorld and LegoLand’s Reopening Strategy
According to California’s OCR, SeaWorld, Legoland, and other major attractions reopening in San Diego will require face masks for visitors and temperature checks for employees.
The San Diego Tourism Authority has outlined several new procedures for its theme parks as well as its zoos and museums which also include reduced attendance, cashless transactions, social distancing, and constant sanitization. SeaWorld and LegoLand in Florida have yet to make a statement.
Governor Gavin Newsom did not explicitly mention theme parks in his four-stage plan to reopen California businesses. SeaWorld, Legoland, and other California theme parks would most likely fall into Stage 4 — the last phase of the plan. It’s possible some California theme parks could fall into the earlier Stage 3 if they adopt substantial operational changes that promote social distancing and other health and safety measures.
Six Flags’ Reopening Strategy
Six Flags has just announced they plan on reopening some parks as early as mid-May with a reservation system in place. Mercury News recently reported Six Flags Over Texas outside of Dallas will most likely be the first of Six Flags’ theme parks to open followed by parks in San Antonio and Atlanta.
Unlike Disney parks, Six Flags parks are more regionally diversified with no park claiming more than 10% of Six Flag’s attendance base. Six Flags CEO Michael Spanos laid out a new plan for Six Flags on April 30th. Spanos said they would need at least 2 to 3 weeks to prepare the parks for re-opening.
According to the OCR, the new normal at Six Flags Magic Mountain and other Six Flags locations will include face masks, temperature screenings, limited capacity, virtual queueing, mobile ordering, cashless transactions, social distancing, and heightened sanitization.
Right now, many theme parks are right on the cusp of making some significant procedural changes. So far, no major theme park has stepped forward and provided an official reopening date domestically, but geographically-speaking, some locations in our country’s less-impacted areas might begin to resume their “new normal soon.”
We’ll continue to follow this story and update this post with any relevant information!
Which major nationwide theme park do you think will be the first to reopen? Let us know in the comments below!