Theme Parks Reopen: Business and Safety in a Pandemic

Ever since the beginnings of lockdown throughout the world, it was clear that businesses would have to fight tooth and nail to keep themselves running in a pandemic where basic interaction was limited. In few places has this struggle been more apparent than in the reopening of theme parks in Orlando, primarily Disney and Universal. As the famous economic dynamos of Northeastern Florida, the parks’ need to adapt and return to business as usual in a quick fashion was top priority to management of both parks. As a result, both parks are now open for people to return with new regulations and new concerns about their effectiveness.

Both parks offer the same thing: masks, temperature checks, social distancing, and enhanced cleaning, with an emphasis for people with compromised immune systems not to visit. These promises make the parks seem as though they have the health of the general public in mind, so I decided to ask people at Nease who had visited these parks their opinions on safety and entertainment.

“I felt safe” says Matthew Andersen, a junior at Nease who visited Universal at the tail end of the summer. Matthew explained how the park was significantly less populated, and that everyone was obeying the health regulations. He also described how janitors swept the entire park at dawn and at night. However, he had some complaints about the park, he explains, “the mask policy was particularly annoying on water rides”, as water would frequently splash on visitors’ faces, causing the mask to be wet for the duration of the visit. Finally, Matthew warns that the distancing system in the lines was not perfectly marked, leading to mix-ups and groups getting too close to one another, though it was particularly rare to see.

Tommy Judka, a student who visited Disney during his summer, found the regulations to be somewhat bothersome. “It just gets uncomfortable,” he says, bothered by the hours spent in the park required to always wear a mask. However, Tommy did recognize the effort put into enforcing the health regulation, mentioning speakers that remind visitors about always social distancing and keeping masks on. He also recalls seeing janitors frequently sanitizing the park.

Finally, I chose to contact Mrs. Poe, the chorus teacher at Nease. Mrs. Poe is an avid fan and frequenter of both parks and has been to them during the pandemic. She found the parks to be mostly empty, with well-spaced lines for each attraction that suited the 6 feet guidelines. When it came to her issues with each park, she found that the gooey hand sanitizer that was mandated before every ride in Universal was quite gross and uncomfortable to use. As for Disney, the lack of live performances really put a dampener on the visit. Both parks also had stricter restaurant times and capacity which could cause scheduling issues.

Whether it be Disney or Universal, the reception of these parks and their effort to maintain public health appear to be strong and very positive. Despite the situation seeming grim for park business and enjoyment, it seems every visitor left satisfied overall. Although it is important to be cautious of all outside activities during a pandemic, it appears as though these parks and their rides are the safer ones to partake in.