The push to open theme parks is an all-out effort to revive the Sunshine State’s hard-hit $86 billion tourism industry.
More than two months after closing their gates due to the growing coronavirus pandemic, Universal Orlando is the first major theme park to present reopening plans, which includes a reopening date of June 5, to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings’ Economic Recovery Task Force. The task force includes executives from Universal, Disney, and SeaWorld.
County approval of a reopening plan was outlined by Gov. Ron DeSantis as the first step for the state’s theme parks to reopen.
At the Wednesday afternoon briefing, mayor Demings said he expects the parks will conduct a phased reopening with employees, as well as prominently displayed signage, directing park guests to adhere to the established social-distancing rules. Visitors will also be required to wear a mask and wash their hands frequently.
“Our goal is we don’t want to see a resurgence [of the virus],” said the mayor, whose reopening task force includes executives from Universal, Disney, and SeaWorld.
A Dire Situation
The push to reopen the parks is an all-out effort to revive the Sunshine State’s $86 billion tourism-dependent economies. It comes after hoteliers, theme-park executives, and restaurant owners met with Vice President Mike Pence at a May 20 roundtable discussion held in Orlando.
The message from the Floridians was stark, but clear: Central Florida has suffered “unprecedented” damage due to the novel coronavirus. Disney is the region’s largest employer, and its closing nine weeks ago, along with Universal and SeaWorld, left thousands furloughed or out of work. In the words of hotelier Harris Rosen, if people don’t go back to work soon, “it’s all over.”
“We will get this opened up,” replied the vice president, a strong Trump ally who has consistently followed the president’s lead in his quest to reopen the country for business, often against health officials’ warnings.
A Magical Experience?
Despite the concerted effort to reopen in the hopes of reigniting the economy, it is still left to see if social distancing measures, which require people to stay at least six feet apart from each other, can be sustained during the long lines, and how visitors longing for the parks’ “magical experience” will deal with the safety measures imposed.
When Disney reopened Disney Springs, its shopping, dining, and entertainment complex Wednesday, it put in place multiple safety measures for the reopening. Besides limiting the number of people who can enter the complex, it included temperature screenings, as well as providing hand sanitizing stations and requiring face masks for anyone over 3 years old.
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The complex also issued a sobering statement to visitors, essentially warning them that they enter at their own risk, as the company will not be held liable if, after visiting its facilities, a person catches coronavirus, the illness that so far has claimed nearly 2,100 lives across the state.