I don’t know about you, but for us, theme parks are one of the happiest places to visit in the world and one of the top travel destinations for many. COVID has had a huge impact on the industry over the past 6 months taking on an eased approach of reopening over the past 2 months.
Last week, we were hit by the sad news of the recent Disney layoffs, as many as 28,000 in the industry. Such sad news that puts into perspective the real economic impact COVID is having. The Disney parks are still open, but the guest footfall is struggling. Disney have estimated that its parks, experiences and products segment alone have suffered a $3.5 billion hit to operating income because of the effect of the pandemic.
It's evident that themeparks are struggling with capacity and many delaying opening all together. The parks that have been able to open have done so safely, but do the new restrictions affect the quality of fun you can have as a guest? Guests need to be reassured of the measures in place and need to feel more comfortable around the idea of visiting attractions again, which can be challenge in itself.
For the parks that remain open, they have announced enhanced safety measures with temperature checks joining the bag search protocol and signage throughout the parks, reminding guests of the social distancing policy.
We all understand that the attractions industry is based on capacity and throughput and just hope social distancing and current restrictions wont lead to further closures. Currently, visitor numbers are noticeably thinner with a reduced throughput, so are visitors able to enjoy the experience of reduced queue times and no overwhelming crowds? In a perfect world, we wouldn’t be wearing masks, especially for any kind of ‘fun activity’, so is it the face coverings that take away from the experience? Memories from a day out at the theme park are a huge part of the experience so when guests aren’t able to share their facial expression or pull a funny face on the ride capture points, it can detract away from the fun a little.
However, Chessington World Of Adventures have come up with a solution for those moments. They’ve partnered up with prinster to offer guests a chance to get their ‘coaster face’ printed on a face covering before their arrival which is pretty cool!Keeping rides clean is one of the most important yet challenging aspects after reopening and is sure to a have knock on effect reducing guest throughput and ride dispatch times. The idea of virtual queues being implemented is something that still pops to mind. Virtual queues are able to reduce lines and control crowds. Disney and Universal have used this system to much success pre COVID, all from the use of designated mobile apps.
The question is, would this work if adapted and rolled out as the new ‘normal’ in the UK so overcrowding and queuing within close proximity never becomes an issue? Guests are more likely to now visit whats on their doorstep rather than traveling further afield or abroad. Millions of us, per year, fly over to experience Disney and Universal but this has come to a sudden halt and new park developments throughout the industry have been put on hold throughout the spring and summer period. We specifically had our eye on the new Epic Universe park at Universal Orlando, originally set to open in 2023.
Even though construction is delayed, we cant wait for its opening and look forward to updates on progression when development can continue. As a creative agency, we are lucky to be able to continue some projects from home with video conferencing and collaborative software allowing us to stay connected with our clients.Who's visited a theme park post-lockdown and what are your thoughts?
The new normal?