What to expect when Disney and Universal theme parks reopen in Florida
The entrance to the Magic Kingdom at Disney World is seen on the first day of closure as theme parks in the Orlando area suspend operations for two weeks in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Paul Hennessy | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images
New guidelines provided by a local government task force in Florida offer theme park fans a glimpse of what to expect when Disney and Universal are finally able to open to the public once the coronavirus pandemic eases.
Earlier this week, Florida’s Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force laid out preliminary plans for a phased reopening of theme parks in the Orlando area including small entertainment venues like Top Golf and Gatorland as well as the big amusement fixtures like Disney World and Universal Studios.
So far, no theme park has announced a specific reopening date and some analysts like John Hodulik, the managing director of investment research at global financial firm UBS, don’t foresee park doors opening until 2021. According to a mid-April report from JPMorgan’s media analyst Alexia Quadrani, parks could open as soon as June 1.
The Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force suggested a two-phase plan for allowing visitors back into theme parks that includes recommendations and mandates. The first phase would cap attendance at 50% capacity and the second phase would allow for 75% capacity once pandemic conditions improve.
The task force recommended that all ride or attraction lines have taped markings set six feet apart so that park goers could social distance while waiting to get on rides. Visitors and staff who are over the age of 65 are also encouraged to stay home, as they are the most at-risk of contracting and developing complications from Covid-19.
Theme park staff will be required to wear face masks and regularly wipe down surfaces and railings throughout the park. Additionally, employees will be required to have their temperature checked prior to starting their shift. Any temperature over 100.4 degrees will bar them from entering the park.
Touchless hand sanitizing stations will also be added to every ride’s entry and exit, as well as at ticketing areas and turnstiles.
The Florida task force that devised this plan is made up of 44 people, including Disney, Universal and SeaWorld executives and members of the local business community.
Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure, both of which are located in Florida, have been shuttered since mid-March and are expected to remain closed through at least May 31. Universal also has theme parks in California, Beijing, Japan and Singapore.
In Comcast’s earnings report Thursday, the company reported that theme park revenues slumped 31.9% during the first quarter, to $869 million. In 2019, Universal’s theme parks accounted for more than 17% of NBCUniversal’s total revenue and around 5% of Comcast’s.
At Disney, parks in Asia have been closed since February and parks in the U.S. and Paris have been closed since March. Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products is a massive piece of the company’s business. In March, Disney began a phased reopening of Disney Town, Wishing Star Park and the Disneyland Hotel in Shanghai.
Last year, the segment accounted for 37% of the company’s $69.6 billion in total revenue. Disney is set to report fiscal second quarter earnings on May 5.
Representatives for Disney, Universal and SeaWorld did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.