The world goes viral: Friday's Covid-19 news

March 13, 2020, 3:38 PM · Welcome to the second day of our ongoing live news blog with updates on how the global Covid-19 novel coronavirus pandemic is affecting travel. Here is yesterday's Covid-19 travel news, in case you missed anything.

Weekend updates

[6:58pm ET] This is a global travel crisis, and airlines in the United States are looking to the federal government for a bailout. Delta, for example, is cutting capacity by 40 precent, parking up to 300 aircraft due to the falloff in demand.

Looking broadly, some businesses are not going to survive this, and they might be big ones if the cancelations and shutdowns persist beyond a couple of weeks. The only question is which ones. There's a famous Warren Buffet quote, "you only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out." Well, it's out now.

[6:54pm ET] The Disneyland Paris Resort has moved its closure up to tomorrow, rather than Monday as originally planned.

[5:28pm ET] And now, Legoland California closes. I think that means that every park in America that I've ever heard of will be closed by Monday.

[4:39pm ET] Walt Disney World is extending annual passes and valid use periods on certain multi-day tickets as a result of its shutdown this month. Find out about more Disney ticket and hotel changes.

Also, the Themed Entertainment Association has rescheduled its TEA Summit and Thea Awards Gala at the Disneyland Resort to to July 9-11. The event had been scheduled for April 16-18.

I was curious as to what was the most-attended theme park in the world that hasn't announced a closure yet and discovered that Efteling has announced that its park will close tomorrow through March 31. The hotels close Monday. Europa Park is still on schedule for its planned March 28 opening. With Tivoli Gardens opening April 2, I think that does it for the entire TEA/AECOM Top 25, as I believe that all the major Chinese, Korean, and Japanese parks remain closed.

[3:03pm ET] Dollywood just announced that it will postpone its planned opening until March 28.

"We have been following the coronavirus crisis very closely and based on developments within the last 24 hours and in consultation with health experts, we are going to delay our season opening until March 28," Dollywood President Craig Ross said. "Despite the delay in opening, we are committed to taking care of our hosts while the park remains closed."

Also, Herschend sister park Silver Dollar City will delay its season opening to March 28.

I hadn't seen a notice, but I just checked the Legoland website, and Legoland Florida has posted that it will be closed from Monday, March 16 through Tuesday, March 31. Legoland California has not yet announced its closure. Stay tuned.

[2:40pm ET] So what was you guess for the SeaWorld closure? It just happened - All the Busch Gardens/SeaWorld parks close Monday and through the end of the month. Full story.

[1:15pm ET] Regarding the Six Flags Magic Mountain closure...

[12:30pm ET] Now the Six Flags theme parks are announcing closures. Rain had closed Six Flags Magic Mountain here in the Los Angeles area for much of this week, but now the park has said that it will suspend operations until the end of March.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in the Bay Area and Six Flags Over Texas, outside Dallas, also have issued statements that they will suspend operations through the end of the month, as well. As noted in the comments, Six Flags America has delayed its opening through at least the end of the month, too.

[11:24am ET] We start with this morning's news that Knott's Berry Farm has joined the Disney and Universal theme parks in closing, to help prevent the spread of the virus. The park will close tomorrow and remain closed through the end of the month, though the Knott's Hotel will remain open.

This delays the start of Knott's annual Boysenberry Festival, which was set to kick off March 20.

Soon after Knott's announcement, fellow Cedar Fair parks Carowinds and Kings Dominion announced that they will postpone their seasonal openings scheduled for April 3 and April 4, respectively. California's Great America also will postpone its April 4 opening. No word yet on new opening dates.

At Cedar Point, the park is not scheduled to open until May, but Castaway Bay's indoor water park will close tomorrow and remain closed through the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the Disneyland Resort announced that during its shutdown, it will be donating its excess food inventory to Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. With quite a bit of food ordered for two parks' worth of guests for the next few weeks, I imagine that this will be a substantial donation for a community that will need help with so much tourism income gong away for a while. Disney will be paying its cast members during the shutdown, but the parks' closure also will affect hotels, restaurants and shops around the area that likely will see few customers as a result.

As we get through this stressful time for many, I would like to confirm that I will continue to be providing daily news and features here on Theme Park Insider, in the hope of keeping everyone engaged, informed and even entertained while we wait for our favorite parks to reopen. Thank you for sticking with us!

Replies (23)

March 13, 2020 at 10:36 AM

I'll add that Six Flags America has also indefinitely postponed the start of the 2020 season, which was set to open on March 28, 2020. Busch Gardens Williamsburg, which is scheduled to open for the season on Sunday, March 15, 2020, has not yet made a formal announcement regarding suspending operations.

March 13, 2020 at 10:38 AM

I’m quite surprised that we haven’t heard anything from Seaworld/Busch Gardens, yet.

March 13, 2020 at 10:50 AM

SWE has to follow suit, as much as it seems right now, they don't want to. Admittedly the parks aren't as jam-packed as Disney/Universal, but they have to show they are prepared to take the same measures as everyone else.

It's a bit of a joke when they say they will be adding more sanitizing stations. I walked round last night, and I was shocked not to see a single one around the park.

Legoland, Gatorland and Fun Spot seem to be operating as normal though.

March 13, 2020 at 11:01 AM

@Makorider, I would have expected SW and BG to be close behind Disney and Universal with their announcement, considering that they have the welfare of animals to think about, in addition to guests. I’m supposed to be travelling to Orlando at the beginning of April, but I’m thinking the park closures will last beyond the initial 3 week period, so I’ve pretty much accepted that I’ll have to reschedule for next year.

March 13, 2020 at 11:02 AM

SeaWorld/Busch Gardens doesn't have a phone company, streaming service, etc. to fall back on for revenue. I suspect that's the reason they haven't announced anything yet.

March 13, 2020 at 11:10 AM

In the end, I think the decision to open/close a theme park comes down to the company's willingness to take on liability. With unprecedented closures of events and gatherings around the world and numerous public officials barring any large gatherings of people within their jurisdiction, those that maintain as normal operations are exposing themselves to the possibility that a transmission of the virus could occur on their property. While I strongly believe a park would not be negligent or liable if such an event were to occur if local officials have not issued an edict, it's clear that any harm that could be traced to viral transmission within a theme park would be followed by a lawsuit. All of the sanitizer in the modern world cannot eliminate this risk, and the stigma that would be associated with a company that willingly gathered people together leading to further spread of the virus would be devastating.

I think there are a lot of mechanisms at play (including how to compensate employees, how to frame an announcement, and how to limit the overall financial impact), but SWE's lack of public announcement is bumping up on what is reasonable and prudent.

March 13, 2020 at 11:20 AM

The proverbial s**t will hit the fan if the parks have to remain closed thru the Easter period. Other than Christmas, this is the busiest time of the year, and I'd guess it will hurt even Disney if that holiday period becomes a no-go. Closing the parks now, still leaves them in a position where they might be able to open up mid-April. Time will tell.

SWE will lose a lot of the respect they have reclaimed back over the past few years, if they don't close all of their parks. I for one won't be going until the dust begins to settle. I'll let Disney/Universal be my guide thru all of this, and I will follow their lead.

Once all of this is over, and it will be ... sometime??, it'll be interesting to see just what it's going to be like back at the parks. More people?? ... less people??

March 13, 2020 at 11:22 AM

Tampa is up in the air as right now Wrestlemania still set for April 2nd and not as much closed even as mayor and governor argue about it. As others point out, Disney and Universal will take a hit but can survive parks closed for a couple of weeks while Sea World/Busch Gardens are not as fortunate.

March 13, 2020 at 11:25 AM

@makorider: Up in the air as depending where you go, this will blow over within a month or drag out for most of the year (also varying from "it's not as terrible if you take precautions" to "lock yourselves up, it's airborne" over/underreactions). I suppose this was always inevitably going to happen given so many viruses and we got lucky avoiding some close calls but a reminder of how easily the world can be stopped by something like this.

March 13, 2020 at 11:33 AM

In addition to SW/BG I'm surprised we haven't heard from Six Flags and Herchend entertainment. Both of those though are in the same category as SW and don't have a lot of other revenue to fall back on. But so far both are saying things will be open this weekend.

March 13, 2020 at 11:38 AM

Just updated the main post. Six Flags parks are now closing and delaying.

March 13, 2020 at 11:55 AM

As for Herschend, Robert noted yesterday that while Dollywood cancelled their pre-season media event scheduled for yesterday, they would maintain their operating schedule, and are open today for passholders, with a planned opening for all guests starting tomorrow. Silver Dollar City is scheduled to start its season on Tuesday, March 17, and there have been no announcements to either confirm or alter the posted schedule.

Hersheypark, which is independently operated, is not scheduled to open for the season until April 4. However, Hershey's Chocolate World and ZooAmerica, which are adjacent to the theme park, appear to be open and operating.

For those in the Mid-Atlantic, the Smithsonian is closing all of its facilities beginning at the end of the day today, which includes all of their movie theaters (including those showing Hollywood fare after museum hours). The announcement noted that they would be offering "week to week" updates on operating status, but does not provide even an anticipated date when the museums (some of which see more visitors than most theme parks) will re-open.

March 13, 2020 at 11:56 AM

So I guess of the bigger operator that just leaves seaworld/bush gardens and herscend.

March 13, 2020 at 12:01 PM

I have just read that Seaworld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove are planning to stay open. Feels like a very risky move, on their part.

March 13, 2020 at 12:22 PM

Legoland is still open too I believe, at the moment.

March 13, 2020 at 12:38 PM

Risky yes, but I think they may be waiting for the governments and local health departments to tell them to suspend operations. Aside from the San Diego park, which has cancelled all shows for today (and Sesame Place, which doesn't open until April 4), SWE doesn't operate any theme parks in states/jurisdictions where there are crowd prohibitions or guidance from government officials. If you think about it though, Disney is keeping Disney Springs open, which probably sees as many people in tight quarters as Sea World Orlando in a given day, so I wouldn't be surprised if that might be guiding their thinking while they wait for the states where they operate to issue guidance. They might also be waiting to see what crowds look like over the next day or 2 since WDW is staying open through the weekend, to see if it makes sense for them to continue to operate as guests leave the area and abandon/cancel vacations.

March 13, 2020 at 12:45 PM

Thanks for the info, Russell. I didn’t know about any of that. To be honest, I found it quite odd that Disney Springs and Citywalk are staying open. Both places can get VERY crowded. But then you have to ask, where do you draw the line?

March 13, 2020 at 12:59 PM

I do wonder if the remaing parks right now are waiting to see what Trump has to say at 3pm and then decide from there what to do.

Herscend does kinda surprise me because they have always come accross as a very customer focused company and I would have throught they would be one taking the lead on something like this not the ones being the only one still open.

March 13, 2020 at 1:13 PM

I was thinking will the water parks be a safer bet with all the chlorine?

March 13, 2020 at 1:21 PM

Seaworld closing

March 13, 2020 at 1:29 PM

Disney Springs and City Walk are more like malls, so until they start closing then Disney and Universal can breath easy. At least if someone just wants to visit City Walk before 6pm they won't (I assume) have to pay the parking fee?

On the flip side regarding SWE parks remaining open. What will the perception be if they come out of it smelling of roses, with no incidents and everyone going about their park visits as if nothing has happened? Pause for thought moment maybe, although a big 'if' I agree.

Update: @Krandor Thanks for the link. I'm glad they saw sense, and took the right decision.

March 13, 2020 at 2:08 PM

Closures of this magnitude are definitely unprecedented, but I'm not surprised such measures are being taken. Hopefully this will shorten the worst part of the breakout and things will start shifting back toward normal in the next month or so. Still, it's going to have major implications on the season as a whole, and while I'm not cancelling my travel plans for this summer I'm definitely holding off on any bookings until parks start opening back up.

March 13, 2020 at 6:18 PM

When parks reopen, I'd place a big bet that very nice ticket deals will be available. And we will have them on our tickets page, so please bookmark that to check later.

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