Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has announced the next steps in the state's reopening plan, and this time he's directly addressing theme parks.
"Parks can submit reopening plans to the state," the governor said today during a press conference. "They should identify the date certain that they believe that they could resume safe operations. They have to provide how they're going to do it: how they're going to accommodate the guests, how they're going to protect the staff, and then they need to have an endorsement from the relevant official in their locality - Orange County Mayor, wherever you're wherever you're talking about."
To be honest, I'm not sure what the news is here, exactly. Theme park resorts, such as Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, always were going to need government approval to reopen, as would any business in the state dealing with stay-at-home orders. The governor seems to be implying that theme parks won't be reopened under a blanket order - such as the one he made today reopening gyms next Monday - but instead will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Whether that means parks can open sooner than they might have before today's announcement is unclear. The governor said today that restaurants and retail businesses soon can start serving up to 50 percent of their capacity, as the state moves to its "full phase one" of reopening. Movie theaters remain closed, however, although the governor is encouraging closed-door sporting events to resume in the state, even inviting teams based in other states to resume play or training in Florida.
Universal Orlando yesterday reopened a few locations in its CityWalk dining and shopping area, while Walt Disney World is preparing for the first step in its phased reopening of Disney Springs on May 20. Universal has said that its parks will remain closed through at least the end of the month, while Disney has provided no timeline, though Disney is not taking reservations for any stays starting before July 1.
For people visiting CityWalk, Universal is requiring that all visitors wear facemasks and pass a temperature screening before entering. Universal is also advising visitors to maintain six feet of social distancing from other parties and to wash their hands frequently. Walt Disney World is planning similar restrictions when it reopens, according to information on its official blog, an interview with CEO Bob Chapek, and a new agreement with its labor unions.
Disney has reopened its Shanghai Disneyland park with new operating procedures, though the rest of Disney's (and Universal's) theme parks worldwide remain closed. A few European parks are reopening later this month, and in the United States, Indiana's Holiday World has announced a June return. All parks are using some or all among a variety of new procedures - including advanced reservations, virtual queues, and contactless payments, as well as masks, temperature checks, and enhanced sanitation - as they look to protect and reassure visitors.
So having the plans that the governor asked for today should not be a problem for Florida's theme parks. The remaining issue is that proposed reopening date. First, how long will it take for parks to recall their employees, restock, and restart operations? Then, when do the parks believe that enough visitors would be willing to return to make it worth their investment to reopen?
Disney and Universal have been surveying guests about their potential return, and traffic data from the reopenings of CityWalk and Disney Springs should provide additional guidance. Whenever the parks choose to reopen, it appears certain that a reopening will come in phases, starting with limited operations both to test new procedures and to match what many industry insiders expect will be limited demand, as international borders remain closed and many Americans choose to protect themselves by remaining home as much as they can while this pandemic continues.Tweet
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