As theme parks get experience operating in this new environment, some are changing the new procedures they introduced when reopening.
Tennessee's Dollywood announced today that it will no longer require visitors to make a reservation in advance of their visit.
"With the favorable feedback from our guests and the confidence our management team has in being able to continue to provide a satisfying experience for our guests, we are going to make it simpler and easier to visit the park without prior planning by removing the current reservation requirement,” The Dollywood Company President Craig Ross said.
The subtext here is that attendance hasn't been hitting the minimal levels set by the park's capacity restrictions, so there's no need for guests to reserve their date in advance. No one's getting turned away at the door. So why bother with the hassle, especially if it's might be people from making spur-of-the-moment trips?
Theme parks needed to limit their capacity in order to support safe physical distancing between guests. But news of record numbers of Covid-19 cases nationwide is keeping attendance down far more effectively than any capacity limits. At this point, parks need to find ways to attract more guests - not to limit the number of people through the gates.
Indeed, Dollywood's press release made a point to note the "shorter wait times" in the park, as parks look for anything that might lure guests out of their homes to visit.
Elsewhere, Legoland Florida also announced a change to its procedures. In compliance with an order from its Winter Haven, Fla. home, guests ages 8 and over now will have to wear masks while inside any indoor facility or while on any ride. Incredibly, the park had not required guests to wear masks, choosing only to "encourage" their use.
Far from boosting park attendance, a lack of mask usage might actually be keeping potential guests from visiting, as more and more people recognize that it's others wearing masks that helps keep you safe in public. Legoland's change is a step forward, but I know I would feel safer visiting if owner Merlin Entertainments went ahead and adopted the U.S. industry standard of requiring masks for all guests over age two throughout the park.
On the plus side, Legoland is providing free masks to its visitors - including kid-sized masks - rather than merely offering them for sale, as other parks are.
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