Florida Might Let Disney, Universal Admit More Visitors

August 26, 2020, 5:46 PM · The state of Florida may soon allow its theme parks to admit more guests, Governor Ron DeSantis suggested at Universal Orlando today.

The governor was speaking during a roundtable press conference with leaders from Universal, Walt Disney World, and SeaWorld Orlando. Florida's theme parks have been operating under state-mandated capacity limits since reopening in June and July. The limits are in place to help support safe physical distancing inside the parks.

"We think the capacity can be increased," DeSantis said. "When you have the kind of protocols they have in place, you know, we’re very comfortable at the state level that they’re doing it in a good way."

While Florida continues to report thousand of new cases of Covid-19 per day, the number of new cases each day has been declining from its latest peak in mid-July, when the Walt Disney World theme parks reopened to guests. In addition to limiting capacity and promoting physical distancing between parties of guests and employees, parks have implemented enhanced sanitation procedures, including the widespread use of plastic barriers, hand sanitizer and more frequent cleaning of surfaces within the parks. Mask use also is mandatory within the parks.

Lifting capacity limits might not be enough to increase attendance at the parks, however. One of the unspoken reasons for today's event was to promote public confidence in the safety of visiting Florida's theme parks, which drive billions of dollars in economic activity in the state.

For the most part, parks have not been hitting capacity limits since returning, as international borders remain effectively closed and millions of potential out-of-state visitors remain at home — due either to the virus or the resulting economic slowdown.

Universal Orlando has successfully driven attendance among locals, especially on weekends, with an aggressive discount deal. And many Walt Disney World's annual passholders have hit capacity limits as Disney restricts the number of passholders who can visit its parks each day. But overall, attendance remains far below normal levels for this time of year, leading many parks to cut hours and lay off employees.

However, the parks are open. That's not the case in California, where state officials have yet to allow parks to reopen to guests. Several parks have resumed limited operations under state rules allowing businesses such as zoos and outdoor restaurants to return. The Disney, Universal and SeaWorld executives at the Universal Orlando event today — each representing companies that have theme parks in California, too — said that their California parks were ready to return using the same health and safety procedures used in Florida and would reopen as soon as they get clearance from the state.

"We are ready to go," Universal Parks Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer John Sprouls said. "We are just waiting for the opportunity to do it."

Replies (8)

August 26, 2020 at 6:23 PM

In supposed to be there in 3 weeks and they damn well better wait until after that. We made our Universal trip BECAUSE of the limited capacity and precautions. I'm gonna be super pissed if this happens before I go

August 26, 2020 at 8:48 PM

This may help a little, but from what I understand the parks are still generally well below their allowed capacity so increasing the cap probably won't mean much. In order for crowds to return in any significant fashion, a reduction of the hurdles to visiting need to go away. Restrictions on travel to or from Florida are definitely going to hurt until those are lifted, and even once they are it will probably not be until the enhanced safety protocols that negatively affect the experience are eliminated before parks can even hit 50% of their pre-pandemic attendance. Until that happens (which probably won't be until at least spring 2021), parks are probably going to need to find a way to remain profitable on a fraction of their previous attendance. I could see discounts coming into play very soon, or special limited time offerings to convince people to take a trip they may not otherwise do. Or, you know, they could open that big shiny new roller coaster in plain view of visitors...

August 26, 2020 at 8:49 PM

@nrainone can't imagine it making a difference at Universal. Universal's two parks have never reached capacity, ever. Volcano Bay (the water park) has on weekends. But with the main parks, increasing capacity won't mean much when they're not meeting current capacity anyway.

Universal has gotten ridiculously crowded on weekends recently, but is still under whatever the capacity limit is.

August 27, 2020 at 6:50 AM

The only Disney park it will help is DHS at the weekends, and that's mainly for pass holders, other than that this means nothing. You can make a reservation on the day-of for any other park at weekends, and all of them in mid-week.

Even now, photos from MK in mid-week are of an almost deserted kingdom, so hopefully when I start to go back mid-week after Labor Day, it's going to be even quieter :)

August 27, 2020 at 8:45 AM

From what I have been reading, Universal parks feel quite normal now on the weekends. Wait times are above average at many attractions, social distancing isn't really happening, and mask use is far less monitored by Universal employees than at Disney.

August 27, 2020 at 1:24 PM

Planning to go the three days before Thanksgiving to Universal Orlando and stay at the Hard Rock. Curious to read about some issues with mask use/social distancing. Wait times won’t be an issue with Express Pass but the other is an issue. We will follow closely and may opt not to go. It’s been hard enough in Florida getting kids back in school (Palm Beach County). A co-worker went last week to AK and MK during the week and found light crowds and no issues with masks.

August 28, 2020 at 12:44 PM

I've seen plenty of people saying that they felt safe at Universal when they've visited recently. They say that cast members are reminding people to wear their mask properly etc. I'm going in December and I can't wait! With social distancing measures in place, of course, wait time is longer (especially on a weekend) because the amount of people they can move through at a time is less than it used to be. So increasing capacity limits could be a bummer in the sense that wait times will be longer but I'm just glad they are open because it's my happy place.

August 28, 2020 at 12:54 PM

"I'm just glad they are open because it's my happy place"

So funny, that's what my daughter says all the time, she is so depressed we couldn't do our annual August trip because of Dictator Cuomo in NY

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