Many Theme Park Fans Still Won't Consider Visiting in 2021

February 3, 2021, 9:21 AM · Last weekend, I showed you Google Trends search data that suggested many Americans are not evening thinking about a theme park visit right now. Today, a leisure services technology provider released a survey that further illustrates the bleak outlook for attractions.

The new survey from Omnico Group found that 78 percent of past theme park visitors from the United States said they were reluctant to visit a park in 2021 due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. A follow-up question found that 29 percent of park goers surveyed would not consider a trip this year at all. A concurrent survey of consumers from the United Kingdom found that 73 percent were reluctant to visit major attractions, with 23 percent saying they had ruled out visits this year.

Last month, a Theme Park Insider reader vote resulted in 34 percent of respondents saying they would not visit parks again until December 2021 or later.

All this is tough news for an industry that has been looking for recovery in 2021. Data are showing that simply turning to a new year on the calendar or reopening parks are not going to be enough to get the industry back to pre-pandemic levels. So long as Covid remains a threat, consumers are going to protect themselves - with many doing that by just staying home.

That said, many consumers are looking at what attractions have done to protect visitors from Covid-19. The Omnico Group surveys found that 86 percent of US consumers said that they were looking up an attraction's Covid-19 safety measure before booking a visit, with 60 percent overall saying that they would refuse to book a visit to an attraction if they did not feel those measures were adequate.

The top specific worries that the survey found related to inadequate physical distancing. When asked for solutions, 53 percent of US respondents said clear social distancing guidelines, 44 percent asked for caps on visitor numbers, and 36 percent said that staggered entry times would make them feel safer visiting attractions in 2021. Yet 42 percent also responded that attractions are more focused on making money right now than ensuring guest safety.

"After the year we've had, it's understandable that consumers are reluctant to return to attractions in 2021, but the outlook isn’t all doom and gloom," Omnico Group CEO Mel Taylor said. "By understanding and addressing visitor concerns now, businesses can put in place appropriate measures to negate worries and begin welcoming visitors back safely."

The group's report recommends that attractions focus on capacity limits, technology that enables contactless transactions and interactions, and an increase in personalized offers and loyalty efforts.

However, with somewhere between a quarter and a third of the market choosing to sit out 2021 - no matter what - the new year promises to be another tough one for the attractions industry, rather than the celebration that many fans and industry insiders had hoped for last year.

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Replies (20)

February 3, 2021 at 9:51 AM

Will be going back as soon as we get the vaccine and the mask rules are gone. Even if I got the vaccine tomorrow if wearing a mask is still a thing we still wouldn't visit. I just don't want to wear a mask all day long at a theme park so I'd rather wait.

Fingers crossed this happens before the end of HHN but I'm not confident it will. Still hopeful but definitely not confident....

February 3, 2021 at 10:14 AM

These survey results would be the same for ANY tourist destination - not just theme parks. The travel industry is in this together, along with other industries that survive off high density gatherings (like sporting events, concerts, festivals, and seasonal events).

The fact that Universal can still break even amidst all of the restrictions and attendance caps shows that with proper management and decision making, theme parks can tread water until the industry as a whole can get back on its feet. There will be a bit of survival of the fittest over most of 2021, but I don't think this survey should be that concerning. The parks that make smart decisions and manage costs will make it to the other side, while those that waste money and are unable to target their core fanbase will have a hard time staying afloat.

For us, we already have a park visit planned in 2 weeks (our first to BGW in over a year), and will probably visit SFA in early March when that park opens for the season. However, any trip that necessitates a plane trip and/or long hotel stays is almost certainly off the table for the foreseeable future. Theme parks can't control that, and until interstate/international travel becomes less risky, destination parks will have to shift their focus to local guests.

February 3, 2021 at 11:35 AM

Ditto what Francis said. I will absolutely go back once my family is fully vaccinated and mask rules are gone. If that's in 2021 (I suspect it will be) then we'll go this year, otherwise it'll be next summer!

February 3, 2021 at 12:05 PM

The people that won't go to parks because they don't want to wear a mask confuse me. You wear a mask literally anywhere you go and its been that way for almost a year, and you're still complaining about having to wear a mask to a park?

February 3, 2021 at 12:14 PM

My interpretation of those 34% would be that they got a rather dark virus outlook, which is completely understandable at the moment. If things turn out better than they expect before the end of the year, which does not look that improbable, they will reconsider. For me, i´d be more likely to go if strict social distancing and mask mandates still do apply on top of vaccinations as well as low baseline case numbers.

February 3, 2021 at 12:15 PM

@the_man - Yes, people are wearing masks everywhere they go, but rarely are they wearing those masks 100% of the time over the course of 8+ hours straight. Most people are wearing masks over short stretches. If they do work in an office, they're wearing a mask while sitting at their desk and not performing any sort of physical exertion/heavy breathing. Once you start walking around a theme park, wearing a mask starts getting uncomfortable after about 3-4 hours and/or 4-5 miles of walking. Add hot/humid condition or even cold conditions that cause moisture to build up in the pores of masks, and it can get difficult to breathe even for those that are really fit. The fact that the CDC is now recommending wearing multiple masks or higher rated medical-grade masks that are even more difficult to breathe through, I can completely understand why people would not want to walk 10 miles around a theme park over 8 hours or even think of planning a vacation that would necessitate that.

It's also the perception issue. People go to theme parks to escape the real world, and the last thing they want to do is try to escape that reality with a constant reminder of it right in front of their face (and in their vacation photos).

February 3, 2021 at 1:32 PM

I, too, am hopeful that we can return to normal by the late summer or early fall. More good news needs to be spread. Earlier this week it was reported (by Bloomberg and other outlets, for those wanting a source) that more Americans have received at least their first dose of a vaccine than has tested positive throughout the course of this pandemic. About 1.34 million Americans are getting a shot everyday. At that rate, herd immunity can be achieved in 5 to 7 months (depending on what percentage Dr. Fauci says is needed for herd immunity this week). The 7-day average of infections has been dropping consistently since the second week of January and are currently at their lowest level in three months.

February 3, 2021 at 1:44 PM

I think it's still people wary and waiting to see impact of vaccines on things. If the metrics improve with more rollout, then folks might become more confident and these numbers change which would be good. It just depends on some variables as we've seen how things shift a lot.

February 3, 2021 at 1:45 PM

@the_man -- Russell has it EXACTLY right. There's a big difference between wearing a mask all day at a theme park vs. only when you have to (which for me, thankfully, is seldom...) Plus, part of the fun of being at a theme park is seeing the expressions of pure joy on people's faces as they enjoy the attractions and theming. That is lost completely right now... it's just depressing.

February 3, 2021 at 2:50 PM

I think it is very simple. People will return once they have confidence they will be safe in an environment highly populated. That goes for all crowd based entertainment. This is the first year since 2003 that we haven't got an Orlando holiday booked and to look forward to. If the risk to the virus, and its variants, become obsolete, we are vaccinated and normality resumes I will soon be on the plane.............providing we still have airlines.

February 3, 2021 at 3:14 PM

2020 was a list year. The issue I have to deal with is not masks but travel restrictions upon return. My wife still works and the 2 week quarantine is impossible. Hopefully with my wife being vaccinated and cases falling that restriction will be eliminated by late April. We lost a full year of visiting WDW but managed to enjoy Great Adventures drive thru safari, Halloween and Christmas displays. However we are suffering from WDW withdrawal and can't wait to get back for Flower and Garden.

February 3, 2021 at 3:41 PM

@the__man, I echo what Russell said, 100%. If that’s something you can’t understand, then to be honest, there’s nothing more to be said on the subject.

February 3, 2021 at 3:48 PM

@ProfPlum, the risk to the virus will become greatly reduced, but it will never be obsolete. When more normality returns, you’ll probably have to weigh up what percentage of risk you’re willing to put up with, in order to go back to the parks.

February 3, 2021 at 4:50 PM

80'sMan, absolutely!

February 3, 2021 at 8:31 PM

"Yet 42 percent also responded that attractions are more focused on making money right now than ensuring guest safety."

This tells me that ignorance truly is bliss. I don't know how ANYONE looking at the operations that most parks have employed can say that they are doing so at the expense of guests' safety. The parks in Florida have been given the approval to open at full capacity for months now, but they've held back to 30-40% to ensure that visitors are safe. I can only shake my head in disbelief...

February 3, 2021 at 9:23 PM

Honestly I would go now to local parks that I have had or have APs for if they were open in LA/ OC Counties. I have been to Knotts, Universal, and Disneyland shopping and meal events and felt 100% safe, distanced from others, and I felt all kept great safety protocols about when and where masks could come off, limits of crowds, screening, etc. I have gone to Sea World San Diego when operated as a "zoo" on Halloween which felt a little iffy, but weird day, I think adults in other parties drank too much, and not great crowd control (i.e. preventing the limited capacity of guests to not be all gathered tightly in sections that were popular) and not having enough park security. That said, today I would go to Sea World if less than a 2 hour drive... I am 1 shot in of vaccinated thanks to being a health care worker... YAY! I do plan to go to Orlando as my work allows but would only go now heavily discounted as let's face it not the same experience and care-free ways now.

February 5, 2021 at 8:40 AM

I'd love to go back, but there are too many travel restrictions, and I'm in Canada. I did visit my local Six Flags park, La Ronde here in Montreal, when it reopened for two months. And yes, mask and distancing was required, although some didn't follow the rules very well in the queues.

Maybe WDW or DLR in 2022?

February 5, 2021 at 8:59 AM

A survey over the public opinion an day X, is just that: the actual circumstances of day X, inducing some emotional reaction "of the moment".
On the day all parks really reopen, day Y, a survey would promptly show up a different reaction. Just as well as on the day Z, when the vaccines are distributed, again a different reaction.
A prediction can only be done though an objective set of parameters, not though an opinion check of one random moment in time.

February 5, 2021 at 2:23 PM

Totally agree with you, Herwig! A survey is just a snapshot in time!

And for the record, if I can get my shot series in May, I plan on hitting SFOG, Dollywood, Kings Island, and Cedar Park this summer/fall with maybe a Disney World/Universal vacation in December.

Being older actually rocks for once!

February 5, 2021 at 2:36 PM

Just visited the Orlando 3. With the capacity limits and the vaccine I felt really safe at 2 of them. The third was like OMG I am going to die before I get in even with a mask and the vaccine. No social distancing, risky mask wearing and employees that just did not care. Once in the park the only thing that mad it sort of bearable was everyone could spread out. Still no enforcement at all. If a park wants it people back they need to step it up. Putting down some 6 foot markers is not enough. Sadly you need to enforce the rules because as seen some people are not responsible enough to make this work.

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