Convincing guests theme parks are safe is resorts’ next hurdle
Central Florida's theme parks want prospective guests to know their resorts are safe. Image via AP.

Universal Orlando
Parks have taken precautions to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks, but businesses still struggle.

While theme parks make the case that they are safe for visitors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis traveled to Orlando Wednesday to highlight the theme park reopening “success story.”

Tourism makes up the backbone of much of Florida’s economy, particularly Central Florida’s, but pandemic fears have forced parks to close. Even as resorts reopened earlier this summer, they aren’t operating at full capacity, impacting local businesses and the state’s tourism tax dollars.

“You have a ripple effect that can be very positive, obviously, when things are going well,” DeSantis said. “But when things slow down, when they stopped and then slowed down, the ripple effect went in the other direction, so that had a huge impact on employment in the area and on people’s small businesses.”

During his visit to Universal Studios, Universal and Disney executives flanked the Governor, each hoping to share what precautions they have taken to make their parks safe for visitors.

Establishing safe practices was central to the state’s early reopening plans. But after weeks of implementing public health measures without outbreaks, the next step is to convince hopeful guests that resorts are safe, said Universal Parks and Resorts Executive Vice President John Sprouls.

“I think we’ve been able to prove, all of us, that you can operate safely, and you can create not only a great environment for guests but a safe environment for the guests,” Sprouls said. “How we get that message out so more people feel comfortable coming here is what’s going to help all of us and what’s going to help Central Florida.”

“We’re probably some of the safest environments anywhere in the world in terms of employment,” he added. “We are outside. We are safely distanced. We have all of our protocols in place. We have layers upon layers of protocols.”

Jim MacPhee, Senior Vice President of Walt Disney World, said his resort’s focus was health and wellness and park capacity.

“We’ve all got a lot of magic to bring to life, and we’re doing so in a very safe way,” he said.

Bringing a bit of that magic to the Wednesday roundtable was Universal’s Professor Doctor Penelope Tibeaux-Tinker Toothsome, donning a face covering, to deliver “toothsome shakes” to the panelists.

DeSantis this week also made the push for professional sports to restart ticket sales. The Governor appeared in Miami Monday to back the Miami Dolphins allowing fans at the Hard Rock Stadium.

Disney has also played a role in reopening professional sports leagues, hosting both the National Basketball Association and Major League Soccer bubbles at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on the Disney campus. Bringing those leagues to Orlando meant planting thousands of people to temporarily live in the area.

“I think the support for the local, small businesses is critical,” DeSantis said. “I actually didn’t think about the NBA with the catering, but that’s a huge, huge thing.”

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.



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