Universal theme park demand is exceeding capacity despite inflation, executive says

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'There’s no impact on our business.'

Skyrocketing gas prices and rising airline prices aren’t hurting theme park attendance right now, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said Tuesday.

“As gas prices rise, you would expect to see a decline … as it becomes much more expensive to drive from Atlanta to Orlando,” Shell said. “We’re seeing none of that. Literally none of that. … There’s no impact on our business.”

But Shell warned if domestic attendance eventually drops off, the news that international travelers can fly into the United States without testing negative for COVID-19 could lure more foreign visitors to the parks. Theme park attendance has returned to pre-pandemic levels, but international visitors still remain largely elusive.

“When domestic starts to decline — if and when it does decline as of yet — we’ll start to see that offset with people flying in from other places,” Shell said. “There’s a big pent-up demand … around the world for people flying in to see our theme parks.”

Shell, whose division oversees Universal theme parks, answered questions and discussed the company’s business during the Credit Suisse 24th Annual Communications Conference Tuesday.

Right now there’s not enough theme park capacity to meet the demand, Shell said as the parks are “roaring back” since reopening from the pandemic closures.

“We’re selling out our parks. We’re selling our hotel rooms,” Shell said. “People started traveling and getting out of their house and getting back out traveling with their families. There’s simply not enough theme park capacity out there.”

Shell praised the Comcast-owned Universal parks for its strategy of investing in the theme parks throughout the pandemic. He called Islands of Adventure’s VelociCoaster “the best roller coaster in the world.” Some might interpret his remark as a subtle dig at Disney World, which opened a new coaster last month based on the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise at Epcot.

“We’ve just kept investing in things, and then, more importantly, we’re building new parks,” Shell said.

He highlighted Epic Universe, Universal’s third theme park in Orlando that is set to open in 2025, although Shell didn’t reveal any new secrets about what’s coming.

“It’s going to be anchored by Nintendo, so Nintendo will have a full land there like it does in Japan which, I think, based on the success of Japan, I’m very excited about,” Shell said.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


One comment

  • Impeach Biden

    June 14, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    Nothing like standing in long lines with the temperature near 100 degrees and humidity nearly as high.

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