COVID AND THEME PARKS: Is It Safe To Go To Amusement Parks Right Now?

Do you want to visit a theme park soon, but you’re worried about the current issues surrounding the pandemic? If so, you probably have many questions. One question is are they safe right now?

Here’s everything you need to know about traveling to theme parks in a pandemic. I even had a chance to interview a representative from Oracle who, along with Merlin Entertainment, did a study to see just how anxious park goers are about traveling to these types of destinations this year.

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What is the COVID-19 Virus?

According to the World Health Organization, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. 

The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).

Orlando Theme Park Safety Guidelines

Amusement parks and theme parks around the globe have put certain safety measures in place to keep all guests as safe as possible. Let’s go through what the parks are doing here in central Florida.

VIP Tour Guide at Universal Studios Florida with mask preventing Covid 19

Safety Guidelines for Walt Disney World

  1. Park Reservations: Park attendance is managed via the Disney Park Pass reservation system.
  2. Face Coverings: Required indoors, including in all indoor attractions and indoor queues and in enclosed transportation. Optional in outdoor areas.
  3. Cleanliness & Sanitation: Disney has emphasized its continued commitment to cleanliness and sanitation.
  4. Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) in all indoor locations, regardless of vaccination status. This includes upon entering and throughout all indoor attractions and indoor queues and in Disney buses, monorail and Disney Skyliner, regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings are optional for Guests in outdoor areas.

Safety Guidelines for Universal Orlando Resort

  1. Universal Orlando encourages all guests to follow CDC guidelines and local directives to wear face coverings while indoors across the resort.
  2. Face coverings are optional while outdoors.
  3. Universal encourages all guests to keep a safe distance between travel parties, and they remain focused on maintaining the highest cleanliness and sanitization standards.
  4. Each guest must confirm the following before visiting: You are not feeling sick or experiencing flu-like symptoms such as Fever, you have not been in contact with someone with known or suspected COVID-19 symptoms, and you are not under any self-quarantine orders

New Oracle Study Finds That Americans Are Eager to Get Back to Theme Parks as COVID Restrictions Ease

As previously mentioned, I was able to interview Tim Brown, Vice President of Global Sales Consulting with Oracle Food and Beverage , who along with Merlin Entertainment (the owners of Legoland, among other parks) conducted the study which explored consumers’ travel preferences for this year. 

The study found that one in three travelers in the US are staying closer to home, while 20% are booking more weekend trips and shorter stays than previously seen. Still, consumers are increasingly anxious to return to theme parks this summer — nearly 70% of consumers want to visit a theme park as soon as possible.

It also showed that even as they go back, consumers are looking for flexibility in planning their experiences:

  • 54% of people would love to plan their itinerary in advance so they can beat the queues 
  • 59% favor some sort of “fast pass” system which provides priority access to food, shops and facilities
  • 54% of consumers say they think food and drink pre-ordering and pick-up should be the new standard.
Theme Park pandemic Oracle and Merlin Research Infographic on how people feel about going to amusement parks while covid 19 is going on.
Oracle and Merlin Research

State of Amusement and Theme Parks Today: How safe are the parks in a pandemic?

Here’s my interview with Tim Brown of Oracle as we discuss how guests feel about going to amusement parks this year.

Do you think your findings will change now that the CDC is recommending masks indoors for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in America?

Even though there are new challenges at this time, people are optimistic about the prospect of spending quality time with families and friends. They miss their theme parks more than ever, and according to our survey almost 70% of customers are planning to visit an amusement park as soon as possible.

Sheikra at Busch Gardens Tampa

It’s our responsibility as technology providers to help theme park operators meet new customer expectations, and help make sure their outings are as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Ready to plan your theme park trip? Watch the best vacation planning tips on YouTube. Get started here!

What tools do you recommend theme parks have in order to make their guests feel safe based on your study?

Customer expectations have permanently changed for theme parks. We’ve seen a heightened demand for contactless technologies like mobile ordering and interactive smartphone maps.

Universal Studios Mobile Order App is a way theme parks are preventing the spread of covid 19
Universal Studios Mobile Ordering App

In fact, upwards of 80% of consumers (79%) agree that refreshments are an integral part of their theme park experience, with 41% wanting a dedicated mobile app for remote food and refreshment ordering.

Fifty-two percent of customers would purchase more if they could avoid queues all together, and 54% of consumers think food and drink pre-ordering and pick-up should be the new standard.

Disney Mobile Ordering Tips and Infograph
Using Mobile Ordering at Walt Disney World

These technologies will play a key role in the ordering of refreshments in advance to reduce queues and help limit contact with others where possible.

Do you think adding some of the tools you mentioned above will help with overall guest satisfaction, especially crowd control?

Overcrowding and long lines have always been the primary frustration for theme park visitors, and now consumer tolerance for these inconveniences is at an all-time low.

Kraken Roller Coaster SeaWorld

The addition of contactless technologies to enable customers to order and pay for refreshments via a mobile app will help improve the flow of the crowds, while helping meet new guest expectations, and improve operational efficiency.

Real-time smartphone maps will also help guests avoid hotspots during their visit, marking which attractions are facing increased demand.

How important is it for guests to create a plan and itinerary for their theme park trip?

Pre-planning for a theme park trip is essential both for safety and customer experience. Creating an itinerary beforehand allows customers to avoid hotspots at theme parks and therefore avoid crowded areas.

Disney World GUIDE Blog Banner

Planning ahead can also help customers beat the queues for food and beverage ordering. According to our findings, 40% of customers say they would pay extra to pre-book their day’s activities in advance.

Based on your studies, do you think the future looks bright for theme parks in the immediate future (2022/2023)?

The desire to return to theme parks is strong and we’re optimistic about the future success of these attractions. But customers’ return to theme parks depends on the safety measures and the enhanced guest experiences that operators are able to provide.

Best theme parks in Orlando Florida with Seaworld Epcot Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios

With the right technology, theme parks can provide customers the peace of mind to give them the control to plan ahead and try to avoid crowds.

Ready to start planning your next Disney World vacation? Listen to the latest podcast episode on Apple or on your non-Apple device now!

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Oracle on the state of the parks. While no amusement park can be 100% safe, you now have some information to help you plan your 2022 and 2023 vacation in the best way possible.

Amusement Park Drop Yellow Tower

According to the World Health Organization, the best way to prevent and slow down transmission is to be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face.

Remember to stay safe out there and protect yourself as best as you can on your trip.

About the Interviewee

As vice president of global solution engineering for the Oracle Food and Beverage business unit, Tim Brown leads an international team of experienced technical sales consultants dedicated to devising and deploying pioneering IT solutions that accelerate innovation for F&B customers.

Tim Brown, Vice President F&B Global Solution Engineering

Based in the UK, Tim orchestrates his team of Oracle industry experts – tapping their insights and “best practices” gained from around the world – to fulfil the business unit’s mission: Help F&B customers create exceptional guest experiences, minimize IT complexity and reduce cost. Leveraging nearly 30 years of hospitality experience, Tim’s expertise lies in assisting global, regional and country-specific enterprises capitalize on Oracle Food and Beverage offerings, including cloud-based solutions, hardware, and digital strategies that optimize all facets of F&B operations, from front of house to the back office.

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