Central Florida theme parks returning to normal following COVID-19 pandemic woes

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Universal’s new theme park Epic Universe is set to open in the next couple of years as Florida’s theme parks report a return to normal following the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020.

“I couldn’t be more optimistic and pleased with our businesses right now,” said NBC Universal, Comcast CEO Jeff Shell in a call with Credit Suisse. “We’ve had 11-million people go through the park and we haven’t had any outbreaks and we’ve done it safely.”

Universal, which reopened its Florida parks in June of 2020, said it has yet to see any significant international tourism. But while international tourism, which typically accounts for 20-30% of visitors to the park, is down, the company says it is still seeing increasing revenue and hitting capacity at its parks in Florida and has high expectations for California.

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The pace of business has been strong enough that Universal moved to a $15 an hour starting wage ahead of schedule in order to bring in enough workers.

“People are not only coming back, but they are buying stuff,” said Shell.  “There is pent-up demand and we’ve also kept building things during the pandemic.”

Meanwhile Disney reported continued growth at its parks pointing to high demand and new attractions set to open soon.  The company also said it is seeing interest in its cruise lines, which are not currently sailing out of Florida, but expected to resume operations later this year.

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Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in his call that the park has used lessons learned from the pandemic to streamline costs and revenues as well as implement new guest experiences including contactless check-in to its hotels and virtual waiting lines for rides.

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