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NOT AMUSED: Pandemic takes theme parks for a whirl

Amusement park operators who spent months installing hand sanitizing stations, figuring out how to disinfect roller coasters seats and checking the temperatures of guests at their gates so they’d come back in the midst of the pandemic are finding many reluctant to return.

Some theme parks have reduced operating days, slashed ticket prices, and closed early for the year because of lower-than-hoped attendance — expectations weren’t high to begin with — along with the uncertainty of what’s to come with the coronavirus. A few .S. parks have been unable to open their gates at all because of state and local health restrictions.

Disney last week began cutting an hour or two out of each day at its four Florida theme parks. It already called off its annual after-hours Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom. Neighbouring Universal Orlando also nixed its Halloween Horror Nights.

Amusement parks across the US South that had their seasons delayed by virus outbreaks in the spring deal with a second punch with the summer flareups across the Sun Belt. Some, including Kings Dominion in Virginia and Carowinds in North Carolina, never opened and won’t this year.

Cedar Fair Entertainment, which operates those two, has reopened just half of its 13 amusement parks and water parks across North America.

The company, based in Ohio, expected attendance to stay at no more than 25 percent of normal levels through the rest of the year at its parks that are operating, CEO Richard Zimmerman said in early August. Despite the lower numbers, those parks are still able to make a profit, the company said.

Cedar Point, the company’s flagship park in Sandusky, Ohio, scaled back to weekends only in mid-August and did away with online admission reservations to manage the daily crowds.

California’s parks haven’t been open — except for a few food festivals — since mid-March and are pushing the state to issue guidelines on how and when they can allow guests back.

“Disneyland has been ready to roll since July awaiting guidance from the state’s governor on what the reopening protocols will be,” Jim MacPhee, Walt Disney World’s chief operating officer, said recently.

Kennywood, an amusement park near Pittsburgh, delayed its opening twice this year, cut ticket prices in half and then decided to end its season early on Labour Day.

“It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen in a few months,” said park spokesman Nick Paradise, explaining why they canceled the popular Phantom Fright Nights and Holiday Lights events. “The safest thing is to finish on a high note.”




First published at Travel Industry Today

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