Good and bad news for Disneyland and other theme parks
This past week brought some long-awaited good news for America’s multi-billion-dollar attractions industry and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in it. But even with these welcomed developments, challenges remain for Disneyland and the rest of America’s theme parks as they work to recover from the ongoing pandemic.
First, parents across the country welcomed the news that their children ages 5-11 may now be vaccinated against COVID-19. The family market remains the foundation of the theme park industry, so getting kids vaccinated should help more families to feel comfortable planning vacations to popular destinations.
Theme park attendance has rebounded as parks have reopened and states have eliminated capacity restrictions. But few parks have seen their attendance rebound to pre-pandemic levels. It’s tough to commit to a big vacation months in advance when you do not know when the next wave of COVID will strike. Having the entire family vaccinated should help inspire the confidence to travel again.
Second, theme parks and other attractions across the country now can welcome international travelers. The U.S. this week opened its borders to fully vaccinated tourists from more countries. This should provide extra help to the Florida theme parks, which typically welcome millions of visitors a year from Europe, Canada and South America.
Increased vaccination and reopened borders remove barriers to travel, but people still need new attractions to entice them from their homes. Universal Studios Hollywood will be providing a big one with its upcoming Super Nintendo World. This video game-themed land remains perhaps the most anticipated new theme park attraction in the nation and leads a growing line-up of rides and shows planned for the nation’s parks in 2022 and beyond.
Many fans worried that the pandemic would derail plans for new attractions as parks looked to conserve cash after being closed for so long. But the industry’s swift and accelerating recovery has put expansion plans back on track, giving fans more reasons to book their vacations.
Yet all is not yet well in the attractions business. Pricing remains a challenge for many fans. It’s not just the top-end $200-plus price for a park-hopping day at Disneyland. Many other price points exist for budget-conscious families who want to visit the parks. But that’s part of the problem. With so many price points, passes and discount opportunities, theme parks risk confusing potential visitors who just want to know what a day out will cost. The parks that can offer simple pricing solutions for their fans may be the ones that do best in the years ahead.
Theme parks, like all service industry businesses, also face an ongoing challenge with staffing. Long waits for food and reduced show schedules frustrate visitors who should be enjoying their return to the parks. The lack of an easy solution does not absolve parks of the need to find one. Much work remains for attractions across the country to recapture the momentum they enjoyed two years ago.