How Theme Parks Should Deal With Low Crowds Due to COVID 19? The Disney Vs. Universal Approach


 Partners Stature In Front of Cinderella Castle Disney World

Theme parks are starting to deal with a difficult reality. Despite finally being allowed to reopen, the crowds have not returned. Parks at Disney World and Universal Orlando are now having to deal with how to respond to a lack of crowds while ideally remaining open, desperately trying to earn even a small profit while their parent companies lose money.

Disney and Universal are both making massive changes to how they operate their parks in response to the low crowds so lets discuss their different approaches and if there might be a better route forward for the parks.

The Disney World Approach

Chinese Theater Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney World has decided they are cutting park hours amid low attendance. The only people visiting the park have been annual pass holders, and Disney doesn't earn as much money off of them as people traveling and buying day tickets.

People paying for individual or multi-day tickets give Disney more money per day at the park, and tend to buy more merchandise than annual pass holders. This creates a problem where if the majority of people visiting are annual pass holders, Disney doesn't make money.

With less hours open, they get to cut the cost of each day the park is open, paying for less run time for the attractions and less hours for their cast members.

The problem is this doesn't exactly make people want to plan trips to the parks. Paying the same amount for a fraction of the typical number of hours in the park isn't especially attractive, and thats before you take into account the risk of COVID19 or the number of attractions and entertainment offerings closed due to the virus.

This does nothing to solve the problem but may cut costs enough to allow some profit.

The Universal Approach

A Day At The Park With Barney And Friends Universal

Universal has taken a different approach, instead choosing to temporarily close high cost and low popularity attractions at their two parks.

This allows the parks to stay open but cuts costs while ideally not keeping people from wanting to visit.

Attractions like Poseidon's Fury, A Day In The Park With Barney And Friends, or even the new Fast and Furious Supercharged aren't exactly bringing many people to the park in the first place, and closing them saves money while allowing the parks to remain open.

But it does potentially isolate some guests, who may want to wait to visit the park in full, but probably not as many as Disney's approach.

Other Solutions

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror At Night Disney's Hollywood Studios

Both of these approaches have their own problems but there is something else they could try.

Lowering prices.

Now I know this is unheard of in the theme park would, but lets be honest these are times for unheard of solutions. Theme parks have to rely more on local visitors in the near future in order to survive and this is the approach many regional parks took this year. Discounting day tickets and season passes and even extending them. If Disney and Universal did this they might attract more locals who would not normally visit.

Florida is still on many state's quarantine list, something that would prevent almost all vacations from these states due to restrictions. There is also the nonexistent international travel that will continue for potentially the next year. Discounting prices even temporarily could keep local guests coming and give a new temporary source of income to replace long distance tourists.

This could even help as pandemic restrictions start lifting. The world economy is going to be hurting even after a vaccine or treatment, and lower ticket prices might cause attendance to bounce back sooner. If more people visit, it could be enough to make up for the lost money from lowering ticket sales. The problem is only so many people are willing to visit a theme park now amid a pandemic and theres really not a lot parks can do to stop that.

Rainbow Over Liberty Square Magic Kingdom Disney World
Parks are struggling for a way forward, and they are all going to take different routes to get out of their current problems. Only time will tell which will actually work.