Do we really want socially distanced theme parks?

We all want our favourite parks back up and running, we want to support them and ensure their future, there's no denying that. But do we really want them running as a shadow of their former self? Is it worth the risk? Surely that's going to take the fun out of a day out at a theme park? Of course we now know the earliest we can expect any glimmer of hope of an amusement park in the UK is currently July, but so many enthusiasts are desperate for parks to open now, and I've seen a lot of them arguing over how it can be done. I can see several issues:


  • Capacity on rides will be cut which is necessary but grim

  • People are likely to ignore the 'members of your own household/bubble' distancing rule

  • 'Cattle pen' queues just don't work with distancing

  • Car parks and public transport aren't ideal for social distancing

  • Ride ops, ticket sales and catering staff being forced into risky situations

  • With the number of furloughed and otherwise impacted, can the country afford to support the leisure industry as much as it will need?


I could go on, basically it won't be the big jolly get together where you can let your hair down that everyone seems to be expecting. It won't be opening weekend part 2. It will be a stressful, if not frustrating day.


We can look at Shanghai Disney, which opened recently (11th May 2020) for a clue as to how things may go for the rest of the word. Now remembering this is Disney, and they are in a better position than likely any other operator in the world, let's look at a few stand out things:


  • There ended up being less than 50% attendance of their vastly reduced capacity, less than 15% of the parks usual capacity attended - Mostly annual pass holders showed

  • The number of staff / Cast Members vastly outnumbered that of visitors

  • Constant reminders of social distancing and sanitisation over the intercom

  • All ride capacity at least halved

  • Limited ride availability due to lack of ability to distance or sanitise regularly

  • Eateries capacity halved

  • Masks are compulsory

  • Was it really the true Disney experience?


So outside of all of the work done to put down markings on the ground, install hand sanitiser pumps, the temperature screening and constant cleaning of every surface, you have to ask, is it really worth it? If this wasn't Disney, if this was your local seaside amusement park, would it A, be a good day out? B, be worth it for the park? There are so many questions come to mind really, areas like security searches, ride evacs, restraint checks, enforcing rules, which rides would be off limits? If you applied the above bullet points to a park like Blackpool Pleasure Beach or Flamingo Land, how long would you expect the parks to last? All of the extra cost, limited capacity, limited opportunity to take money via retail and catering. The measures parks took before the lockdown aren't sufficient to open with the ongoing restrictions, it's not like they can simply fling open the doors and hope for the best.


But what would you want? Would you be happy to see your favourite parks in this kind of state just to get your coaster fix? And are you happy to take the risk of being in a crowded place? Or would you rather wait a bit longer so parks can open at their best and be able to invite everyone back? Personally, I'd rather the parks waited until they can put their best forward, even if that's not until March 2021. Let me know in the comments what you think!



Becca

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