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The global pandemic has been a worst case scenario for a number of industries, the theme park industry one of the biggest among them. With the parks completely closed that meant that no money was coming in at all. Clearly, parks were going to do what they could to reopen as soon as it was possible and that has already begun in some places, the biggest of which is Universal Orlando Resort which reopened at the beginning of June. However, while it might seem that getting open at all would be a step in the right direction, the resort has now announced a round of layoffs.
An unspecified number of theme park employees are being let go according to Universal. In a statement, the resort said that with attendance down due to the pandemic, and the expectation that tourism will be light for the foreseeable future, the need to cut costs, and staff, was necessary. Part of the statement (via Theme Park Insider) reads.
This decision was not made lightly, but was necessary to prepare us for the future. We are aware of the impact this will have on those affected by this reduction and their families, and we are working to support them through this process. This includes severance pay, subsidized health benefits and professional reemployment assistance.
When the parks were closed, there was no money coming in, but because all the staff was furloughed, the costs of running the Universal Orlando Resort were also greatly reduced, helping to offset that loss. Now, however, with the park open, even to a limited capacity, those costs have increased, and the light turnout has meant that the money that isn't coming in isn't enough to cover those costs. Even though the parks are only accepting a limited number of guests, the parks haven't been "sold out" in general, which means even fewer people are actually going.
This, unfortunately, isn't much of a surprise. Analysts knew that the pandemic was going to kick a recession into high gear and that industries like tourism were going to suffer hard because of it. Simply seeing theme parks reopen wasn't going to fix all their problems because the guests who would otherwise be planning theme park vacations will not be doing so in the same numbers, either due to virus concerns or a lack of financial ability to do so.
And of course, all this is now compounded for those who are now out of a job. They now need to find new work in an environment that likely won't be conducive to that.
We'll now need to keep an eye on the other theme parks to see if similar things happen. We could see similar layoffs at Universal Studios Hollywood as well as the Disney Parks. The financial cost to the parks is certainly expected to extend beyond staff. Universal has already announced that its new theme park under construction, Epic Universe, will not see the build get back underway until the economy improves. The future of several Disney construction projects are also unclear, including the only recently announced redesign of Splash Mountain.
Theme parks may be on the way to reopening, but that doesn't mean we've reached the end of this chapter in theme park history. .