The roller coaster of Covid-19

By: KATE SAARI

“The happiest place on Earth” doesn’t seem as magical these days, with the effects of Covid-19, amusement parks suffer the lack of customers and money coming in. Everyone is aware that this pandemic has led to businesses laying off multiple employees and companies going out of business, but what about the huge special theme parks we all know and love? Such as Disneyland, Sixflags, LegoLand, Universal Studios, and etc? How are they handling these difficulties when they are so familiar with over crowded happy tourists? Some cuts had to be made and who knows how it will affect future experiences, will it be the same? Walt Disney once said, “Disneyland is the star, everything else is in the supporting role.” Hopefully when the public is able to return regularly to these parks, they’ll still shine as bright as before.

The loved franchise was created on October 16th, 1923. Long story short, well known Walt Disney and his brother Roy Disney found a cartoon studio in Los Angeles, California and decided to showcase their talents world wide with animation films. As you can tell, they became super popular since the beginning of their first production. The studio, now known as the Walt Disney Company, has made an enormous influence on the entertainment industry and is now one of the largest media companies in the world. With all their success, they created the one and only Disneyland in Anaheim, California in 1955 which was a fraction of the size of what it is now.  There are multiple die hard disney fans who consider Disneyland as their second home. With Corona Virus taking over our nation, places such as Disneyland, had to be closed for a long period of time. Although, they did consider reopening during mid July, even the people felt it was too soon to vacation there. With Disneyland not opening, they ended up losing a huge fraction of their funds that they would normally have. The Today Show reported the story of “Disney announcing plans to lay off 28,000 workers. Most of them had already been on furlough for the last 6 months.” With this being said, this cost the company up to $5 billion, so letting off workers seems more sensical, even though it sacrifices many jobs. However, Disneyland makes around $7.813 billion a year, but this pandemic ruined the consistently high profit and jobs for many people.

What about smaller theme parks? Although Disney suffered greatly during this pandemic, they are still one of the most well known companies in the country. Unlike smaller amusement parks such as Six Flags, Sea World and Cedar Fair, who haven’t had as much recognition. Disney and Universal Studios are massive industries that draw people not only from around the country, but from around the world. Families dedicate themselves to staying multiple days and the customers draw enough to support entire local economies such as hotels, restaurants, and shops. Regional parks like Six Flags consist of people spending a day of fun at the park and only willing to travel no more than a couple 100 miles to vacation there. But, this causes these parks to become regional monopolies, which means they don’t have many competitors to battle with for visitors. Smaller parks need as much and even more support than larger corporations.

In the mid 2000’s, Six Flags struggled through several years of steep losses that saddled the company with $2.7 billion in debt. In 2009, the company went into the first chapter of bankruptcy, plunging into the depths of a financial crisis. The next year the amusement park started to become very popular and kept a high streak for the next 9 years. Although, in 2019, they had a plan to expand into different parts of the world and become international. The objective of the process was to add parks to the Middle East and Asia, but it kept getting disregarded and people would cancel agreements without consulting the proper authorities. None of those parks began to be physically built and it’s indifferent if they ever will.  Not only did Six Flags suffer through 2019 but as well during 2020’s pandemic. No one realized how long this pandemic was going to last and were unaware that no visitors could come and stay at the park. CNBC stated “On one hand, the park season doesn’t begin until May, so the industry was spared some of the initial shocks many other industries had felt during the pandemic,” since the pandemic began in mid March, so at the time, the virus didn’t seem like much of an issue at the time. Then the questions started to pour in, how many customers would be allowed in at once, how often would they have to sanitize rides and how, what is the cost of doing business and the potential liabilities that would appear if they remained open? Whilst being very concerned that the theme park industry would be shut down for 2021 and as of now, who knows what it will happen in a few months.

Amusement parks are places where family and friends go to have a good time and enjoy themselves. No matter how big or small, memories of your first roller coaster ride, the first prize you get after winning a game, or just simply posing with a life size cartoon character are treasured events you will always keep in the back of your mind. This pandemic created many negative impacts on our country, losing theme parks is just another activity that we can’t look forward to after this nightmare is over. One of my favorite memories as a young kid was going on a motorcycle ride at a local amusement park and I went around 20 times, but the worker didn’t mind and let me keep riding as long as I wanted. Theme park workers have so much enthusiasm and do their jobs well and having so many loyal workers let off during this difficult time is disheartening. Once it’s safe enough, maybe you could go on a day family trip to a regional theme park to not only support the park, but just to have a great day with your loved ones. It’s up to us as consumers to assist companies and keep them alive as long as possible. I mean, what can go wrong with a roller coaster and cotton candy?

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