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COVID-19 Coronavirus and Theme Parks Official Thread


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Most people don't usually go to amusement parks. Since the portion that go in a single year is small, there is a lot of room to make up for those who are scared. So it will be interesting if/when parks reopen and it really could go either way. Local parks will be favored not only out of cost, but fears of travelling. Some will be poorer, a few that keep their income may have spending money for the first time.

 

There is some possibility there will be a change in the way they do operations. Standing in line becomes one of the most dangerous parts of your visit. They could go to an all electronic queue system. These changes would not favor the way I have usually enjoyed parks, but might be an improvement for most. That said, parks are probably not functional without the masses and in any case will require we get enough control of the virus.

 

Big travel plans may be down the crapper, but I still suspect your local parks are going to be packed. You're looking at it from a financially responsible point of view. The majority of the people in the US and worldwide are conditioned not to know how to handle their finances. If they did, we wouldn't have payment plan options on tickets and season passes. Mr. and Mrs. Visa will pick up the check for entry at the local parks when this is all said and done. It's a cheaper alternative to a vacation when people are trying to recover from cabin fever. (no pun intended)

 

On the flip side, you also have the people out there who are still employed with plenty of job security. They're going to be working hard to play catch-up on their summer/warm weather season.

 

I agree except disagree strongly, and am a bit miffed at, the part about finances. I've seen your posts and I'm not sure you can conceive of how little some of us live on. Not every decision is perfectly prudent but they are hard decisions. Myself, I see that I'm getting older and, in a sense, can't afford to wait forever to do things I want to do. Currently I'm glad I splurged as much as I did last year and maybe should have gone further in hindsight.

 

Season's passes are one of the best values out there, but have a high upfront cost. This is a barrier for families and anyone looking at going to parks as a substitute for other forms of entertainment. In addition, membership plans have other advantages, such as the 13-month pass.

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I agree except disagree strongly, and am a bit miffed at, the part about finances. I've seen your posts and I'm not sure you can conceive of how little some of us live on. Not every decision is perfectly prudent but they are hard decisions. Myself, I see that I'm getting older and, in a sense, can't afford to wait forever to do things I want to do. Currently I'm glad I splurged as much as I did last year and maybe should have gone further in hindsight.

 

Season's passes are one of the best values out there, but have a high upfront cost. This is a barrier for families and anyone looking at going to parks as a substitute for other forms of entertainment. In addition, membership plans have other advantages, such as the 13-month pass.

 

I don't think you can conceive how much most of the populace still has. Unemployment in the US is hovering around 13%, which yes sucks, but that still means there's 87% of the working population that is still working. Many industries haven't felt any hurt from this (and may actually be benefiting financially) and most major corporations are keeping their employees on the payroll. Yes, entertainment, food sector, and small business employees are hurting, but many, many are not. Let's not also discount the fact that people that are working (or otherwise being paid) are basically forced to have zero entertainment spending right now, and thus will have a large cache saved up when things are open again.

 

I also think you're grossly overestimating the paranoia level of most "normal" people. Once this situation, which thus far isn't much worse than H1N1 was back in 2009 (60.8m infected, 13k dead compared to 466k infected, 16k dead so far for COVID-19), is under control and business start opening back up, I imagine you'll find most people eager to get back to their routine...going to bars, movies, and amusement parks. That is, if businesses return to normal at some point over the summer.

 

If in fact this turns into a protracted thing, with this "stay-at-home" nonsense and all "non-essential" business closed for a year or more, then of course all bets are off. However, I don't see that happening...I predict that a certain "risk level" will have to be assumed and then life will return to normal, without any such special "social distancing," "virtual queue for everything," or everyone-wearing-a mask, in place.

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^^-- regarding finances and income, I didn't mean specifically right now. As I said, "a few that keep their income may have spending money for the first time" due to the stimulus.

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I agree except disagree strongly, and am a bit miffed at, the part about finances. I've seen your posts and I'm not sure you can conceive of how little some of us live on. Not every decision is perfectly prudent but they are hard decisions. Myself, I see that I'm getting older and, in a sense, can't afford to wait forever to do things I want to do. Currently I'm glad I splurged as much as I did last year and maybe should have gone further in hindsight.

 

Season's passes are one of the best values out there, but have a high upfront cost. This is a barrier for families and anyone looking at going to parks as a substitute for other forms of entertainment. In addition, membership plans have other advantages, such as the 13-month pass.

 

I don't think you can conceive how much most of the populace still has. Unemployment in the US is hovering around 13%, which yes sucks, but that still means there's 87% of the working population that is still working. Many industries haven't felt any hurt from this (and may actually be benefiting financially) and most major corporations are keeping their employees on the payroll. Yes, entertainment, food sector, and small business employees are hurting, but many, many are not. Let's not also discount the fact that people that are working (or otherwise being paid) are basically forced to have zero entertainment spending right now, and thus will have a large cache saved up when things are open again.

 

I also think you're grossly overestimating the paranoia level of most "normal" people. Once this situation, which thus far isn't much worse than H1N1 was back in 2009 (60.8m infected, 13k dead compared to 466k infected, 16k dead so far for COVID-19), is under control and business start opening back up, I imagine you'll find most people eager to get back to their routine...going to bars, movies, and amusement parks. That is, if businesses return to normal at some point over the summer.

 

If in fact this turns into a protracted thing, with this "stay-at-home" nonsense and all "non-essential" business closed for a year or more, then of course all bets are off. However, I don't see that happening...I predict that a certain "risk level" will have to be assumed and then life will return to normal, without any such special "social distancing," "virtual queue for everything," or everyone-wearing-a mask, in place.

 

Here's the major problem with your assessment:

 

Those are total numbers for H1N1. COVID numbers are still growing and will continue to do so for at least a month if not longer.

 

This is not a situation that will fix itself by June 1. As it stands, we aren't that far away from Fall events starting to come into question (NFL/NCAA Football are the biggest entities with the spotlight on them). Within our hobby, we're quickly approaching a time where seasonal parks will have to ask themselves if it's worth it to even consider opening up in 2020.

 

Many people seem to be quite reluctant to admit that this isn't some 6 week ordeal. We need to start playing the long game here, cause COVID isn't going away.

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Regarding that unemployment number, it’s still going to rise. For example, look at the Disney announcement: Disney employees still on payroll until April 19, with paycuts for Executives. Presumably many still in the workforce also had to take paycuts.

 

The industry will survive this and rebound strong over the course of the next few years. But it’s not happening right away. It will be a slow and steady recovery as people manage their budgets, we find out more about the virus, and learn to adjust to any new norms (like how to manage social distancing and sanitation at a theme park where everyone is used to being in close proximity and everything is touched by thousands of people daily). This is a unique (and hopefully only once in a lifetime) worldwide health emergency and recession with still so much unknown. It’s as far from a healthy market for theme parks as you can possibly get.

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Here's the major problem with your assessment:

 

Those are total numbers for H1N1. COVID numbers are still growing and will continue to do so for at least a month if not longer.

 

This is not a situation that will fix itself by June 1. As it stands, we aren't that far away from Fall events starting to come into question (NFL/NCAA Football are the biggest entities with the spotlight on them). Within our hobby, we're quickly approaching a time where seasonal parks will have to ask themselves if it's worth it to even consider opening up in 2020.

 

Many people seem to be quite reluctant to admit that this isn't some 6 week ordeal. We need to start playing the long game here, cause COVID isn't going away.

 

Listen, I'm not one of those "this is only the flu" people, but I'm not one of those "life will never be the same" people either.

 

Yes, of course infected numbers are going to skyrocket once widespread testing (that is, testing others than those who exhibit every symptom as has been current practice), and of course death numbers are going to rise (at a much slower level). Many models estimate that most of us have already had it. Am I expecting 100,000 deaths in the US? By no means.

 

Fact is, we don't know when/if it's going to go away. It may very well fix itself by June 1, or it may be June 1 2021, or anywhere in the middle or it may be never at all. A vaccine was developed for H1N1 within 7 months of the first US reported case. Going by that timetable, with the first US COVID-19 case being reported in January, we're likely looking at July for a vaccine date. You also have to remember that the federal government got involved in H1N1 a LOT slower than this current administration, so if anything the timetable for a vaccine might be shorter. Not that a vaccine will be required to restart a normal way of life, given that most people who become infected have zero symptoms and are little to no danger to themselves or most of their immediate contacts.

 

Panic and assuming that this is the "new normal" is just as bad as assuming it's nothing.

 

Regarding that unemployment number, it’s still going to rise. For example, look at the Disney announcement: Disney employees still on payroll until April 19, with paycuts for Executives. Presumably many still in the workforce also had to take paycuts.

 

The industry will survive this and rebound strong over the course of the next few years. But it’s not happening right away. It will be a slow and steady recovery as people manage their budgets, we find out more about the virus, and learn to adjust to any new norms (like how to manage social distancing and sanitation at a theme park where everyone is used to being in close proximity and everything is touched by thousands of people daily). This is a unique (and hopefully only once in a lifetime) worldwide health emergency and recession with still so much unknown. It’s as far from a healthy market for theme parks as you can possibly get.

 

Yeah, I'll concede that unemployment will rise, but not by much. Expect plenty of companies to extend their "on the payroll" date.

 

I fail to see why "social distancing" and uber-sanitation need to become aspects of normal life when this is over. People are going to get sick and people are going to die no matter what scary new disease is going around.

 

And I totally agree it won't be a healthy market for parks, but I just don't see it as much of a doom-saying situation as some obviously do.

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I fail to see why "social distancing" and uber-sanitation need to become aspects of normal life when this is over. People are going to get sick and people are going to die no matter what scary new disease is going around.

 

And I totally agree it won't be a healthy market for parks, but I just don't see it as much of a doom-saying situation as some obviously do.

 

I see a possibility that more may consider OTSRs icky.

 

I'm saying it might even be a boon for smaller parks, as the largest variable is the vast majority that wouldn't usually go. It will be the destination parks previously limited by capacity that will be hurt.

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I fail to see where I recommended anyone to do anything, so I'm not sure what "advice" I provided.

 

Also, where, exactly, has anything I said contradicted the medical professionals opinion on the matter?

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Yeah, I'll concede that unemployment will rise, but not by much. Expect plenty of companies to extend their "on the payroll" date.

 

I fail to see why "social distancing" and uber-sanitation need to become aspects of normal life when this is over. People are going to get sick and people are going to die no matter what scary new disease is going around.

 

And I totally agree it won't be a healthy market for parks, but I just don't see it as much of a doom-saying situation as some obviously do.

 

Disney and Universal are massive employers for the markets they are in. That's not just a blip on the radar. It's a needle mover in both CA and FL on their own. The IMF is predicting the worst recession since the great recession.

 

"Social distancing" won't be the norm forever, but it most certainly will when the parks first re-open unless our understanding and treatment of the virus gets significantly better.

 

Getting back to the theme park discussion...we are already past the point of no return for this year/season being successful. Easter/Spring break wiped out. Beginning of summer (Memorial Day) weekend looks to be gone as well if you take Universal's closure as an assumption for the rest of industry. That's before evening taking into account attendance for the remainder of the year is most certainly going to be down based on the factors I already touched on. Six Flags, Cedar Fair, and Sea World all have market caps low enough someone could swoop in and easily become the majority shareholder and force actions like closing parks to sell the land they sit on.

 

There's no avoiding the fact this year is going to be absolutely devastating to the business. 2021 will likely see a return to what 2020 was supposed to be, with growth not returning until 2022. Project timelines will have either shifted or been outright canceled to adjust. Parks will close or have new owners. Going to be a wild ride to see how it all plays out.

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I don't think you can conceive how much most of the populace still has. Unemployment in the US is hovering around 13%, which yes sucks, but [lies, damn lies, and statistics].

Come on, man, three weeks ago the unemployment rate was 3%. One tenth of the entire country lost their jobs in the last three weeks, and you have the nerve to say it's no big deal?

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...we're likely looking at July for a vaccine date...

 

Yeah... Okay. Sure.

 

If that were the case why are the top scientist doctors, and others involved in making a vaccine saying that it's likely going to take 12-18 months before one is ready for the public? They are currently expecting a vaccine to be ready for the public in March of 2021. (Feel free to Google it to find sources. There's plenty out there.)

 

There's no avoiding the fact this year is going to be absolutely devastating to the business. 2021 will likely see a return to what 2020 was supposed to be, with growth not returning until 2022. Project timelines will have either shifted or been outright canceled to adjust. Parks will close or have new owners. Going to be a wild ride to see how it all plays out.

 

It will be a wild ride for sure. We were just talking last night about the effects this is going to have on parks over the next few years. It's for sure not going to be a "Oh that never happened." kind of thing. It's really going to effect the parks.

 

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I don't think you can conceive how much most of the populace still has. Unemployment in the US is hovering around 13%, which yes sucks, but [lies, damn lies, and statistics].

Come on, man, three weeks ago the unemployment rate was 3%. One tenth of the entire country lost their jobs in the last three weeks, and you have the nerve to say it's no big deal?

 

Exactly. And more and more of them are STILL losing their jobs daily.

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I agree with Zach that this is becoming a bit redundant. The fact is we are all just making guesses. It is very hard to predict what the populace will do. In the end we will simply have to wait and see how it pans out.

 

I do not think people will be as paranoid as some believe they will. Yes, some, but not enough to make a significant danger.

 

The biggest aspect of this to me is how long the restrictions stay in place. The longer they do the more lives saved but the more devastating to the economy with longer lasting affects on people. NOT making a statement on one is better than the other, just being observational.

 

I do not agree that we are past the point of no return for parks to make money on the season. While I haven't seen the books, I am pretty sure SFSTl makes as much money off of FF as they do the rest of the season combined (or close enough to make my point) Even if seasonal parks can't open until June or July they would still have potentially have 65% - 75% of their year left, depending of course on exactly how long their season is. I'm basing those dates on my local park.

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I don't think you can conceive how much most of the populace still has. Unemployment in the US is hovering around 13%, which yes sucks, but [lies, damn lies, and statistics].

Come on, man, three weeks ago the unemployment rate was 3%. One tenth of the entire country lost their jobs in the last three weeks, and you have the nerve to say it's no big deal?

 

 

It's a big deal....but how big a deal will depend not so much on how many lose their jobs but for how long.

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My home park doesnt even start daily operations until the last week of June, so its way too early to say the season is a wash already.

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I do not agree that we are past the point of no return for parks to make money on the season. While I haven't seen the books, I am pretty sure SFSTl makes as much money off of FF as they do the rest of the season combined (or close enough to make my point) Even if seasonal parks can't open until June or July they would still have potentially have 65% - 75% of their year left, depending of course on exactly how long their season is. I'm basing those dates on my local park.

 

Every day a park was supposed to open is a day where costs mount with no revenue coming in. Their 2020 budgets are already ruined. There's no such thing as "making money" in the traditional sense this season. All any park will be able to do is salvage whats left and squeeze what profit they can out of whats left by managing costs (cutting where they can) and pricing (my guess would be prices on everything goes up inside the park and on premium stuff like VIP tours, while ticket prices go down to get people back in). But that "profit" is really just offsetting the loss.

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Yeah but their costs are not the same as a normal operating day. None of the seasonal workers are being paid (Universal and Disney being the exceptions at the moment) less security is needed, utility bills will be down, purchasing stock for the stores and food, possibly insurance although I'm not sure how that works, etc. Let's say just for arguments sake my home park opens June 1, at that point they have only missed out on about 35 or 40 days at fairly short hours (most of those days would be 10:30-6 or 7) June 15 then add another 13 days without the expenses mentioned above. If a park wasn't scheduled to open til May 1 or Memorial Day weekend originally it will be even less days.

 

Not to mention all of the memberships and season passes with money still coming in. I am still paying on the CedarFair passes we bought (for the first time, thanks Kharma) and my Six Flags membership. I know there will be some compensation but they still got their money this month.

 

I think the price changes you mentioned are certainly a possibility as a natural reaction to recoup some of the lost days but I still don't see it as an automatic loss for the year.

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...Not to mention all of the memberships and season passes with money still coming in...

 

Not for all parks.

 

Six Flags will pause membership payments for members on the monthly payment plan while the chain's amusement parks remain closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Source.

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That for payment plans on the regular season pass. If you are paying a set amount off in installments. The membership fees are still ongoing, they are perpetual unless you cancel your membership which you cannot do until a year has gone by. So what you are talking about it is a set amount of money that they will still get, just delayed; but the same amount, not a loss.

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That for payment plans on the regular season pass. If you are paying a set amount off in installments. The membership fees are still ongoing, they are perpetual unless you cancel your membership which you cannot do until a year has gone by. So what you are talking about it is a set amount of money that they will still get, just delayed; but the same amount, not a loss.

 

Pretty sure it's for memberships as well, not just season pass payment plans.

 

Six Flags will pause membership payments for members on the monthly payment plan while the chain’s amusement parks remain closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“In response to the coronavirus pandemic, we are allowing members to pause their membership accounts until the parks reopen,” Six Flags officials said in a statement. “When a membership is on ‘pause’ the guest’s credit card will not be charged and they will accrue no additional charges on their account.”

 

Six Flags parks offer both season passes that are paid in full at the time of purchase and memberships that are paid by month like a gym membership.

 

Six Flags members have the option to pause monthly payments in a “simple and automatic” process, according to Six Flags officials.

 

Six Flags members who continue to make monthly payments will receive a free upgrade to the next level in the company’s tiered membership program. So far, two-thirds of Six Flags members have opted to continue making payments, officials said.

 

Six Flags members will get a month added to the end of their membership for every month the parks are closed. Six Flags season passholders will get a day added for each day their home park is closed.

 

Sure at this point only one third of members have canceled their memberships, that's still one third loss of that income. However, I'm sure over time people who are trying to cut back on unnecessary expenses will end up pausing their membership charges till the parks re-open, so that one third is like to climb. - They may end up seeing it as a "What's the point in paying for this when I can't use it. I'll just wait till the parks re-open, and then reactivate my membership." - The "Free upgrade to the next level" thing may not be as enticing to people who need/want to save money.

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Yeah but their costs are not the same as a normal operating day. None of the seasonal workers are being paid (Universal and Disney being the exceptions at the moment) less security is needed, utility bills will be down, purchasing stock for the stores and food, possibly insurance although I'm not sure how that works, etc. Let's say just for arguments sake my home park opens June 1, at that point they have only missed out on about 35 or 40 days at fairly short hours (most of those days would be 10:30-6 or 7) June 15 then add another 13 days without the expenses mentioned above. If a park wasn't scheduled to open til May 1 or Memorial Day weekend originally it will be even less days.

 

Not to mention all of the memberships and season passes with money still coming in. I am still paying on the CedarFair passes we bought (for the first time, thanks Kharma) and my Six Flags membership. I know there will be some compensation but they still got their money this month.

 

I think the price changes you mentioned are certainly a possibility as a natural reaction to recoup some of the lost days but I still don't see it as an automatic loss for the year.

 

Yes,their short term costs are virtually non existent, but the fixed costs still remain. Salaries and wages for the remaining staff, interest on debt, insurance, property taxes, maintenance, etc. are still there. Plus when the parks do re-open, they will be looking at having their "start up costs" to reopen (the massive supply orders, massive hiring effort, training, etc.) all hit at once instead of spread out over months like they would normally be.

 

Six Flags, for example, had to borrow an additional $130 million, stop its dividend and stock buybacks completely, cancel or delay $40-50 million in expansions+reduce other non labor spending by $30-40 million to stay afloat. And that assumes parks can be operational by the mid May timeline they have announced.

 

As far as any money that comes in for memberships/season passes during this time, that money has to go on the books as a liability for the time being since they are receiving money but unable to deliver the product. It'll come off the books when people have the ability to redeem the full value of their pass.

 

There will be some offsets (like writing off the donation of food) and presumably some of the bailout funds for keeping some staff on, but there is no doubt this is going to be the worst year for the theme park business for a long long time.

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They just mean you can essentially cancel your membership easily and start it back up, which you can do anyway with some restrictions. Only people really getting a break are new members less than a year. People paying off the regular passes will get a pause but still owe the same amount in the end. Yes, some will cancel their memberships but in my experience most won't go through the hassle.

 

Look guys I think I am out of this argument. We can go back and forth all you want but we are just throwing effort after foolishness. You aren't in the Six Flags front office (at least I don't think you are, lol) and neither am I, we have both stated our opinions. You are pretty bent on predicting disaster and I am pretty sure it will all be alright in the end.

 

Honestly, it will probably end up somewhere in the middle of what you and I think.

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Speaking to Six Flags specifically, the state of things is eerily similar to their last bankruptcy: heavily leveraged, recession, and parks impacted by a virus (the Texas parks took a hit and SFM was completely closed for a week from Swine Flu), and the loss of international licensing revenue.

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Here in Canada its doubtful that any parks open. They expect the restrictions they have in place to last til summer sometime. Then they plan on lifting some of them with parks being last on the list. They expect some sort of social distancing to last til there is a vaccine.

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