We are now seeing more detailed reports of just how much California and Florida theme parks have been impacted by the pandemic, particularly when it comes to employment. As we know the theme parks took a major hit in 2020 as the coronavirus swept the nation, and theme parks along with many other businesses were forced to close.
As we move into 2021 and as California theme parks fight to reopen their doors safely and get employees back to work, a new report by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions details that more theme park workers in California have lost their employment even compared to Florida, which employs more workers in the theme park sector.
In an article by the local Southern California news source Orange County Register, they state that 44,000 jobs were lost as a result of the pandemic just from the theme park industry alone:
Theme park job losses were higher in California than the other 48 states combined excluding Florida. California lost 17,000 more theme park jobs than Florida even though the amusement park industry employs 25,000 more workers in Florida.
Both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort suffered massive layoffs amid the ongoing pandemic; however, both of those theme parks reopened in summer 2020, just a few months after they temporarily closed in March. In California, theme parks are in a battle with the state government to reopen their doors and revitalize their business. Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood have remained temporarily closed since March 2020, laying off thousands of workers and furloughing others.
In California, some major theme parks including Disneyland and Disney California ADventure, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, and others have been outspoken about changes they want to see made to the reopening guidelines set by the state. Legislators and local government officials have also been vocal about this, advocating to expedite theme park reopenings.
A new bill was pushed forward to allow theme parks to begin reopening in tier 3 instead of tier 4 in California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Blueprint For a Safer Economy. This would allow parks like Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland to open their doors sooner and get their employees back to work.
The Orange County Register details in their report 39% of the jobless market in amusement park employment within the United States was occupied by California.
California lost 44,000 theme park jobs — dropping from 57,900 in July 2019 to 13,900 in July 2020, according to the IAAPA report. Florida lost nearly 27,000 theme park jobs during the same period — declining from 83,000 to 56,200. The other 48 states saw amusement parks shed more than 42,000 jobs — dropping from 134,800 to 92,200.
These numbers are incredibly shocking to many, especially when, under the current guidelines, it will likely be months until California theme parks can truly reopen as Florida theme parks have.
No outbreaks of the virus have been linked to Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort since they reopened last year, a point which many fighting for the expedited reopening of theme parks in California point out during their attempts to reopen.
While the theme parks may not yet be able to reopen and recall all of their employees, some are starting to get creative.
Disneyland Resort has announced it will be hosting a special ticketed event at Disney California Adventure called A Touch of Disney. This event will serve food and drinks outdoors, as well as provide entertainment in compliance with the current restrictions in place for the theme park.
This new event being held by Disney has allowed them to recall 1,000 Cast Members back to work. That is a significant number of employees who will now be able to earn income once again, but there is still a long way to go to really cut into those large numbers of unemployed workers.
It is possible that other theme parks such as Universal Studios Hollywood can host a similar event in order to bring some of their employees (Team Members) back to work as well, though Universal has not yet announced that the park plans to open for shopping or dining.
If the theme parks in California are able to safely reopen in 2021, we will see the unemployment number for the theme park sector go down — hopefully in large amounts.
Do you think California theme parks will reopen in 2021? Let us know in the comments