Universal Orlando Resort has been operating amid the pandemic for the past year after reopening in June 2020 following a brief closure. Now, Universal officials are commenting on the success of the Florida Universal theme parks — and confirming some big news regarding capacity.
Jeff Shell, CEO, NBCUniversal, Comcast Corporation, confirmed in a live Q&A session on Monday that Universal Orlando is no longer being held to any capacity restrictions.
When asked about the Parks division of the company, Shell started off by discussing Universal Orlando Resort and how the company has been operating for the past year. As he commented on staffing, Shell stated that the company has increased the starting wage rate for Team Members as a way to encourage them to return to the Resort as Universal Orlando has ramped up to full capacity.
“I think it will be a distant memory but I am very proud of how we’ve been able to keep ourselves open. We’ve got 11 million people as of last month through the parks as we’ve reopened, we haven’t had any outbreaks and done safely, and that’s great, and so we’ve already had the core of our staff and we’ve been rehiring. Our wage rate in Orlando is up to $15 which was always planned and we did it a little bit more rapidly to attract more employees back as we’ve ramped up to full capacity. But it’s going pretty smoothly.”
Shell also commented on Guest demand at Universal Orlando Resort. He shared that even with virtually no Guests coming to the theme parks from outside the U.S., Universal Orlando is seeing a lot of success.
“The demand side of Orlando — we have virtually no international visitation yet, which normally depending on the time of year is between 20-30% of our attendence, and yet without any of that attendance we’re already hitting our capacity and doing better in some cases than 2019, which is remarkable given how soon coming out of this we are…People are not only coming back to our theme park and enjoying the experience our of their house, but they’re buying stuff. They’re buying Harry Potter wands and all sorts of things. So very pleased with how the theme parks in Orlando are doing.”
Shell then confirmed that Universal Orlando Resort is not limiting capacity anymore. He said that they “really have no capacity restraints anymore.” The CEO noted that he believes the success the Orlando Universal theme parks are having is due to both pent-up demand of Guests as well as the Parks’ strategy to open a brand-new attraction: VelociCoaster.
“We really have no capacity restraints there anymore and so the summer’s looking pretty strong. And I would say probably the strength is related to two factors. One is there is pent-up demand clearly for those of us who have been in the house, and we want to get out and do all sorts of things and we’re seeing that. I think the other thing is our attraction strategy. We kept building things during the pandemic and we just opened a new roller coaster in Orlando which I had the pleasure of riding called the VelociCoaster based on Jurassic World. Best roller coaster I’ve ever been on and I’m thrilled. All the guest results since we reopened are saying the same thing so we’re hitting the strength of the market with a really strong attraction coming back and that was good.”
This serves as confirmation to many fan suspicions, as theme parks in Florida have been allowed to implement “normal,” pre-pandemic operations for some time now. Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure have been consistently reaching capacity on peak Park days, and with the newly opened Jurassic World VelociCoaster drawing in fans from all over the country, it’s no wonder the parks have been so popular.
Universal Orlando Resort reopened in June 2020 and was operating at a limited capacity for some time, slowly increasing capacity as the months went on. However, unlike Walt Disney World Resort — which utilized the Disney Park Pass reservation system to manage capacity — Universal Orlando Resort did not require any advanced reservations for Guests wanting to visit the parks.
At this time, Guests are not required to practice social distancing or wear face masks at Universal Orlando Resort. The confirmation that the theme parks are operating without capacity restrictions is yet another sign of them going “back to normal.” We’ll report back when Universal shares more information.
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