Study Shows Unvaccinated People Are More Likely to Visit Theme Parks

in Theme Parks, Updates

Carousel and Cinderella Castle

Credit: Disney

Just a handful of years ago, people thought about where they wanted to go on vacation and what it would take to get there. They thought about budgets, what kind of clothes they would bring, and what fun things they might buy. They didn’t think about if they should wear a mask, whether they should get the latest COVID booster, or if they should go at all.

People talking in front of Cinderella´s Castle at Magic Kingdom
Credit: Disney

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However, years after the initial start of the COVID pandemic, things have changed.

Some of the most popular vacation destinations are theme parks, and that didn’t change—even with the pandemic. Most theme parks have a number of health and safety procedures to keep Guests safe, but a contagious virus can always find a way to sneak through, especially since there is a chance that a large number of theme Park visitors may be unvaccinated.

Magic Kingdom Central Plaza
Credit: Disney

The New York University School of Professional Studies and the Family Travel Association conducted the U.S. Family Travel Survey shortly after the pandemic began and found that 70% of unvaccinated respondents planned to visit a theme Park in the following 12 months. Theme parks were, in fact, their top destination choice.

That number was much higher than those that were vaccinated, of which only 50% said they planned to visit a theme park, per the report.

Raptor encounters at Universal Orlando
Credit: Universal

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New York University Professor and co-author of the survey Dr. Lynn Minnaert, spoke to The Points Guy about the survey, shortly after it was published, and offered an explanation of the results.

“Unvaccinated families are less likely to be deterred by crowds, which may play a role. They are also more likely to feel that health restrictions are unnecessary or overblown, and express frustrations over the many attraction closures COVID has caused,” Minnaert said via email. “It could be that they feel they are taking a stand by participating in activities that are seen by some as higher risk. In water parks, no masks can be worn, maybe that is appealing to some.”

Magic Kingdom crowds on Happily ever after finale night
Credit: ITM Kelly C.

Even though Florida theme parks like Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort launched health and safety guidelines during the peak of the pandemic — for example, Disney World required all Guests to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status — they did not require Guests to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter their Parks. And even though during the height of COVID outbreaks, they recommend that unvaccinated Guests wear masks at all times, they had no way of knowing who was vaccinated and who wasn’t.

Guests wearing face masks at Disneyland Resort
Credit: Disney

Today, the CDC now treats COVID like the flu, no longer recommending that people isolate for five days after testing positive. Instead, the newest guideline as of March 1, 2024, is simply for folks to stay home if they feel sick. According to the CDC’s website, “You can go back to your normal activities when, for at least 24 hours, both are true: Your symptoms are getting better overall, and you have not had a fever (and are not using fever-reducing medication).”

As of late February, adults aged 65 and older are eligible to receive the latest 2024 booster shot.

Disneyland crowd levels September
Credit: Inside the Magic

At Disney World, the park’s website now states that masks are optional, though not allowed on water slides or in the water. “We remain intentional in our commitment to health and safety,” the site simply states, “and will continue to operate with this in mind.”

What do you think about the large number of unvaccinated people that say they plan to visit theme parks? Let us know in the comments!

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