As businesses around the United States start to reopen, everyone is looking at them under a microscope. Rightfully so considering we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Theme parks, in particular, are being watched closely simply because of their size and how many people congregate there on a daily basis. SeaWorld Orlando reopened today with new social distancing, face mask and cleaning policies put in place. However, it didn’t seem like everyone was on the same page.
According to the SeaWorld website, guests are required to make a reservation prior to entering to help keep the park from being too crowded. In addition, they now require guests to wear face coverings beyond the security checkpoint, aside from eating and drinking. Plus, there have been social distancing signs and markers set up throughout the park to try and space guests apart.
Yet these new “rules” seemed to be more of a suggestion on opening day of SeaWorld Orlando. According to multiple reports, very few guests were social distancing. While there were markers on the ground in some places to spread guests out, they didn’t go far enough to control the crowds.
Notice in the above photo (which leads to the main entrance turnstiles), there are no markings on the ground to be found at all. Guests just clumped together because SeaWorld Orlando didn’t take the time to put any kind of markers out spacing. As we have mentioned before, theme park guests don’t naturally spread themselves out six-feet apart with no clear visual direction on how to do that.
“It was a shit show,” says Theme Park University reader Chris Moschella. “Guests were clumped together all over the parks. Guests and even employees weren’t wearing masks or had them pulled down once they entered the park. I didn’t feel safe and I am not heading back there anytime soon. I support SeaWorld on a lot of topics – but there’s simply no denying that today, they put me at more risk of contracting this virus than anything I’ve done since this whole situation began.”
That sentiment was echoed by dozens of people who were at SeaWorld Orlando today. We talked to several guests who all said the same thing. Despite posted signs, no one was enforcing social distancing or wearing masks within the park.
Whether it’s lack of training, lack of leadership or simply not caring, this poses a problem for SeaWorld Orlando. Regardless of where you sit on the mask vs no masks debate or even if COVID-19 is something you should concern yourself with, many many people do. Theme parks are looked at as a safe haven for families to escape reality.
This is because they truly are and it’s not an accident. Theme parks put a lot of time, money and training to make them safe for guests from all over the world. That is why they are so popular. For example, if you don’t like the fact that a roller coaster has a 40-inch height requirement, those parameters were put there by that theme park to keep you and your child safe. If you let someone ride who is 38-inches, why bother with the policy? It becomes meaningless if you decide that certain safety policies are important and others bear no weight.
If you take a look, you’ll see tweets like the one from above all over the internet today. Don’t take my word for it. Parks like Legoland and Fun Spot aren’t requiring masks. Thus, it’s hard to complain about those locations if you believe that masks are necessary to reopen the economy. SeaWorld Orlando chose to implement a rule for masks as a company that their employees aren’t being asked to enforce.
The ripple effect of this could be catastrophic. There are families all across the United States (and the world) ready to travel again and looking for an escape. Theme parks are the number one place many often look to. If pictures of guests not social distancing or wearing masks are spread around, it could not only hurt SeaWorld Orlando, but all other theme parks as well.
Plus, imagine a family arrives in Orlando and visits SeaWorld on their first day. Granted, they saw the signs requiring masks, but they weren’t enforced. Thus, they decided to ditch wearing them for most of their day at SeaWorld. Imagine their shock when they visit Universal Orlando the following day. If your mask is even pulled below your nose (I’ve seen this on several occasions), a Universal Team Member is quick to tell guests to pull it back up and wear it properly.
Let’s hope this was just an opening day occurrence and SeaWorld Orlando learns from these mistakes. With any safety policy, if you’re going to announce it to your guests and employees, you need to stick to it regardless of who agrees with it for the sake of everyone involved and in this case, the entire theme park industry. Your thoughts?
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