post-pandemic theme parks

While theme park executives wait for a time when the coronavirus pandemic potentially recedes enough that they can reopen their gates to the public, one park has put a policy in place that will likely become the new normal for all post-pandemic theme parks in the months to come.

Theme Park Insider points us to the operating hours pages of Six Flags parks nationwide, which are all now emblazoned with the following message:

IMPORTANT: ALL VISITORS (INCLUDING PASS HOLDERS AND MEMBERS) MUST MAKE ADVANCE RESERVATIONS TO VISIT THE PARK. To meet state social distancing guidelines and ensure the health and safety of our guests, all visits to the park must be pre-scheduled using our online reservation system. Check back here for details.

Six Flags parks are still closed due to COVID-19, but when they do reopen, that will mark the end of a time when you could show up on a whim to ride Ninja, Firebird, or Batman: The Ride. Those days are over – at least until there’s a vaccine, or until the worldwide pandemic situation improves to the point where a new policy will supplant this one. Even members and season pass holders won’t be able to simply drop by anymore: advance reservations are required for all guests so the management can better enforce social distancing measures inside the park with a smaller selection of guests.

It’s not difficult to imagine Disney, Universal, and other theme parks adopting these measures as they prepare to reopen. In fact, it would be irresponsible for them to ignore this step unless a clear, well-conceived, science-based plan is implemented in its place. Each theme park company may handle their reopening differently, but the idea of limiting guests and requiring advance reservations seems like a no-brainer in the current era.

But what other steps will theme parks take when it’s safe to let people in again? It seems likely that ride vehicles will be wiped down between rounds, cutting down on the number of people per day that can experience a given attraction. Mobile ordering at restaurants had been rolled out at many theme parks before this began, but that seems like it’ll become the primary method moving forward to cut down on unnecessary lines, needing to sign receipts, or entering pin codes on a pad touched by others. The biggest question for some centers on masks: could they potentially be required for all theme park guests, even after a (hopeful) vaccine is widely available? That may be viewed as overkill by some theme park regulars, but these parks have reputations as family-friendly environments and may not want to open themselves up to possible lawsuits if they lessen the restrictions too quickly.

We’ll let you know when we hear more, but in the meantime, feel free to sound off with your predictions in the comments below.

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