Theme parks, collateral victims of the health crisis?

Published by Laurent P., Julie M. · Photos by My B. · Published on 10 February 2021 at 14h21
Theme parks, forgotten victims of the Covid crisis… After closing again in October because of a new lockdown, on November 24, 2020 Emmanuel Macron said during his televised address that theme parks were not to reopen in December as planned. The reopening depends on governmental decisions, according to the evolution of the epidemic.

Are theme parks part of the forgotten victims from when lockdown was lifted? During the presidential address of Tuesday November 24, 2020, Emmanuel Macron announced that theme parks will not reopen for the Holidays, unlike what was first considered, postponing the possibility to welcome visitors indefinitely.

When will theme parks be allowed to reopen? At this stage, the French President has given no date, but it will occur as soon as public places will reopen, in agreement with the government. Anyway, it did not prevent theme parks to announced likely reopening dates… This is the case of Disneyland Paris that – after announcing they will not reopen in February 2021 – has postponed the due date to April 2, on the condition they are allowed to by the health authorities. Same thing for seasonal parks such as Parc Astérix and Mer de Sable as they announced they will reopen from April 3.

Theme parks capitalize during closure…

In the meantime, parks make the most of the closure to conduct renovation works and other rehabilitation works. This is the case at Disneyland Paris for instance as they spoke about several works, namely reviewing machines for the Indiana Jones rollercoaster, a nice and new stroke of paint for the Snow White ride, and even renovations for the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast ride.

Note Sleeping Beauty’s Castle has also been given a makeover with many scaffoldings set all around and soon covered in a tarp depicting the castle, to enable visitors to take pictures. As for the Walt Disney Studios park, works on the Cars Route 66 Road Trip ride and the upcoming Avengers Campus area continue.

Moving on to Mer de Sable, the team is getting ready to reopen. At the heart of ongoing works, a brand-new ride, Silver Mountain, originally scheduled for 2020 but that – because of coronavirus – has been delayed. A new rollercoaster the park expects to capitalize on to attract families once they reopen.

Parks now ready for any situation

This past June, the call was very different… For instance, set in a green area, Puy du Fou was preparing their reopening to exit lockdown. So was the Parc Spirou in Provence that announced to reopen on June 20, 2020. Yet, other parks such as Disneyland Paris shared their reopening much later (both parks reopened on July 15).

Even though Parc Asterix was communicating a lot on how they were preparing to reopen before the summer by instating health guidelines including social distancing in queues, or hand sanitizer, other parks in the area have been more discreet on how they reorganized their procedures.

Since then, everybody caught up. Therefore, Disneyland Paris has already announced to strengthen health measures already implementing this past July by setting up many Plexiglas covers within the very rides, as explained by our peers from OutsidEars. The idea? Increasing the visitor-gauge within rides, as it has been dramatically decreased for the first reopening, and decrease queue time by improving flow.

Amusement parks – a sector that continues to be in crisis

Despite all these measures and works, the sector continues to be in crisis and fears new fallouts for 2021: “we’ve lost – because of these administrative closures – half of our visitors and it represents millions of euros of turnoverMer de Sable director Frédéric Carlier explains France 2. He goes on: “The State has made efforts, but all aids granted will never offset what we lost when we closed. 2020 has been a special year, but we have to exploit in 2021”.

Same call for Parc Astérix… Closed since this past October 28, the park has had to give up on its most profitable weekend, with the Halloween season. A major loss of income that increased after they have had to cancel the reopening for the Holidays, another big season for the park. According to our peers from Paris Match, Parc Asterix used to include “800 employees, including 300 permanent contracts” at the end of last year. Today, there are only 200 of them. A company “slowly” working, as the park director general, Nicolas Kremer, explains. A crisis taking the resort in the red for the first time, slowing investments. “Our rides are not like cars at the garage, they need to work all the time” he tells our peers.

But the sector tries to remain optimistic. Parc Asterix therefore plans to welcome visitors “in the best health conditions possible”, Kremer continues, hoping restaurants will follow. Another loss of income for the resort that enjoys several food areas which closure also weighs on the turnover. As for hiring, Parc Asterix hopes to be able to hire 1,000 seasonal workers for the 2021 season.

Disneyland Paris is as optimistic and hopes to make short-time working employees return as soon as possible, but recovery might take longer than expected. Still according to Paris Match, things may only return to normal in 2022. As for the other French theme parks, such as Puy du Fou or Futuroscope, they are said to reopen from early April already.

As for carnies – already weaken by the cancelation of Foire du Trône expected to start from March 24, 2020 and Fête des Loges to run from June 26 to August 16, 2020 in the Saint-Germain forest – they ardently hope their fairs will be able to open this year.

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