Ethan Qualle | Staff Writer
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented changes to hospitality and tourism attractions around the country. The state of Florida is home to world-renowned theme parks, hundreds of miles of public beaches, the Kennedy Space Center, and the Brevard Zoo, all of which have had to adapt due to COVID-19.
The Walt Disney Company has cut 28,000 jobs, or a quarter of their domestic work force, as a result of the pandemic. The announcement came from chairman of Disney’s parks department, Josh D’Amaro. Many of these “cast members,” as Disney refers to employees, were employed part-time.
Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando closed its theme parks on March 16, following suit of other Disney parks around the world, such as Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland in California. Disney World in Florida reopened its gates in a phased reopening to annual passholders and guests with pre-existing reservations in late July.
Disneyland, including resorts and parks, in California remains closed. The state’s tourism industry is set to lose $72 billion by the end of the year. Aerospace engineering junior and California native Nico Colomer, observed that tourism was “significantly reduced this summer” in southern California. Colomer, who works as a lifeguard in Huntington Beach, Calif. on summer breaks, said that the beaches were closed for the majority of the summer season, including for major holidays such as the Fourth of July.
Universal Studios shut down on March 16 of this year and reopened on June 5, with new safety guidelines. Universal Studios’ website displays a banner stating: “Exposure to COVID-19 is an inherent risk in any public location where people are present; we cannot guarantee you will not be exposed during your visit.”
Brevard County Parks and Recreation has also seen changes in the face of COVID-19. According to Shay Saldana of the Brevard County Parks and Recreation Department, facilities were closed briefly at the start of the pandemic, but opened shortly after, with mask requirements and social distancing measures in place.
The Brevard Zoo closed its doors to the public on March 16, before opening with new operating guidelines in May. Andrea Hill, a representative of the Brevard Zoo, stated that the zoo provides timed entry tickets, which limits the number of people that can enter the zoo at any given time. She also stated that they require facial coverings, and have social distancing markers on the ground.
The Kennedy Space Center, which opened in May, has implemented similar guidelines. Visitors are limited, and center hours have been reduced to increase time for cleaning.