The topic “How come Disney is getting so much heat for reopening, but Universal or other theme parks not?” is frequently asked on social media at the moment. According to this author, there are a number of causes for the disparity. For more information, continue reading.
Disney World opens Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom to visitors on Saturday, July 11. Epcot and Hollywood Studios will open this week on Wednesday, July 15.
Since it has been operating for well over a month, Universal Orlando has generally avoided criticism.
Some fans are left to wonder, “Why the double standard?” Why does Disney make headlines often, yet the media is virtually mute about Universal’s reopening (or continued operation)?
NPR, Reuters, the Associated Press, and countless other media outlets reported on Disney’s reopening amid an increase in cases of the coronavirus in Florida. Universal was only referenced in the CNN piece about the reopening to quote Florida Governor Ron Desantis who said that Universal Orlando is “doing a great job.”
The reasons for the divergence, in my (Rebecca’s) opinion, are as follows. Simply put, when people think of theme parks in Central Florida, they think of Disney World.
Disney Parks Are Most Visited in Us
Disney Parks are the most popular theme parks in the country, according to USA Today and other publications. Disney holds the top five positions.
- Magic Kingdom
- Animal Kingdom
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Islands of Adventure is ranked at number 8, while Universal Orlando Resort is ranked at number 6. Disney’s California Adventure, meanwhile, is the seventh-most popular theme park in North America.
Universal has the surprising benefit of luring fewer visitors in a pandemic when one’s risk is correlated to how many individuals they contact at close quarters.
The Global Attractions Attendance Report estimates that Magic Kingdom welcomed 20,859,000 visitors in 2018. (the most recent year for which data is available). With 10,708,000 visitors, Universal Orlando had roughly half that number of travelers.
Around 58,311,000 people visited Disney World as a whole in 2018. Together, Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure welcomed 20,496,000 visitors, which is significantly fewer than the number of people that went to Disney World.
The Timing of The Reopening
Disney World’s reopening coincides, if by coincidence, with Florida making national headlines as the COVID-19 hotspot of the country.
The state of Florida set a US record for the newest cases of the coronavirus in a single day on the second day that Disney World was open to visitors. In order to detect as many cases as possible and isolate them, the state has stated that they are also providing significantly more testing, much of it to asymptomatic individuals.
The green star in the image above, which is a screenshot from this helpful page from Johns Hopkins University, roughly marks the day that the Universal Orlando resort reopened (June 5). However, there is no information that explicitly links that opening to any other incidents. For instance, after the outbreak, bars were reopened before being shut down once more.
Compared to Disney’s reopening on the graph’s far right, it is simple to understand why their choice received less attention.
I admit that there haven’t been many complaints regarding Universal’s decision to stay open despite the increasing number of cases. However, it is obvious that when they started letting visitors back more than a month ago, things undoubtedly looked a lot less gloomy.
Disney Employees Are Unionized
The same query, “Why aren’t Universal employees protesting?” kept popping up in news concerning union talks for the resume of work and union-organized protests against the reopening.
This particular anomaly is caused in part by the lack of unionization among the staff at Universal and Sea World.
Approximately 38,000 Disney employees are represented by one union, Local 632 Teamsters. At Disney World, there are a total of 7 unions that represent diverse cast members.
You might have read about the Actor’s Equity union’s protests on behalf of Disney actors. Since social distancing and masks are not feasible for performers in shows, the Actor’s Union is requesting that Disney test actors for COVID-19 on a regular basis.
We saw that down the road at Universal the Bourne Stuntacular show was opened to visitors around the time the news of the Actor’s Equity union demands surfaced. Why didn’t those actors demand testing before starting their new jobs?
Unions hold the key to the solution. Employees at Disney are unionized and have advocates looking out for their best interests as a group.
Employees at Universal and Sea World are not represented by a union. The advantages and disadvantages of union membership are outside the purview of this essay, but at Universal Orlando, performers have the option of reporting for duty or risk being dismissed. They lack a union’s support to safeguard their employees.
Due to the lack of unions with whom to bargain terms, Universal and Sea World may have been able to open earlier as a result of the distinction between union and non-union personnel.
To sum up, I believe that Universal Orlando and Sea World are omitted from the discussion in part because they are considered peripheral to the world of theme parks.
Daily visitor numbers at Disney World are far higher, as are personnel numbers. The workers at Disney World are members of unions that represent them in negotiations and plan demonstrations similar to those we saw at Disneyland on the West Coast.
The timing of Disney World’s reopening is also unfavorable. The national conversation about the Coronavirus is centered on Florida. It’s not a good look to open Disney World while Florida is experiencing a record number of cases.
Yes, Universal has been operating for more than a month, but they did so when Florida’s coronavirus curve was at its lowest point.