TAMPA, Fla. - Florida's top industry is set to take another step forward in the reopening process Wednesday. In Orange County, two major theme parks presented their phased reopening plans to county officials -- and they were approved.
Meanwhile, closer to home, Busch Gardens still needs to submit a plan to local leaders, and then get the governor's approval. While there's no word yet on when they might start that process, in Orlando, their sister property, SeaWorld, submitted its reopening proposal Wednesday morning to an Orange County task force, with a target reopening date of June 11. Walt Disney World also proposed a July 11 reopening for Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, followed by EPCOT and Hollywood Studios on July 15.
Busch Gardens told FOX 13 in a statement, “We are following the CDC guidelines and the advice of outside medical consultants to prepare to reopen Busch Gardens Tampa and Adventure Island safely. We have developed a range of precautions and safety measures all of which are designed to provide our employees and guests a safe, healthy, and clean environment. We hope to make official announcements regarding Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island soon, as we continue to work closely with state and local officials.”
Theme parks make-up a sizeable chunk of Florida's economy and are a big earner for the state sales tax. The tourism sector as a whole has taken a major hit since theme parks shuttered in mid-March. With 77,000 workers, Disney World is central Florida’s biggest employer.
Last week, Disney World allowed third-party businesses at its Disney Springs dining and shopping complex to open with new restrictions.
All workers and visitors older than 2 at Disney Springs must wear masks, temperatures are checked at entrances to keep out anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees (38 degrees Celsius) or higher and a limited number of people are admitted to allow social distancing at the high-end outdoor shopping area with restaurants, movie theaters, a bowling alley and a Cirque du Soleil theater.
What you won't see, at least not for a while, will be the popular crowd-inducing parades, nighttime fireworks and "high-touch" experiences like character meet and greets.
"We will also be managing our overall attendance demand through a new theme park reservation system that will require our guests to obtain a reservation for park entry in advance," said Jim MacPhee, senior vice president of operations for Disney.
For those ready to ride again, a mask is worth the thrill.
“Masks ain't nothing major," said Keyonte Hugeuy, who's visiting Florida. "It's just something on your face but it’s still having a fun experience."
Earlier this month, Shanghai Disneyland became the first of Disney’s theme park resorts to reopen, with severe limits on the number of visitors allowed in, mandatory masks and temperature checks.
State revenue was off $878.1 million in April from an earlier estimate as tourism- and hospitality-related industries, along with car sales, were grounded by the coronavirus, according to economists.
The proposed plans by Disney World and SeaWorld Orlando were approved by the Orange County task force Wednesday morning. Now, the city mayor and the state governor must approve it too.
The Associated Press/News Service of Florida contributed to this report.