Disneyland reopening: How COVID-era theme parks cut crowding


Heading to Six Flags Magic Mountain for some gut-twisting curler coasters? Put together to stroll previous a thermal digicam that robotically takes your temperature.

Wish to get pleasure from a Dole Whip at Disneyland? Have your smartphone able to order it on the park’s app.

Looking for your option to the Studio Tour journey at Common Studios Hollywood? Open a map in your telephone.

Theme parks have for years been counting on know-how to higher handle crowds, velocity up the acquisition of meals and drinks, and remove gridlock round the most well-liked rides. Digital tickets have factored into that. So has the apply of monitoring friends’ areas inside a park through a telephone app.

Now, after a yearlong closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Southern California’s theme parks are reopening with new security protocols — lots of which lean closely on such know-how. That’s serving to the parks decrease the danger of spreading the coronavirus and, on the similar time, accumulate extra details about their guests.

At theme parks, the most important danger of spreading the virus can also be the most important headache: lengthy waits in packed crowds. Know-how equivalent to touchless cost techniques to order meals and apps to schedule instances to journey points of interest or make eating reservations is supposed to scale back each.

“Prior to now a number of months, our tech groups have accelerated our transfer to digital in an enormous method,” Disneyland spokesperson Liz Jaeger mentioned.

Business specialists say the pattern is international, with theme parks in Asia and Europe additionally pushing the elevated use of know-how. China’s Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park reopened final yr accepting solely cashless funds. Legoland in Carlsbad reopened April 1, additionally accepting solely cashless funds.

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“COVID pressured this as a result of individuals have been away from one another and are actually again,” mentioned Dennis Speigel, president of Worldwide Theme Park Companies. “However now we’re going to see an increasing number of of it.”

Customers of Common Studios Hollywood’s smartphone app can decide out of getting their location data tracked.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Instances)

Privateness advocates say the pattern additionally offers theme parks higher alternative to make use of the guests’ data to upsell them on merchandise, meals and drinks, amongst different purchases. In addition they fear that the private and monetary data collected from parkgoers could be leaked or shared in surprising methods.

“Whereas theme parks could also be pushing smartphone purchases as a type of comfort and even as a well being measure, we ought to be very conscious of the truth that that is additionally an enormous alternative for them to make a seize at our information, utilizing it for all the pieces from advertising to enforcement of park guidelines,” mentioned Evan Greer, director of the digital rights group Combat for the Future.

Many theme park apps’ privateness insurance policies acknowledge that the parks might use data collected by the apps for advertising functions. However park officers say the apps give customers the choice to dam entry to some data, equivalent to their location throughout the park.

“We take privateness very significantly to make sure that our friends and their private information are securely protected,” Common Studios Hollywood spokesperson Audrey Eig mentioned.

Theme parks desire touchless buying techniques equivalent to Apple Pay as a result of parkgoers are inclined to spend extra that method than they do once they have to achieve right into a pockets or a handbag to tug out money or a bank card, Speigel mentioned.

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An industry study discovered that at water parks and arcades, spending jumped 30% to 40% when touchless techniques changed conventional strategies of paying.

“It’s really probably the greatest issues within the trade to come back out of the COVID” pandemic, Speigel mentioned.

California theme parks got permission by the state to reopen beginning April 1, due to a lower in new coronavirus circumstances and the rollout of vaccines. However state well being officers have imposed a slew of health protocols, together with limiting attendance, requiring six ft of separation in queues and mandating that guests put on masks besides when consuming.

A higher use of smartphone apps and different know-how may help the parks meet the state well being protocols, particularly the requirement that guests preserve bodily distance from each other, theme park officers say.

At Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, guests strolling from the car parking zone to the entrance gate cross via a small constructing the place thermal cameras take their temperatures with out making them break their stride. The guests then stroll previous a digital scanning system that checks them for hidden weapons, eliminating the necessity to cease for a safety search.

“The very best factor is it’s not holding up the road,” park spokesperson Jerry Certonio mentioned.

At Disneyland and Disney California Journey Park, each restaurant and store affords touchless cost choices to remove the necessity to alternate money and bank cards with a Disney employee. Lots of the eating places additionally enable guests to order meals from the Disneyland app, eliminating the necessity to stand in a queue or a crowd whereas ready for the meals.

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On the Disneyland Resort, guests who wish to enter a store that has already reached capability may give their identify and telephone quantity to a Disney worker who will ship them a textual content message once they can return.

Six Flags Magic Mountain has elevated the usage of touchless cost choices to 6 eateries in the previous few weeks, up from three, with plans so as to add extra sooner or later.

Universal Studios Hollywood visitors use a virtual-line kiosk.

Brent Rode and Holly Lee use a kiosk to get a spot within the digital line for The Secret Lifetime of Pets: Off the Leash journey at Common Studios Hollywood.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Instances)

At Common Studios Hollywood, guests can nonetheless get a paper map on the gate however are inspired to make use of their smartphone digicam to scan a QR code emblazoned on indicators all through the park. The code causes a map of the park to show on the telephone when the customer downloads the park’s app. That ought to reduce down on aimless intermixing with different guests within the park. QR codes are additionally used on the Disneyland Resort to open digital menus at eating places.

Guests to the parks appear to love the modifications.

Common Studios Hollywood reopened Thursday with its first digital line for its latest attraction, The Secret Lifetime of Pets: Off the Leash. Parkgoers can use their smartphone app or a kiosk close to the journey to schedule a time to journey the attraction. When the scheduled time arrives, the customer can present a paper ticket or a QR code on their telephone and bounce on the journey.

“I believe it makes excellent sense,” mentioned Holly Lee, an Orange County resident who visited the park Thursday. “It means you don’t have individuals crowding round in entrance of the journey.”

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