Disney, Universal, Sea World, Legoland, and others are, like the rest of us, watching Hurricane Dorian with baited breath. While they are monitoring it closely, they have not announced any closings. The Orlando Sentinel has more details.
Labor Day was supposed to be a moneymaker, a long weekend for the Central Florida tourism industry.
Now, the Orlando area’s theme parks and attractions are paying attention Hurricane Dorian to decide how the storm will affect their operations. No closures have been announced yet.
“We are closely monitoring the weather. At this time our park operations and hours are continuing as normal,” said Universal spokeswoman Alyson Lundell in a statement. “We have plans and procedures for serious weather that are time-proven and we will continue to make operating decisions as we learn more.”
Universal is directing guests who have questions or want to cancel/change their travel plans to contact Guest Contact Center team by calling 877-801-9720 or email email@example.com.
At Legoland, the policy is if a hurricane warning is issued for Polk County’s Winter Haven or where a guest is traveling from, the park “allows cancellation or changes to their tickets or vacation packages that were booked directly through the LEGOLAND Florida website within seven days of their visit,” spokeswoman Chloé Boehm said.
The smaller attractions are also prepping.
“Once we get through Saturday, our protocols will kick in,” said David Hummer, marketing director at Fun Spot America. “By Sunday, you want to have everything prepared.”
The roller coasters are structurally built to survive a hurricane, Hummer said. It’s the smaller items, the A-frame signs, the trash cans, the banners that Fun Spot crews need to get put away.
At Gatorland, Mother Nature already made alligators hurricane-proof.
“In the wild, when there’s extreme weather like that, they can stay underwater for lengthy periods of time,” said spokeswoman Kathy Hernandez.
Hernandez said there’s no threat of alligators escaping the premises.
The rest of Gatorland’s critters, like Burmese pythons and possums, go to a safe place – the administrative offices. Snakes get placed in double bags (they can still breathe) and then placed in locked boxes while small mammals go in crates.
Both Fun Spot and Gatorland plan to use their social media and website to announce if the parks close.
It’s not unprecedented for Disney World and Universal Orlando to shut down the parks when a hurricane hits Orlando.
Hurricane Irma, with winds of 85 mph, hit Central Florida in September 2017, forcing Disney to close for only the sixth time in nearly 46 years. It cost the company $100 million as Disney shut down on a Sunday and Monday, which included canceling one night of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween and a Christian music event,
Universal Orlando also was closed for two days and shut down a night of a Christian music festival.
When the Magic Kingdom reopened, crowds were still light since passholders were more focused on cleaning up debris than riding rides.
In 2016, Hurricane Matthew forced Disney and Universal to both close early on a Thursday and then not reopen the next day, while SeaWorld shut down for a full day and two partial ones.
Hurricane Matthew took a $40 million hit on Disney’s operating income, the company later said.
But often during hurricane warnings, many evacuate to hotels in hopes of safety or for electricity and air conditioning, so Universal and Disney’s hotel rooms could be packed.
During Irma, over a three-day period, the region’s occupancy rate topped 73 percent — a 15 percent jump from the same time period in 2016, according to STR, a Tennessee-based research company.
The threat of Hurricane Dorian comes in the days after Disney World held its grand opening for the $1 billion Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which drew large crowds and long lines Thursday.
One thing that won’t be happening is Disney removing the spires from Cinderella Castle, according to Snopes, which called it an urban legend that emerged from Irma.