Disneyland And Universal Studios Hollywood Presidents, Ken Potrock & Karin Irwin Discuss California Tourism On The 2021 Outlook Virtual Forum

California theme parks have been in a tough battle with the on going pandemic with the current climate they are in ever since the parks closed down Spring 2020 and have been dealing with the complications of the local and state governments with the health and safety measures. Unlike other states across the United States as California does a different methodology system for a tier system or “Blueprint for a Safer Economy”. Purple for “widespread” of being the worse (Tier 4) and Yellow (Tier 1) for “minimal” to allow business operations to be open up modifications for some flexibility.

Ever since then park presidential leaders have been fighting hard in speaking their voice since, last year that are willing to prove that are ready to open safely and responsible. Lately for California parks for the bigger and smaller ones is quite difficult, as smaller parks are allow to reopen up in the Orange “moderate” (Tier 3) level while larger parks can allow to reopen up in the Yellow (Tier 4) “minimal” level.

The downside of keeping larger parks in the “Tier 4” would mean more jobs lost and could keep them “closed indefinitely” as state politicians have been wanted to speed up the process for larger parks to get them back reopen up. The larger parks ever since are allowed to operate under 25% capacity and many park presidents were not to pleased when they learned about the new guidelines issued under Newsom administration at the end of last year.

Larger parks like Six Flags Magic Mountain, Disneyland Resort, Knott’s Berry Farm. Universal Studios Hollywood and Legoland California have been closed for a nearly a year now. The good news that was shared today, that Six Flags just declared in aiming for to reopen up for the Spring 2021 season as this is a “very good sign” to help push the boulder to be a leader of example ahead of them for other larger parks to reopen up. California would ideally be the last state to reopen up their parks unlike New York state was just allow under Governor Andrew Cumo for amusement parks and summer camps with 33% capacity by April 9th, 2021.

An official opening time frame isn’t declared of when Six Flags can reopen up as they are working with local and state officials for their park and waterpark.

However, transitioning to now as an online conference took place as two park presidents of Disneyland Resort and Universal Hollywood for Ken Potrock and Karen Irwin for the Visit California 2021 Outlook forum and were asked questions about California’s tourism, competition and talking about guest relationships.

We’ll first start with Disneyland Resort President, Ken Potrock as he has been the park’s president since May 2020 when The Walt Disney Company had an executive reshuffle in the company and which lead, Josh D’Amaro in being promoted to Disney Parks & Resorts, Products and Experiences Chairman when he was Walt Disney World’s president. Now taken by Jeff Vahle is the current president of Walt Disney World Resort as he will be helping overseeing the resort’s upcoming 50th anniversary and is part of the board of directors for the non-profit organization for Give Kids The World in Orlando, Florida.

Ken Potrcok, President of Disneyland Resort. Source: (© Disney)

So here’s what President Potrock instated on Friday for the online conference for California’s tourism sector:

“Our industry is best equipped to handle [Covid-19] protocols and execute them with excellence in order to safely reopen. Our industry’s parks have really provided benchmarks for others (restaurants, hospitality, etc.). Consumers also emulate these practices after the return home from the parks. Our industry is a leader in this regard.”

He did instate a good sign for an update about Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway coming to Disneyland for sometime in 2023 (that was shared on the company recent earnings call meeting) and said: “We have continued construction on Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railroad because that was well underway and it makes no sense to stop that because it drives up costs.” And he also commented about Downtown Disney District’s situation: “We realized we needed more capacity, but with social distancing you can’t just stick more people into the same footprint, so we opened up Buena Vista Street, which is part of our California Adventure park.”

One of the show scenes for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort that guests live through the Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts: (Source: ©Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Disney California Adventure is subject to be hosting a food and beverage experience some point next month and likely will be a ticketed event since, for the temporary time being was free into Bunea Vista Street from Downtown Disney District. Recently as California’s local unions who represent numerous cast members sent out a notification to recall them back to work for near a 1,000+ since more cast members were let go back in November 2020. Disney California Adventure will have no attractions operating but will allow to reopen up Cars Land, Pixar Pier, Pacific Wharf, and Grizzly Peak. No mention about Hollywood Land either and the Avengers Campus won’t be part of it and aiming for some point later this year.

President Potrock did also confirm that “the park is standing by ready to open Avengers Campus when the parks reopen”. He also shared about the health and safety of the economy in instating that “We believe it is not health at the sake of the economy or the economy at the sake of health. There is a compromise solution that brings people back to work.”

The Avengers Campus is expected to be opening up some point this year coming to Disney California Adventure of recruiting a new wave and next generation of heroes. (Source: © Disney/© Marvel)

“The yo-yo fashion is the worst scenario. Bring people back, then send them away, then bring them back away. That’s not good at all from a business sense.” And President Potrock ended with a final note for the COVID-19 tools they have been utilizing to keep their guests and cast members safe from the following:

“We created a PSA using the Incredibles and set up one of the first mass vaccination sites right here in Anaheim. That’s the leadership part of this. As we take positions of leadership, people will want to come back.”

Disney utilized The Incredibles to help remind guests when the Disney Parks reopened up last year in the summer about the health and safety COVID-19 guidelines. (Source: © Disney)

Now let’s bring in Universal Studios Hollywood President, Karen Irwin as she has been the President and COO for Universal’s Los Angeles operations since 2016. She oversees the park and Universal’s CityWalk shopping and entertainment center. She was part of Universal Orlando Resort’s sector for a while since the park’s opening team in 1990 and has 31 years of experience with the company.

President & COO of Universal Studios Hollywood Karen Irwin speaks onstage at the grand opening celebration of ‘Jurassic World -The Ride’ at Universal Studios Hollywood on July 22, 2019 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for Universal Studios Hollywood )

President Irwin first opened up her comments about what’s going on now with the COVID-19 health and safety protocols and said “We will need 15,000 pieces of signage for social distancing and other protocols at Universal Studios Hollywood.”

The online forum asked with a follow up question, “What did you learn from open parks elsewhere?”

Irwin’s response: “We started with 6-ft distancing but realized people come in groups and stand together, so we had to expand our distances [to maintain space between groups.]” She went about the pandemic going on with Florida and said, “The incidence of Covid infection in our employee group in Florida is much lower than the state rate. So it shows we are doing things the right way.”

Universal Studios Hollywood CityWalk as Los Angeles’s top shopping and entertainment complex. (Source: © Universal Studios)

She still doesn’t fully agree with the Tier 4 guidelines and gave her take on it, “We’ve put together a progressive limited return to business plan that involves limited opening of our attractions. But there is no foreseeable future to meeting the [theme park reopening] guidelines set under Tier 4.” “We’re not going to be profitable for a while. We want to generate some revenue so we can return people to work. That’s the goal here.

On the attraction side and gave the latest updates for Universal attractions and about the Secret Life of Pets: Off The Leash that was originally subject to open up before the parks closed down when the pandemic was hitting the United States and President Irwin said, “We were just about to launch a new attraction when we closed – Secret Life of Pets. Amazing attraction. We have other capital projects that are well underway. We look at pipeline of attraction development over the next 5-10 years.”

Inside of the Secret Life of Pets: Off The Leash attraction that has been sitting there unopened at Universal Studios Hollywood back in March 2020. Source: (©Slashfilm)

When the parks reopen up as Irwin is being hopeful for Universal Studios Hollywood and “expects to see attendance return first from local in California, then nearby states” as her closing comment.

Universal Studios Hollywood still remains closed but, some other recent good sign of news that CityWalk was allow to resume outdoor dining after the relaxing stay-at-home orders was lifted. Same measures applied for temperature screening, sanitization, social distancing etc.

Overview of the Jurassic World area at Universal Studios Hollywood. (Source: © Universal Studios)

Presidential leadership from both companies are sounding hopeful and optimistic as they have long awaited for updates in how to proceed for the reopen of their parks for nearly a year now. So far in recent terms that another bill from the Anaheim City Council is hoping to help speed up the process for Disneyland Resort and Knott’s Berry Farm since it passed on a 6-1 voting decision from this week. Meaning this bill would would to altercate to allow larger parks to open up in the Orange “moderate” tier instead of the Yellow “minimal tier”.

Which you can read the full story here for details.

In the meantime all we can do is wait and be open for the roll out of the vaccination process to allow California tourism and travel get flowing again with the park’s workers back into full force.

For everything Disney, Universal Parks & Resorts and all other themed entertainment news, keep checking back here at SkywalkingAdventure.com.

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Source: InPark Magazine


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