Universal Orlando patents new sanitising method & floats possible reopening plan

Apr 24, 2020

Posted by: Amanda Kirk

News, Theme Park, WIzarding World of Harry Potter Orlando

How do you social distance in a queue to ride Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure? What about when waiting for your wand to choose you in Ollivander’s in a Diagon Alley packed with Muggle parents buying Hogwarts supplies for their magical offspring? How about when you want a sundae from Florian Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour on a hot summer day and everyone else has the same idea?

Hagrids+Magical+Creatures+Motorbike+Adventure+Universal+OrlandoThese are questions that Universal Orlando is grappling with in hopes of being able to reopen its theme parks in a world living in fear of a deadly viral pandemic. Whilst we wait for scientific researchers to invent both a vaccine and a cure, we are eager to get back to normal life and yet leery of crowded places, like theme parks, where germs can spread easily from person to person.

Universal Orlando Resort’s CEO John Sprouls represents the theme park industry on the Re-Open Florida Task Force, a business committee created by Florida governor Ron DeSantis to plan for the resurgence of Florida’s economy, which is heavily dependent upon tourism. Sprouls noted that the key to restoring tourism is to make visitors feel safe, “If they don’t feel safe, they won’t attend.”

According to Attractions Magazine, in a working group teleconference today, Sprouls floated the following list of possible ways Universal Orlando could make its customers feel safer:

– Daily temperature screenings for every employee who comes in contact with guests.
– Face masks for team members and possibly guests, which were previously prohibited.
– Enhanced sanitation protocols and nightly “stem to stern” disinfections.
– Reduced contact points and increased sanitation of rides during the day.
– Enhanced use of mobile food ordering and mobile pay for contact-free purchases.
– Expanded use of Virtual Lines, similar to Volcano Bay.
– Social distancing in queues by only using every other line, marking separation lines on the ground, and keeping guests outdoors.
– Staggered seating on rides and in theaters.
– Overall caps on attendance, slowly increasing over time.

Diagon Alley crowdsComments from the public have run the gamut from those who say they would feel quite safe returning to the parks without all of these measures in place, or with a modified version, such as minor social distancing and more sanitising, to those who say that they feel the risk would be unacceptable until a vaccine and/or cure is found regardless of what protocols are in place for customer safety.  Some commenters have expressed concern about wearing face masks in Florida’s notoriously hot and humid climate, and that a limited theme park experience might not be worth the price of admission. Others have suggested that virtual queues would be an improvement, allowing customers to enjoy other attractions during the time they would normally have spent on line. Advocates for the disabled have noted that face masks would impede the ability of deaf customers to read lips. It should be noted that all of the safety measures under consideration are meant to be temporary, and that they can be tweaked over time based on their effects.

Sprouls said that social distancing is a critical part of any re-opening strategy:

“We would be capping attendance to make sure we could create a maximum amount of social distancing. And then, as we gained confidence in those practices and procedures that we’re employing, and as we learned from what we’re doing, we would gradually see that attendance rise.”


Perhaps dragons could be involved in the sanitation procedures?

Another method of increasing customer safety may include improved sanitation methods for 3D glasses, AR goggles, and other items handled frequently by the public, such as handles, lapbars, and interactive equipment such as toy guns. According to Orlando Parkstop, Universal has patented some possible new disinfecting procedures. Currently, items like 3D goggles are collected after use, cleaned in another location, and returned to the attraction later. A new compartment in the front of the rider’s seat could serve as a depository for the glasses, which would be left in the compartment by the departing patron to be sanitised by UV light or another antimicrobial agent in time to be ready for use by the next rider. These patents were filed before the pandemic, but they seem to have been usefully prescient.

How do you feel about Universal Orlando’s proposed safety measures? If the parks re-open, will you be riding the Hogwarts Express and visiting Diagon Alley anytime soon or will you hold off until some point in the future that seems safer? If so, what would restore your confidence in visiting theme parks in a post-pandemic world? Let us know in the comments.

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.