How long will it take for Orlando theme parks to return to pre-pandemic strength?

Disney is counting on 50th anniversary, Universal has new rollercoaster coming in

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County tourism officials announced January 2021 was one of the hardest-hit months in tourism, but officials maintain a cautious outlook.

Comptroller Phil Diamond released data that indicates $7.67 million was collected in Tourist development tax collections, which’s down 70% from 26 million in January of 202,0 according to a March report.

Senior Director of Market Research at Visit Orlando Daryl Cronk said it was an anticipated dip.

“January was a little bit of a step back from December, as far as TDT collections, given the seasonal patterns that [weren’t] unexpected,” Cronk said.

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As vaccinations become more widespread and infections drop, experts predict the tourism-reliant parks will bounce back. Retired UCF Professor and former Disney employee Dr. Duncan Dickson said it won’t happen overnight.

“Disney is still counting on a 50th-anniversary celebration in the fall, hopefully, that will come back, Universal has a new rollercoaster coming in, so all the theme parks are planning on these things,” Dickson said.

As the public awaits recovery, Cronk said there are some indicators they are keeping an eye on.

“Booking windows have gotten very short, people wait pretty close to travel to book their trip so that makes it a little hard to predict right now,” Cronk said.

Orange County hopes to return to pre-pandemic strength. Back in September, Disney announced they would not bring back 28,000 employees and Universal revealed they were axing more than 1,000 salaried employees back in November.

“All of that is going to happen, but it’s going to come slowly, it’s going to take us 18 months to two years,” Professor Dickson said.

Travel experts said they don’t expect a return to pre-pandemic levels before 2023.