Universal Executive Discusses COVID Protocols, New Theme Park and More
LAUREN BOWMAN | TravelPulse.Com
Troy Warren #travel-all
Spring break travel is currently in full swing, and for many, this means an annual pilgrimage to Florida’s beaches and the theme park capital of the world. COVID-19 is still very much a part of our lives, so although more people are traveling this year than in 2020, things may still look a little different.
Plenty of fun can still be had at major theme parks like Universal Orlando Resort. With its theme parks reaching capacity for the fifth straight day in a row, it shows that people are ready to enjoy all the resort has to offer.
TravelPulse recently interviewed Fernando Flores, Vice President, Universal Parks & Resorts Vacations & Travel Operations for Universal Parks and Resort, on all the latest news for Universal Orlando.
TravelPulse (TP): What should travelers know about the health and safety protocols in place at Universal Orlando theme parks right now?
Fernando Flores (FF): Since the beginning of our phased reopening last June, we have implemented enhanced health and safety procedures and guidelines focused on what we’re calling the three S’s – “screening, spacing, and sanitization.” This includes screening guests and team members, enforcing social distancing, requiring face coverings, limiting capacity at the theme parks, attractions and hotels, and increasing our already-aggressive cleaning and disinfection procedures. We’re also doing our part to make it visually easier for our guests to navigate our parks throughout their visit with us. We are using floor markers and decals to ensure the appropriate spacing and everyone’s comfort.
We also launched our contactless payment method, Universal Pay, which can be accessed through the Universal Orlando Resort App and allows guests to quickly scan to pay for purchases at most merchandise and quick-service food locations throughout the theme parks and CityWalk directly from the in-app wallet.
TP: And what about at the water park, Volcano Bay?
FF: Our enhanced health and safety procedures are also in place at Universal’s Volcano Bay. Key measures include temperature screenings for guests and team members, limiting capacity at the park and attractions, including rivers and pools, enforcing social distancing, aggressive cleaning and disinfection procedures, and requiring face coverings inside restaurants, retail locations and when entering and exiting the park. But given it is a water theme park, face coverings are not permitted on the slides or in the pools.
TP: Which hotels are open and what capacity are they operating at currently?
FF: We continue to closely manage our occupancy levels and following CDC guidelines at all of our hotels. Currently, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn & Suites are all welcoming guests, each with enhanced standards and protocols throughout its operations.
TP: What protocols are in place at the hotels that travelers should know about?
FF: Guests will see and experience several of our enhanced protocols at our hotels, including temperature checks upon arrival, face-covering requirements in public areas, hand sanitizer stations in public areas and elevator landings, enhanced cleaning of guest rooms, meeting rooms and public areas, among others. Plus, guests will also see several social distancing signs and contactless experiences, including hotel texting services, express checkout and contactless room deliveries.
TP: What can guests look forward to this summer season? Anything new and exciting coming up?
FF: We just announced the opening date of Jurassic World VelociCoaster on June 10 at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and we couldn’t be more excited!
This all-new species of roller coaster will be Florida’s fastest and tallest launch coaster, where thrill-seekers will have the opportunity to soar 155 feet in the air and catapult up to 70 mph alongside a ferocious Velociraptor pack. For the fall, the return of the much anticipated and world’s premier Halloween event, Halloween Horror Nights, celebrates its 30th anniversary with 10 haunted houses. This includes a house in honor of the ‘ghost with the most’ and HHN legend, “Beetlejuice.” The event will take place select nights from September 3 through October 31.
Also, we’re very excited that Universal Studios Hollywood will reopen next week, on Friday, April 16. For now, only California residents will be able to visit. But we can’t wait to resume operations, roll out the red carpet and welcome guests back to the theme park with our new and enhanced procedures.
TP: We know work has resumed on the new theme park, Epic Universe – What’s the latest that you’re able to share with us about the park? When can travelers expect full details about the new park such as possible land themes, attractions, a timeline for projected opening date, etc.?
FF: We are super excited that the work has resumed at Universal Orlando Resort’s Epic Universe theme park! The construction of Universal’s Epic Universe will create an entirely new level of theme park entertainment that will feature a new theme park, an entertainment center, hotels, shops, restaurants, and more. Plus, this project will infuse billions of dollars into the Florida economy and will create more than 14,000 permanent jobs in addition to the thousands of jobs that will be created during its development. So, stay tuned because this will be epic!
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TP: What advice would you give to travel agents and advisors looking to sell Universal Orlando to clients for 2021 travel?
FF: Universal Orlando is a must-do experience in Orlando, and the best way to experience our destination is to stay here with us. We have three amazing parks, and we suggest a minimum of three days to enjoy our destination. Our hotels are all destination unto themselves and staying in one not only puts your clients in the heart of the action, but also comes with exclusive benefits, including Early Park Admission, complimentary transportation and more.
Additionally, guests staying at one of our three Premier hotels also receive the benefit of UNLIMITED Express Passes for their entire party. The Express pass is a front-line pass for most of our attractions, and no reservation is needed to utilize this benefit.
Finally, we highly encourage travel advisors to become a member of the Universal Partner Community, our desktop and mobile-friendly online resource that centralizes news, exclusive content, and the availability to ask questions and connect with other travel professionals. It’s a terrific tool for all our partners. It’s also the home of our UNIVERSALANDU training and other valuable resources, including sales and marketing materials.