Small business owners in California told CNBC that the state’s theme parks reopening soon could help boost their economic recovery despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael Afram, the owner of Karmel Shuttle Service, told the financial news network that his business has just started to recover after the pandemic caused heavy losses. About half of the company’s business is centered around the resort area in Anaheim, the location of two Disney theme parks and the Downtown Disney shopping center, as well as servicing rides between Los Angeles and San Diego to take passengers to and from Disneyland, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld San Diego.
"But to give you an idea of where we stand, the revenue we booked for the entire month of March 2021 equates to one day of March 2020 prior to shutdown," he said. "So I guess you can consider us one-thirtieth of where we need to get back to."
Afram said that even though his company has seen sizable booking numbers for April and May, he doubts that his business will completely return to its pre-pandemic levels until after the first quarter of 2022.
"We weathered the storm and are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "Unfortunately, [we] witnessed and suffered so much destruction and desperation along the path to get to this point."
Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, whose district includes northern Orange County, said that "The impact of both Disneyland and Universal Studios to our local economy is significant for all of our small businesses and surrounding industries."
She added, "There will undoubtedly be a surge in economic growth throughout Orange County as they reopen."
Quirk-Silva also said that parks will uphold new health and safety standards, noting that "during my visits to Downtown Disney ... I would hear many of our constituents tell me that they felt safer at the theme parks than their own grocery store. With handwashing stations, temperature screening, and helpful employees enforcing safe distancing our residents have supported our efforts in reopening our theme parks."
Lawren Markle, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation’s senior director of communications, told CNBC that the Los Angeles tourism and hospitality industry affects more than 600,000 jobs, both directly and indirectly, noting that "of course, LA County’s 10 million residents support this sector and its jobs, as we frequent our local theme parks and hospitality businesses. And LA also welcomes approximately 50 million visitors annually, and their spending is a huge driver of economic activity as well."
She added that "We are still far below pre-pandemic tourism levels, so we see theme park reopenings as a very public signal that things are getting back to normal in LA and traveling to Los Angeles is starting to look practical and enjoyable again."
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