Terrorist attacks heap costs on nation's theme parks

Sunday, December 16, 2001

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Security guards stationed at two rows of tables at the Magic Kingdom entrance stop guests and search their bags before the visitors can pass through the turnstiles and head down Main Street, U.S.A.

The guards, added following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, do more than provide extra security at the Walt Disney World theme park. They're also increasing Disney's costs.

The theme park industry is finding that the attacks will cost them tens of millions of dollars in added security, higher insurance premiums and extra advertising and discounts to lure back visitors who are nervous about traveling. The higher expenses come at a time when the theme parks can least afford them -- many are experiencing attendance dips, job cuts and an uncertain short-term future.

"They're definitely going to have a higher cost of doing business," said Steve Baker, president of Baker Leisure Group, an Orlando-based theme park consulting firm.

Almost every theme park will likely spend thousands of dollars extra on advertising or running promotional discounts in hopes of reversing a drop in business that followed the attacks. Busch Gardens and Sea World theme parks are giving free admission to police officers, firefighters and emergency workers for the rest of the year.

Theme park visitors, who already are paying $50 a head to get into the most expensive parks, will be the ones who most likely absorb the extra costs.

"I think you can pass some of those costs on," said recreation economics consultant Harrison Price.

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