WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - While families are excited to return to "normal" activities this summer, hiring challenges may make it more difficult to visit some theme parks.
Kings Dominion is closed on select weekdays and hours are shorter compared to previous years. Busch Gardens is open daily and operating at similar hours compared to the 2019 season.
Dennis Speigel, Owner & Founder of International Theme Park Services, said some of this is driven by COVID-19 and some of it is parent-driven since high school and college students typically work at the parks.
"Mom just wasn’t comfortable early on having the children work in facilities that have large employee base and gathering of people," said Speigel.
Many theme parks rely on international workers as well, but fewer foreign students will be in the United State this summer due to COVID-19. Speigel said the foreign exchange program that has been used in the amusement park industry hasn’t been in play for the past two years.
Kevin Lembke, Busch Gardens & Water Country USA Park President, said they are behind on hiring as a result.
"We have to backfill those roles domestically which is a little more challenging so that is playing a factor," said Lembke.
To fix the issue, amusement parks are paying more! Busch Gardens, for example, is increasing pay and starting at $13 an hour – even for people coming in with no experience. Some wages are starting as high as $14 or $15 for food and beverage and lifeguard roles. The theme park is also doing $250 signing bonuses – depending on the position. Another perk… free tickets to the park and tuition assistance.
"We’re seeing levels of salary and wages that are unprecedented – that we’ve never seen in our history in our 67-year history," said Speigel.
He said it takes thousands of people to operate a place a theme pack.
Six Flags sent Fox 5 DC this statement:
"Six Flags America opened March 6 for the 2021 season and we have added operating days and hours as the COVID-19 environment has continued to improve. As is the case every year, we continue to seek qualified individuals to fill a variety of positions in our theme and waterpark. We have no plans to reduce park hours at this time."