More than a year out from its opening, the travel industry is expressing confidence that Universal Orlando Resort’s new theme park, Epic Universe, will live up to the “epic” part of its name.
Universal this week released new details about its much anticipated third theme park, adding to excitement among travel advisors and their clients that Epic Universe will be what Adam Duckworth, president of Travelmation in Fort Lauderdale, called a “game changer to the theme park game in Central Florida.”
Both Universal and competitor Disney make continual investments and updates to their existing properties, but Epic will be the first domestic theme park from either company to open in decades.
“Not only does everything look next level in scope, design and excitement, I believe Epic Universe will open the doors to that next-generation theme park experience many fans have been waiting for,” Duckworth said.
Epic Universe’s five themed worlds
Universal’s parent company, Comcast, in January promised a unique offering from the park. During an earnings call, CEO Brian Roberts called Epic “completely original. It’s maybe the most exciting project I’ve seen since we bought NBCUniversal [in 2011].”
Universal said Epic Universe would feature five themed worlds. Guests will enter via Celestial Park, which acts as a spine of sorts for the entire park. With acres of greenery, water features and walking paths, Celestial Park will be home to the Starfall Racers roller coaster, the Constellation Carousel, Astronomica water-play area and the Universal Helios Grand Hotel, along with dining and shopping.
Branching off Celestial Park are four other worlds, reached via themed “portals”: Dark Universe, Super Nintendo World, How to Train Your Dragon — Isle of Berk and Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Ministry of Magic.
Universal promised more details in the coming months, but last week’s were enough to whet appetites for advisors and their clients.
“I am very excited to see Universal step up to the plate with Epic Universe,” said Beci Mahnken, owner of Universal Fan Travel, Mouse Fan Travel and MEI-Travel in Issaquah, Wash. “While we haven’t seen specific details yet, the info they have released about the five new lands seem to promise a deep level of engagement with beloved characters and stories that are sure to please theme park guests.”
Mahnken said that a number of her clients are putting off Orlando visits in 2024 to ensure they can visit in 2025 once the park opens. “There is definitely buzz about this new park,” she said.
Kari Dillon, president of Marvelous Mouse Travels in Cornelius, N.C., has clients ready to book as soon as the opening date is revealed. They are also turning to Dillon and her advisors to separate rumor from fact. “Clients are closely following blogs and articles about what is to come and inquiring about the validity of what they are reading,” she said.
Visitors will book longer Orlando visits
Epic Universe is expected to encourage guests to lengthen their stays.
Dillon predicted that many clients would book weeklong stays at Universal Orlando Resort.
Mahnken agreed, saying that a new attraction “drives innovation from the competition in the surrounding area, which results in better experiences over time. Guests tend to expand their length of stay to revisit what they know and love as well as experience the shiny new offerings. A win-win for everyone.”
The Orlando area is also expected to experience a boost from the project, said Carissa Baker, assistant professor of theme park and attraction management at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, pointing to estimates that Epic will result in $11 billion in economic impact and 14,000 jobs.
Universal as well as other businesses in the area, from restaurants to hotels, will benefit, she added.
“Orlando is already called the theme park capital of the world, but this will be another large, important and unique property,” Baker said. “No offense to other destinations, of course, but Orlando will not be beat in this category anytime soon.”
Epic Universe is far from Comcast’s only theme park-related investment of late. Domestically, Universal is working on Universal Kids Resort in Texas and Universal Horror Unleashed in Las Vegas. Comcast executives have said that if those projects go well, more regional experiences could be coming.
Disney, meanwhile, said in the fall that it will double its investment in its parks and experiences division over the next decade with a variety of projects.
Baker said that the parks are attractive investments for both of the media giants.
“Comcast and Disney have both realized the power of their theme parks,” she said. “Theme parks bring continuous revenue with their year-round operation and contribute to brand loyalty by offering fantastic experiences to guests that they cannot get elsewhere.”
Parks have also been a more consistently reliable source of income, especially compared with streaming services.
“The destination theme parks,” she said, “have solidified themselves as something that is different from other offerings.”