For someone not directly employed by a theme park industry company, Jason Garcia spends a great deal of time studying the industry’s news and trends. That’s because Garcia is the new amusement park beat writer for the Orlando Sentinel.
By Chad Emerson
Recently, Blooloop’s Chad Emerson interviewed Garcia to get his unique and informative perspective on the amusement industry that he covers.
1. How did you end up covering the amusement industry?
I spent a few years covering state politics. One of the things that always intrigued me about the Florida Legislature was how business influences public policy and, conversely, how public policy decisions — a new law, a court ruling, an administrative change — impact business. So about two years ago I shifted over to our business desk to cover the tourism industry, with a goal of examining the intersection of business and politics. When the job covering Walt Disney World and the other big theme parks opened up a few months ago, it was a no-brainer. They’re the biggest games in town, so it struck me as both a challenge and a learning opportunity. And beyond all that, the theme parks are just inherently interesting and exciting places.
2. What does your coverage of the industry involve?
My primary focus is on Orlando’s main parks: Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando. That involves covering everything from financial results to capital projects to business strategies. I follow some of their ancillary businesses (Disney Vacation Club, Disney Cruise Line) and their corporate parents (Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Universal Parks & Resorts and Busch Entertainment). Because of my background in state politics, I also write about regulatory issues that influence — or are being influenced by — the parks and the broader Florida tourism industry.
3. What has been the biggest surprise you’ve encountered?
There hasn’t necessarily been a single big surprise. But I’m always amazed by the sheer logistics involved in running the parks. Each one is essentially a small city, with thousands of customers and employees coming and going each day. I’m fascinated by the analysis that goes into questions that never even occurred to me when I visited the parks as a tourist: Where are the best places to put drink stands, defibrillators or trash cans? What safety devices should be installed on parade floats? How do you manage crowd flow and prevent bottlenecks? How do you keep guests spending money?
4. What about the biggest challenge?
Trying to really understand the business of the parks. Covering politics, you essentially have to be a mile wide on subject matter but really only an inch deep on any single topic because the issue of the day is always changing. Covering the parks and tourism, the subject matter is obviously narrower. But I have to go far deeper in order to effectively and aggressively cover them. That’s a lot more challenging. It’s also a lot more fun. There isn’t anyone in the world who knows the theme-park business better than the people at Disney, Universal and SeaWorld — and those are the folks I get to interview, observe and write about each day.
5. Let’s say you have a day off. How would you spend a great Central Florida theme park day?
Believe it or not, my favorite spot isn’t one of the parks — it’s the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I could spend an entire day wandering and relaxing around that place. And then dinner at Jiko. I’d be a happy guy.
More from Chad Emerson:
Amusement Parks: Disney Imagineers Talk about the New Disney Vacation Club Resorts
Amusement Parks: How Universal Orlando Resort Turned Mardi Gras into both Revenue Enhancer and Guest favourite
Amusement Parks: Former Disney Exec Greg Emmer Shares Insights with Chad Emerson
Themed Restaurants: Chad Emerson Interviews Steve Schussler
Michael Hudson of Gaylord Hotels Talks Americana, Opry, Themed Entertainment and the Hospitality Business
Amusement Parks: Former Disneyland President Matt Ouimet Reflects
To see all Chad Emerson’s interviews and articles for Blooloop, click here