Coping With COVID-19
Having closely followed news reports about COVID-19, John Child, managing director of Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool, United Kingdom, shuttered the water park ahead of the country’s lockdown in March.
“Closing was the right thing to do,” Child says.
The well-established indoor water park occupies a prime spot on Blackpool’s promenade. Sandcastle Waterpark plays an important role in the seaside resort’s tourism economy and community. Inside, visitors can enjoy 18 slides and attractions in a tropical 84 degrees Fahrenheit climate.
Child and his team prepared a detailed plan for reopening while waiting for the lockdown to end.
“There was a little bit of apprehension until we had a good walk around. Then I thought, ‘This is so achievable,’” he says.
Normally, the building accommodates 1,500 people at any one time. Child expects to reopen with a reduced number of guests, starting as low as 400 people before increasing capacity.
“We’d be looking at 500-750 people—but only if we are happy that it’s working for us. I can’t see that we could go past half-capacity for quite a while. It’s a matter of building confidence with our guests and team members,” Child tells Funworld.
Staff training is a crucial part of that process. Sandcastle Waterpark also plans to manage guest expectations by creating videos to show new and returning guests what their visit will look like in advance. The new messaging will be reinforced by safety signage and through announcements on the PA system on site. Social distancing measures will come into play across the attraction. People waiting for slides, for example, will stand a safe number of steps apart.
“We’re looking to change our ‘Sidewinder’ slide from a two-person to a one-person slide,” adds Child.
He is also assessing where best to station lifeguards. Hand sanitizers will also be readily available. Sandcastle Waterpark will create extra space in changing rooms, with employees monitoring visitor numbers and behavior.
“What we don’t want is guest-to-guest conflict,” says Child.
He has also given equal consideration to staff quarters, adding extra dining areas to ensure social distancing.
The COVID-19 pandemic will have a significant impact on how businesses formulate their strategies, he believes. “I don’t think this was on people’s radar before,” he says. “It will be going forward.” Companies may start building up cash reserves to survive another crisis and think twice about paying dividends. But Child remains optimistic that, with the right planning, a successful water park reopening is “definitely doable.”