Q&A: Expert Guidance on Addressing COVID-19 Issues at Attractions
Tony Miceli recently joined PGAV Destinations as director of media production. His career experience with Total Media Creative, Electrosonic, Technomedia Solutions, and Universal Creative serves him well as PGAV investigates how attractions of all kinds may function in a COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 world. Funworld asks him a few questions on this topic.
Funworld: Most attraction reopening preparations amid the COVID-19 outbreak have focused on physical considerations, like physical distancing between guests, wellness checks, etc. But what are some of the psychological and emotional impacts on guests these attractions should consider?
Tony Miceli: Guests showing up at the gates are feeling excitement to return to their favorite “happy places,” and yet most will understandably be more timid, anxious, and stressed about venturing back out into a world where risks from lines and crowds are a concern. The more we can help guests know that their safety and comfort are of the highest priority, while inventing creative new ways to keep the fun and fantasy vibrant during their visit, should help alleviate some of the psychological and emotional impacts.
What could be some COVID-19 impacts on operations, staff, and guests that attractions might not take into consideration?
We need to be tenaciously mindful of the impact the pandemic has had on the attractions industry workforce. Staffs are dealing with the same fears and anxiety that many of the guests may have, with the added pressure of their own safety and ability to maintain their livelihood.
As we transition out of COVID-19 restrictions, what are ways attractions can inform guests it’s OK to visit?
Guests will need reassurance through clear, consistent, and comprehensive communication. With creative media production, we can demonstrate the plans and efforts the parks are making ensure they’re the absolute cleanest and safest they can be. There’s a big positive for guests regarding reduced capacity, decreasing wait times, and giving them the unique opportunity to experience more in less time. We know how much guests rely on the recommendations of friends and family, and on insights gleaned from authentic online reviews, so highlight the positive and encouraging ones.
If an attractions company has locations across multiple continents/countries, how should it adjust its messages to guests in locations handling the virus differently?
One message does not fit all. The virus hasn’t necessarily changed this. Each location may be facing very different regulations from the city, provincial, and federal governments and health organizations, and their preexisting cultural norms will dictate how those populations react to those regulations. The scripting and production of these messages needs to be driven at the local level.
What role(s) can manufacturers and suppliers in our industry play in improving the environment at attractions, both during and after COVID-19?
Many manufacturers and suppliers have already shifted some of their focus to developing technologies, tools, and equipment that can be used in this environment. Some industry production lines were retooled to make face masks, face shields, and ventilators during the crisis. Custom digital training materials that can be made to help staff adhere to rapidly evolving guidelines can reduce the frequency of formal, in-person training.
During this challenging and stressful time, do you believe attractions can play a significant role in increasing the happiness factor among people?
Yes, of course I do, just as they always have. These destinations are designed to be oases—escapes during trying times. They are neutral territory, where everyone is equal in their pursuit of happiness, excitement, and fun. People have an inherent urge to travel and explore the world. That will not change going forward. We all understand that we are together in a situation the likes of which we’ve never faced.