Reopening Considerations from Asia-Pacific: Q&A with Shaun McKeogh, Attractions Academy
Shaun McKeogh ICAE, chair of the IAAPA Asia-Pacific Education Subcommittee, and a group of attractions professionals from around the region came together to share their learnings and best practices for reopening after temporary closure due to COVID-19. The result is a comprehensive list of guidelines to consider when preparing to open again—from member to member. McKeogh, who is founder and president of Attractions Academy, shares his insights from the region and hope for the future.
Asia-Pacific was the first area of the world to experience the impact of the spread of the coronavirus. How would you describe the present reality for attractions in the region?
We are at real defining point in the history of the world and the attractions industry. The coronavirus is impacting every corner of the globe in so many ways, yet it’s important to observe that individual country and local responses to the issues caused by the coronavirus are completely different. We need be sensitive to the fact that at any one point of time each country is experiencing a different phase of the pandemic and the required interventions and ramifications associated with that phase. This may include fear, lock downs, business closures, unemployment, economic collapse, emergence, regression, and even grief.
So too, across the attractions industry and the Asia-Pacific region, our present realities of issues related to the coronavirus and our responses are diverse. We have some attractions beginning to open, some have reopened and closed again, and many are still remaining to be closed due to their country and regional restrictions. It’s a mixed bag right now across Asia Pacific. But for those attractions that have opened again, they are opening with new procedures, new capacity limitations, new health and safety restrictions and responsibilities in attraction management.
The situation can be likened to a kid on his first day back at school, where everything’s familiar, but new again, and they have to really quickly work out how to make sense of it all and make it work! One thing for sure is becoming very evident—in Asia Pacific right now, team members value their jobs more than ever, and the public value more than ever the role attractions have played in being places to make valuable happy memories with friends and family.
After going through this unprecedented experience, what do you think attractions should prioritize in reopening?
Certainly when reviewing and updating policies and operating procedures in light of the coronavirus, we must ensure guest and team member safety, health, and wellbeing remain the No. 1 priority. This process will enlighten the attraction to the range of areas where modifications to operating procedures may be required, as well as highlighting the changes required to existing onboarding, return-to-work, and on-the-job training programs. This is one of the reasons why this group began to compile a list of reopening initiatives, as the coronavirus will have an impact for every area of our business’ operations. Attractions must review all of their current operational policies and procedures in case they need to be adjusted to become new operational policies and procedures.
People are your work and passion—what should be top of mind for attractions industry employers as team members return to work?
No matter where you are in the world, no matter how big or small your attraction, no matter what phase of the coronavirus impact you are going through, it is important for employers to remember that your team members have had your back this whole time.
Team members took pay cuts, reduced working hours, experienced no pay in many situations, face no return to work, job insecurity, and a pretty traumatic tough time with no idea when there will be light at the end of the tunnel. In many cases, you might not know all that has gone on for them and their family during these past few months. So, empathy, care, and appreciation are going to be even more relevant, important, and valued by your team members when they return to work. Realizing this fact will ensure your management team manages effectively and will give your attraction a whole new section on your strategic plan to focus on.
A diverse group of members in Asia Pacific, including yourself, gathered best practices for reopening as the region comes out of a time of temporary closure. How do you hope this will help other members?
The Asia-Pacific region is blessed with many IAAPA members that care about the health of our industry and in supporting each other to improve their operations, especially when it comes to improvements in health and safety. In this time of crisis, the “forced separation” has only made us grow stronger! We have continued to share and give to each other in the hope that, in sharing together all of the reopening considerations across this extremely diverse region, we might help other attractions reduce risks or support an attractions case for reopening.
But more importantly, we want to add to the continued safety and wellbeing of our team members and guests. Each attraction must work hard to implement operational initiatives that mitigate risk and build confidence with the public and our returning and future guests that we “have got this” and are very ready to make magical memories once again.
Much of the rest of the world is still figuring out how to deal with the day-to-day and future complexities of the pandemic. What would be your top advice for those fellow members coping with the impact of COVID-19?
Right now, “lead” stronger than you have ever led. Make “care” your mantra as you continue to engage with your team members, guests, and standards of operational excellence. Use this time now to develop your strategic plan for reopening and improved future operations. And stay connected—do not forget to reach out to fellow IAAPA members and industry peers for solidarity and advice.