In a highly anticipated speech the UK Prime Minister has today announced further COVID-19 measures and we explore what these may mean for UK Theme Parks & attractions. The measures announced today are for England but other parts of the UK may introduce or continue similar policies.
Measures in Summary
- Pubs, Bars & Restaurant to close at 10pm, hospitality venues to be table service only and bookings can’t be taken for groups larger than six.
- Work from home if you can.
- People in England can meet in groups no larger than six.
- Hospitality businesses are legally required to take customers contact details for track and trace.
- Businesses can be fined if they do not enforce social distancing.
- Measures could last for up to six months.
What seems clear to me is that we will see the continued requirement to pre book parks and attractions not just this season but now potentially into the next. This is for two key reasons, firstly to control numbers so that people can safely socially distance and secondly to have a record of attendees for track and trace. This could be a potential headache for Merlin who have come under increased pressure to relax pre booking requirements for Merlin Passholders or at least increase the numbers available. Parks will obviously be keen to hold as many guests as is safe to do so but this is very dependent on…
Until now, parks have been able to set their own rules for social distancing in line with Government guidance and this has resulted in some mixed success. Under the new measures a business can now be fined for not enforcing social distancing rules and so it is to be seen as to whether parks will need to get tougher with guests to ensure the safety of everyone and importantly the continued operation of the park. Theme Parks are often the target of social media posts rightly or wrongly showing pictures of crowded queue lines or busy sections of a park. This could mean that the parks look to adopt additional measures such as increased numbers of social distancing marshall’s who may well take a more serious approach than those adopted by parks currently if they don’t feel that guests are following the rules. If guests are unable to properly distance in queue lines, it may be possible that masks become a requirement in queue lines too, outdoor as well as in. A further consideration is that parks may be expected to enforce the ‘rule of six’ more clearly by breaking up larger groups and actively discouraging any kind of group meet up via social media channels.
Restaurants and Retail
We’ll see continued wearing of face masks and adherence to social distancing measures in both settings but the focus on ‘table service only’ could have a major impact. A lot of parks have indoor food outlets that while have seating may often have a self service element. I will need to understand this rule more carefully but this will mean that previously self service restaurants now will need to be staffed further and have systems in place to allow you to order. The parks will not want to risk reducing income via food sales and so i’m sure we’ll be seeing lots of creative solutions come forward if required.
As the government tighten these rules, reduce exemptions and stop trials of large crowd gatherings at sporting venues, Theme Parks will likely come under increased scrutiny due to them being a gathering place of large numbers, usually in the younger demographic. This means that it’s now more important than ever that parks demonstrate how serious they are to the measures imposed and keeping guests safe. I have every confidence in the parks to do the right thing and it’s to be seen how the public react.
Until next time.
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