Bouncing Back from the Pandemic
After two years of repeated shutdowns and changing restrictions, the global attractions industry is continuing to work toward bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic. While various countries and regions are in different stages of recovery, attractions have endeavored to welcome guests and employees back and open new experiences, while recouping losses and making up for missed operational seasons to turn 2022 into a year of positive sales and attendance numbers.
Scenic World Hangs Tough
Located in Australia’s Blue Mountains in New South Wales, Scenic World is rightly named due to its astounding natural features and four key attractions: “Scenic Railway,” “Scenic Skyway,” “Scenic Cableway,” and “Scenic Walkway,” a 500-meter elevated boardwalk that leads through an ancient rainforest.
2020 marked the first time that Scenic World had ever closed. “We were a 365-day-a-year operation that hadn’t shut down since opening in the early 1960s,” says Scenic World Managing Director Anthea Hammon. “That changed in 2020. First, we closed down for the bush fires and then the pandemic.”
Scenic World coped with the COVID-19 lockdown by modifying its operating model and procedures. “We’ve had to adjust multiple times to meet government restrictions,” Hammon explains. “We also had to make many of our full-time staff part-time/casual. Thankfully, they stuck with us, and as we’re starting to come out of the pandemic over the next six to 12 months—fingers crossed—we are ramping them back up to their full-time capacity.”
The company also used the lockdown to develop a new product called “Beyond Skyway,” a tethered walkabout on top of the attraction’s “Skyway” aerial cable car, as it sits suspended 270 meters above the rainforest floor.
Once Scenic World reopened, it still had to work within social distancing regulations. This led to Hammon suspending the attraction’s unlimited ride pass and only allowing small groups in, rather than general admission, to stay within the rules.
Fortunately, the pandemic has eased in Australia, allowing Scenic World to resume offering unlimited ride passes, which, according to Hammon, “was really nice to be able to give back to our customers after all that time.” Scenic World has been able to increase attendance levels and revenues after two lean years.
This being said, Scenic World has slashed its capital costs and kept operating costs on a tight leash so it can get back into a profitable position sooner. These cuts include a 75% reduction in Scenic World’s marketing budget, in line with the drop in its revenues during 2020 and 2021.
Hammon and her staff have been coping with this reduction by promoting Scenic World’s revival primarily on social media.
“Our marketing team is driving sales through those social media channels that we know work for us, such as Facebook and Instagram,” she says.
Add in assistance from government tourism programs, and Scenic World is starting to get back on its feet again. As for the future? Hammon thinks it will take 12 to 18 months to get international visitation levels back to previous numbers.
“Meanwhile, Australians are looking to go out of the country after being unable to travel for two years, so we will have to work hard to get them back, as well,” she says. “Still, depending on what happens with global events and what else the pandemic does to us, I am cautiously optimistic that we’re on our way back to normal.”
TEEG is Bringing the Fun Back
The Entertainment and Education Group (TEEG) operates more than 315 family entertainment centers (FECs) in Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and India.
As reported by Funworld earlier this year, TEEG got through the lockdowns by keeping its personnel (the Fun Squad) engaged through education and retraining and by maintaining flexible operations by redeploying employees, as needed, to locations that were open but short-staffed. Most of all, TEEG did its best to keep employees feeling supported and cared for, as everyone in the company waited for the pandemic to recede. (Read more about TEEG’s investment in employees at IAAPA.org/NewYearFECs.)
This attitude has paid off for TEEG. According to Group CEO Sonaal Chopra, over 98% of TEEG’s venues have reopened for guests, thanks to its positive approach to human resources—plus keeping its FECs clean, safe, and ready for business.
Now that TEEG is open again, the company is focused on its bright future, rather than revisiting its pandemic experiences. Key to this vision is TEEG’s strategic plan for getting large numbers of guests into its FECs.
“Our strategy is to bring the fun back to our guests,” Chopra says. “After the stressful period we’ve just been through, we are committed to providing happy, joyful, and, most of all, safe spaces where our guests can make up for lost fun.”
The online world is central to TEEG’s post-pandemic success. “A large part of our guest engagement and acquisition strategy is through digital channels, where guests can engage and interact with us anytime,” Chopra says. “For instance, we’ve recently launched the Timezone Fun App, which has already seen over 100,000 downloads.”
TEEG’s post-pandemic strategy is already delivering results to the company.
“Within weeks of reopening, we have witnessed strong growth to pre-COVID levels, including record comparable venue growth in some markets,” he tells Funworld. “The only exception being regions where government regulations on onerous capacity restrictions still apply.”
Chopra emphasizes that the public is searching for fun experiences.
“Everyone needs to get their fun back, and our Fun Squad is ready to deliver,” he says. “We feel guests look forward to returning and having fun, especially in the modern and safe environment we offer.”
Aquaventure at Atlantis Dubai Powers On
In 2021, despite supply chain issues and social distancing restrictions, Aquaventure at Atlantis Dubai proceeded with its massive Phase 3 expansion, one of the largest water park expansions in history. The crown jewel of this expansion is the multi-water slide “Trident Tower,” along with a number of ProSlide water rides and attractions that also opened last year.
Since then, Aquaventure has definitely been in post-pandemic recovery mode. Sascha Triemer, vice president of marine and waterpark at Atlantis Dubai, credits the Dubai government’s adept handling of COVID-19 for allowing the country “to come out of lockdown and get back to business six to eight months ago.”
Aquaventure took a phased approach to reopening. It started out with four days a week at 30% occupancy to control attendance and use its limited pool of employees to maximum advantage. But once Phase 3 caught on with water park lovers, Aquaventure went all out in its search for more life-guards and support staff.
“By Aug. 30, 2021, we had enough people to open the entire park,” Triemer says. “And since October of last year, our attendance has revived as health measures have relaxed, and we haven’t looked back.”
Promotional efforts for the reopened park started with domestic social media, due to pandemic travel restrictions that kept international visitors out of Dubai. But since those restrictions have been lifted, Aquaventure is back to advertising itself to the world. “We are using our international sales and travel agency channels to get the news out,” Triemer says. “The future is looking promising going forward.”
- James Careless is a Canada-based writer who covers the water park industry for Funworld.