Cadbury World’s Contemplative Approach to Reopening
On a day in May 2020, Nigel Knight, managing director of RMA Themed Attractions, a design and production firm based in Bramley, Surrey, England, was staining the door of his workshop at home, while the staff of his company remained on furlough following the effects of the coronavirus. At that moment, he got a phone call from Gerrard Baldwin, general manager of Cadbury World in Birmingham, England—a call that would launch a well-thought-out mission to reopen the attraction.
Cadbury World—operated by the Cadbury Company—immerses visitors in everything about chocolate. RMA has a long-standing business relationship with the attraction, and Knight says he’s known Baldwin for more than 25 years. In the moments that followed, the pair discussed by phone every aspect of how Cadbury World could reopen.
“We had decided on a multifaceted-attack approach,” says Knight. “Cadbury World is not the easiest attraction to make COVID-19-safe. Some attractions are entirely external, some are ride-based, some are large spaces or auditorium-based. Cadbury World is a mix of almost all genres merged into one space, so what may provide a COVID-19-safe environment in one area will not work in the next.”
Knight is candid in sharing the challenge the virus presented. “It really was a case of the blind leading the blind, as none of us had a clue how to get around a lot of the issues that were manifesting at the time,” he says. “But we knew we had to at least begin talking about solutions in preparation for when better news was broadcast.”
He recalls that in late spring, the general thinking was to erect screens to reduce the spread of airborne particles between visitors. But Knight felt this would appear quite strange in heavily themed areas, so a change was in order. Knight says the screens at Cadbury World needed to be themed to blend with their attraction. Thus, they wouldn’t be perceived as coronavirus screens, but rather as part of the theming.
“We themed them, curved them, added graphics, and mounted them within beautifully designed and built stainless-steel pillars. Yes, it’s a more expensive solution, but we figured if we built it to last and built it to blend in and look great, it could and should remain post-COVID-19,” says Knight.
The next challenge was preventing virus transmission through touch in an attraction full of touch screens, push buttons, levers, and knobs. In Cadbury World’s walk-through jungle area, there are numerous touch screens allowing visitors to play games. Instead of disabling them, RMA suggested Cadbury World reprogram the games to run animations, keeping the narrative in place, but reducing physical contact to zero.
The crowding of guests had to be reduced, so additional themed walls and sight-line blockers were added. These walls have been designed to be removable post-pandemic, but if they’re not, they have been built to last.
Because of the creative and painstakingly thought-out changes made during the collaborative efforts, Cadbury World reopened to guests looking to make sweet memories on July 18.