How Asia-Pacific Attractions Have Adapted to COVID-19
In January, attractions in the Asia-Pacific region shuttered temporarily before much of the world as COVID-19 began to spread. When social distancing and work-from-home became the new norm, many began developing best practices for living, working, and taking care of each other in the global pandemic. From communication to training, here’s a look at their key learnings.
Even though attractions throughout the Asia-Pacific region are closed, and everyone from frontline employees to executives are staying home, people are still connected.
“A lot of members have really come together in this region and established support groups to share information,” says June Ko, vice president and executive director of IAAPA Asia Pacific. Ko says although the region is faced with adversity, there’s a silver lining.
“Life is different, but it’s definitely not bad. It’s really been a nice time for us—to see people come together and be supportive of each other,” Ko says while working from her 500-square-foot apartment home in Hong Kong.
Communication from the Top
Shaun McKeogh, the founder and president of Attractions Academy based in Melbourne, Australia, says leaders need to shower their employees with empathy and helpful information.
“It would be easy for us to think, ‘Okay! We’ve been thrown into this without really planning for these closures,’” McKeogh says. “But now more than ever, we need strong leadership. We need our leaders to stand up, and give frequent communication.”
The consultant suggests leaders should stay engaged with their staff, even though the majority are keeping a distance. He recommends leaders create social media groups, host online web chats once a week, form a text group using apps like WhatsApp, and send memos with updates.
Taking Precautionary Measures
Singapore is one country that is not fully locked down in the wake of coronavirus. That has allowed Mega Adventure, a zipline course operator, to stay open. General Manager Zishan Amir tells Funworld his facility has put stringent cleaning measures in place while respecting government orders.
“There are strict measures for people gathering in groups to maintain social distancing,” Amir says. “Being an outdoor attraction, we’re still getting a few people during the weekend coming out for the sun in a well-ventilated area who enjoy our activities. So that’s positive.”
Amir has reduced his operating hours, and thus has reduced his staffing level.
Don’t Sit Still
With time as a commodity in abundant supply, McKeogh says now is the time to plan ahead.
“Using this time right now is exactly what a smart attraction is going to be doing,” McKeogh says. “We’ve never had a time when we didn’t have guests and a lot of teams to manage, so this is the time to strategically plan to be bigger and better, and deliver a better experience.”
He believes surveying employees now to gain their feedback is important. Questions may pertain to how to make an operation stronger and what positive changes they would like to see implemented.
As a consultant, McKeogh also believes now is also a good time for attractions to hire an independent authority, or an advisor, to perform an operational audit.
Introducing Training Tools
During the pause in operation, owners and operators, like Amir, are actively working on training.
“Being in attractions, we are a people business,” Amir says. “We’re using this opportunity in the downtime to upscale our staff.”
Whether that’s offering the team an opportunity to take classes online to learn a new language, study customer service best practices, or create customer engagement messages, Amir says he’s using this time to challenge his team to think differently and become more creative.
“We’re doing all of this, so when the virus passes, and it will, we’ve got a team that is stronger to meet the challenges ahead,” he says. “We got to use this time to train our staff, to increase their skill set, so that we’re ready.”
Brighter Days Ahead
While many attractions remain shuttered in the wake of COVID-19, that doesn’t mean they’re sitting still. “We’re seeing members in the region reaching out to their communities and helping hospital, medical, and government communities—even our neighbors,” Ko says. “I’ve seen a lot of love from the IAAPA community and IAAPA members, reaching out and sharing our resources.”