Lessons Learned from Remaining Open: Q&A with Dyreparken’s Per Arnstein Aamot
Norway’s Dyreparken was one of the few attractions able to remain open when the country, and world, shut down in March. The mostly open-air park combines features of rides, a water park, and zoo over 600,000 square meters. IAAPA spoke with Per Arnstein Aamot, Dyreparken CEO, about how the team has applied lessons learned from staying open.
How were you able to stay open?
When the crisis hit, and Norway “closed” there were still no restrictions on going out and being able to move freely around. In March, when this happened, there are normally quite few visitors in the park, and we did a risk evaluation on the pros and cons of staying open. As we have around 30,000 year-pass holders, we knew that these people, and other guests, would need safe activities and that was our focus. We contacted the senior health officer for this region and he liked the idea of a place where the guest were being “monitored” as they were not on the streets, in the malls, and [out] in general. He has since then been our biggest support for keeping the park open, and labeling the park safe for visitors
What safety procedures did you put in place during that time?
- At the time we did what we the knew to be important. The most important ones are quite obvious, but effective:
- Our First-Aid helpers met guest at the gates as a service, asking friendly questions about health and giving advice for the visit. People with symptoms are not allowed in the park.
- All of our presentations and other shows/entertainment shut down.
- Our indoor facilities shut down for now and our shops and restaurants followed the regulations set for the rest of society.
- We only had a few minor attractions open, such as a mini train, a bobsleigh, and some electrical cars, but these were all disinfected between each ride.
We took other measures as well, such as extended signage, hand disinfection stations, general information, and so on. These are, as mentioned, simple but effective measures. All through that period and still, as we now are entering the high season, we have followed three very important rules:
- We try to do all we can to prevent people who are infected from entering the park. With no infection among visitors, there is no danger of an outbreak starting at the park.
- Remind people—all the time—to wash your hands, and make sure they are able to (make it easy to stay keep your hands clean.)
- Make measures in all areas where people normally stand with little distance. The rule in Norway now is one meter. We make sure this is possible in all queues, rides, shows, and animal presentations.
What did you learn from staying open that you have been able to apply to operations now that you are in peak season?
There has been a lot to learn, but I would say that one of the main things is that our guests easily forget the situation of the virus while visiting. We need to make systems that enable the guest to have their expected experience, but in a safe and protected way. This needs to be intuitive and not up to the guests themselves. People are generally grateful that we are open, and grateful that we are trying to obtain a safe environment.
Your bookings are at record levels--congratulations! Did you have to adapt the safety procedures you had in place while most other attractions were closed now that you have a higher volume of guests?
Yes, as society gradually opens up, all the rules change. Being dynamic is in my opinion the most important skill we need to have at these times.
What advice do you have for other attractions that are just now reopening?
- Make sure it is easy and comprehendible to follow the new rules of operation for the guests. If they don’t behave the way you need them to, you have a problem.
- Spend more time than you think to train your staff. They are the only ones who can enforce the planned operation.
- Be ready to change—quickly.
In Dyreparken, we have designated staff for handling the crowds and giving advice for this special period. They have a different uniform then the rest of the staff, and their main objective is making people feel safe.
For more information on managing the impact of COVID-19, visit IAAPA's resource page.