By Sabine Lehmann

IAAPA, the global association for the attractions industry, held a webinar to discuss how European and Middle East attractions are dealing with this crisis on Wednesday 18 March 2020.

The attractions industry is in the business of fun. It is a business, however, and you will not be able to re-open and provide fun, nor jobs if you have not preserved your business during this crisis.

A number of themes emerged that are useful and pertinent for the South African attractions industry. These are my key takeaways from the webinar:

Speed of change:

Delegates commented that information and responses are changing not by the day but by the hour. This necessitates a crisis mode for all attractions as the crisis unfolds, most sites are holding daily, and sometimes twice daily updates with their stakeholders and staff.

Delegates commented that just one week ago it was (almost) business as usual as they were in the final stages of readiness and hiring for their summer season. In just 7 days, this has all changed and most European sites are now closed to visitors.


The biggest question attraction managers have, which remains unanswered,  is “how long will we be closed?”. There is no answer as yet. Some countries have advised this sector that they should expect no revenue for 6 to 12 months. Others are hoping that they can open in the late European summer.

As yet there are no answers. Unlike in South Africa, European attractions were just gearing up to open for their busy summer season. They are now uncertain for how much of the season they will be able to operate, if at all.

Look to the East:

Delegates from the East including China, Japan and Vietnam are in the advanced stages of the COVID-19 crisis management. Some are reopening after “intensive lock-down measures” since early January. After extensive deep cleaning, those that are opening have:

    • reduced offerings in place (i.e. not all facilities open)
    • have social distancing measures in place (e.g. spread out queuing)
    • have strong health and hygiene management in place (temperature checks on entry)
    • are operating at reduced capacity (e.g. Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park is reopening but allowing 50% of capacity take-up outdoors and 30% of capacity take -up indoors).

Be prepared for a range of scenarios:

Webinar delegates spoke about brainstorming a range of scenarios. These include financial modelling for a number of start dates – after Easter, half way through their season, or in fact missing the summer season entirely. They have also planned for scenarios where a guest or a staff member tests positive for the COVID-19 virus during shutdown AND for when the attractions reopen.

Delegates also spoke about understanding where supply chain breakdowns may occur and what state of readiness their supply chains may be in. Test and brainstorm through a wide range of scenarios was the advice shared.

One attraction shared that they have two task teams. Team A is scenario planning and preparing for re-opening and Team B is scenario planning and preparing for missing the entire season.

Continuity planning:

Plan for increased sick leave days. Whether staff are COVID-19 positive or are quarantined, you will need to plan for reduced staff and ensure that there is continuity in place for key staff members and management.

Plan for re-energising the conversation:

Whilst attractions should have a good look at freezing all non-essential operational costs, delegates noted that budget should be set aside for re-energising the conversation around your attraction. Plan the conversation for how you will advise guests you are open and SAFE to visit.

What we as African attractions can do in the meanwhile:

Let’s get educated! IAAPA has a number of resources available to help attraction managers.

Click here for more info.