Fun is over for theme parks in the age of social distancing

Richard Mancey, managing director of Paultons Park in Hampshire, says theme parks and other attractions will be in “serious trouble” if they are not open by July. 

He points that in order to be prepared for re-opening, he cannot furlough all his staff: “We have a skeleton crew at the park – we’ve got a large grounds that need upkeep, but that’s a cost. That’s a problem and it’s something we’ve raised with the Government – we’re not a warehouse, we can’t just lock up and leave.”

Many in the sector believe an extension of the Government’s furlough scheme is necessary to keep theme parks afloat. 

But even with continued support, the outlook looks bleak. Mancey, who also chairs the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions, predicts that small parks have “six weeks” before their cash reserves run out. “A lot of good, family run businesses will go to the wall. If we don’t get open by the summer season, a lot will be in serious trouble, even the big parks, who have more cash reserves.”

Most of all, Mancey and fellow theme park owners say that they want clarity on timings. “It would be very beneficial to be given some kind of date,” he says, noting that Ireland has helped businesses by putting forward a five-point plan on reopening. All eyes are now on Boris Johnson and his address to the nation on Sunday night.

“It’s really important in terms of planning, what’s happening with staff and gearing towards that with our marketing,” Mancey says. “It is probably the biggest single frustration within the industry and we’ve heard nothing. I’m hopeful we get past Sunday and then they focus on the hospitality industry.”

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