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IAAPA Issues Reopening Guidelines for Amusement Parks and Attractions

Is your Amusement Park or Attraction ready to Re-Open?
IAAPA, The Global Association for the Attractions Industry, issues re-opening guidelines for parks and attractions to consider.

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In May, as some parts of the United States – as well as other countries – began to allow some public spaces to open, albeit with safe-social distancing, mask wearing, limits on the numbers and other restrictions. The International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (IAAPA), issued Reopening Guidance: Considerations for the Attractions Industry, a 36-page document available free on the organization's website.

Comprehensive, practical and inclusive, the document presents protocols and recommendations for Amusement Parks to follow as they try to retain some of their key summer season. According to a statement that accompanies the release of the document, it was “developed in partnership with attractions members and operators from around the world, as well as health-related guidance from government agencies and medical professionals, IAAPA's “Reopening Guidance: Considerations for the Attractions Industry” outlines principles and approaches to consider for reopening once local government officials in an area remove “stay-at-home” orders, allow non-essential businesses to reopen, and say it's safe for citizens to move around their community. 

While many of the guidelines are already familiar, others are very specific to the Amusement Park Experience. For instance, it emphasizes face masks on guests and employees, increasing hand sanitizing stations, managing densities of park-goers, maintaining social distance, and increased communications with employees and guests on how to prevent the spread of germs.

But the guidelines do more than just offer general protocols, but get into great detail on specific areas of the park. One of the most comprehensive sections concerns Specific Guidance on: “Rides, Attractions, Exhibits,” which encourages that operators should “Evaluate the speed and other dynamics of each attraction to ensure masks/ face coverings of various types can be safely worn and secured on rides. Masks/ face coverings should not present a loose-article hazard or interfere with the safe operation of the attraction. If necessary, consult with the ride manufacturer/supplier to decide which types of masks/ face coverings are appropriate for specific rides.”

Other suggestions include using “virtual queue systems,” minimizing employee/guest interactions, and to “sanitize guests' hands as they enter the queue line, just before they board, and/or as they exit. This helps reduce the likelihood of guests leaving germs behind on surfaces.

The guidelines also note that the park owners will have to evaluate each ride or attraction on its own merits in terms of its COVID-19 risk. The reality is that some rides may have to remain shut down and unused until the pandemic is completely eradicated. “It may not be possible to open some attractions if physical distancing/sanitation can't be implemented or upheld (i.e. soft play, interactive mazes, touch pools, props-based experiences, etc.).”

Remarkable in its detail and scope, the guidelines address all areas of an amusement park, from the rides, to the games and other concessions, as well as the points of transactions. As the economy reopens and nonessential businesses are allowed to operate, it will initially be a new world for guests, employees and owners and IAAPA has taken the lead in providing an informative, pragmatic and highly useful guidebook to ensure a smooth transition for parks.

Notably, it is also reassuring that the Amusement Parks may be a safer space than many other nonessential businesses.

The report states: “It is important to remember the difference between attractions and other venues for mass gatherings such as sports arenas, movie theaters, and concerts:

  • Capacity can be reduced/managed to allow for appropriate social distancing.

  • Seating positions in rides and attractions are controlled by employees.

  • Exposure time is limited. Guests generally move throughout their experience, much like in an inter-city district or zone. The guests are not sitting in a single location, elbow-to-elbow, for an extended period.

  • A large percentage of attraction attendance is made up of family members and others who live in the same home and thus do not need to be physically distanced from each other. 

Questions & Answers

Amusement Park Warehouse posed a few questions to David Mandt, EVP and Chief Executive Officer, IAAPA, about the new guidelines, their inception and intention, and how he feels the industry will best cope with the new Amusement Park normal due to the COVID-19 pandemic 


Amusement Park Warehouse: What went into the development of the document IAAPA Reopening Guidance document?

David Mandt: The health and safety of our guests and employees is the attractions industry's number-one priority. As the global association for the attractions industry, IAAPA has been working closely with members around the world to help gather and disseminate information and resources to help operators develop their plans. IAAPA coordinated multiple calls with IAAPA members around the world to discuss the guidance and what topics should be included.  Once the drafts were created those were shared with additional members for review and input prior to the   release of the first edition.


APW: What is the objective of the document?

DM: The purpose of the IAAPA Reopening Guidance Document is to help members of the attractions industry develop and refine their reopening plans. The document is a tool that provides considerations for a variety of topics including physical distancing, food and beverage operations, cleaning and disinfection, guest communications, and more. It was created to complement guidance from public health authorities, local governments, and legal counsel, as well as established operating procedures and protocols, so they can be fully prepared to open when the time is right.


APW: What kind of feedback have you gotten from members about the guidelines?

DM: The resource has been well received by members from around the world. It has helped to open communication between members and their employees, local authorities, and their communities, and has been a resource tool to aid in reopening preparation.


APW:  What will be the most difficult areas of a park to reopen?

DM:  As operators prepare to reopen, they are examining every aspect of their operation and are updating their procedures and protocols to continue to operate safely in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's difficult to generalize how easy or difficult it will be to implement COVID-related adjustments because so many factors will impact implementation. Those include local government regulations, cultural variations, the unique nature of each attraction, and much more. However, key to successful implementation will be communication. Employees and guests play a critical role in the effective implementation of many of the safety precautions. As a result, they need to know what to expect and how to modify their behavior to help keep everyone safe. I don't think it's possible to over communicate with them about the changes you're making to ensure their safety.


APW: who will have an easier time, small parks or large?

DM: The attractions industry's commitment to the health and safety of our guests and employees is consistent across all constituencies, and parks large and small. These are unprecedented times for all of us and parks and attractions are working to make adjustments to their operations to continue to ensure safe experiences for all. Some of the guidance is easy to implement and some will be more difficult – for instance, what's easier for some smaller attractions, may be more difficult for larger ones and vice versa. In all cases, operators will need to understand the key principles outlined in the guidance and then really think about how those can be applied in the most appropriate way at their attraction.


APW: When do you think parks will be able to reopen under the guidelines the IAAPA have developed? 

DM: The guidance provided in the document is designed to help facilities open once stay-at-home orders are lifted and people start to resume interactions with non-essential businesses in their communities but before COVID-19 treatments and vaccines are developed. As a result, the guidance is strict. It's important operators work with their local health agencies and legal counsel to determine how to implement these protocols and when it's safe to start backing away from them.
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