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The Impact of Insurance on the Carnival & Amusement Park Industry During the COVID-19 Pandemic
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As the outdoor amusement industry faces a shut-down during the COVID-19  pandemic, the cost of insurance becomes a big question with an abbreviated season.  We talked to prominent insurance agencies to see what they are doing to help their clients during this unprecedented time. After speaking with McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance and Amusement Entertainment Risk Insurance Associates (AERIA), one common theme stands out: agents value their clients and hope that carnivals and events are back in business as soon as safely possible.

McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance

Drew Tewksbury, Director of Sales & Marketing for McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance and Annie Shugart, Marketing and Client Relations Coordinator, stress how important consistent communication with clients is during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We take pride in the close relationships we have with our clients. We keep in very regular communication which helps especially in situations like these,” says Tewksbury. As soon as COVID-19  became a threat to the industry, McGowan Allied began thinking of strategies to help their clients. According to Tewksbury, “at McGowan Allied we took an early and aggressive approach for our clients.”

McGowan Allied's current strategy is multitiered in an effort to afford clients greater relief an flexibility for insurance payments. This includes providing a larger window or “grace period” for making  payments. As the shut-down extended, it became clear to agents at McGowan Allied that they had to come up with a strategy to help reduce insurance premiums while operators are unable to open. Tewksbury and Shugart are clear that premium adjustments happen on a case-by-case basis and often times are dependent upon state regulations. “In some cases our clients are able to take some vehicles off their plans because they are parked and not in use. Some states may allow this and others may not.” In most cases, McGowan Allied clients are able to suspend coverage on rides, games, and equipment based on the fact that these pieces have zero exposure to the public, therefore the lability premium can be adjusted to a minimal amount. “Our insureds are our most important and valued responsibility; we want to do what we can for them in times like these,” says Tewksbury.

In an effort to be prepared for their clients, agents at McGowan Allied are staying informed as states initiate phases for re-opening. Much like news about events and states shutting down, Tewksbury and Shugart expect information to come from clients as well as various news sources. “As an organization, we saw this happening, we got together and started to think about what we could do to help our clients. As states started shutting down, we had inbound calls from clients and outbound calls to those who hadn't reached out to us yet. I think we'll see a similar model as states begin re-opening.” McGowan Allied employees have already thought about the processes and strategies involved with resuming normal insurance coverage and are ready to roll them out as soon as it's time. “As soon as we get everybody up and running, we will continue to work with our clients to further assist in making sure they have a sound and economically responsible insurance program for the remainder of their policy term,” says Tewksbury.

The McGowan Allied team wants to stress that in times like these, the strength of both professional and personal relationships are tested. “I'm proud of our team and how we've handled client and industry conversations. It's like all those ads on tv say; we're all in this together,” says Tewksbury.

Amusement Entertainment Risk Insurance Associates (AERIA)

“Every one of our clients is unable to operate right now,” says Rick D'Aprile, Vice-President of Amusement Entertainment Risk Insurance Associates (AERIA). Given the current state of the industry, AERIA agents have already begun and continue to adjust premiums for their clients. “If there is no work then there is no income to pay bills, so we are also adjusting our payment schedules,” says D'Aprile.

In Mid-March, when states began closing and the nation's response to COVID-19  grew stronger, D'Aprile and his team started calling clients and sending out letters in response to the pandemic's affect on the industry. As the industry shut-down continues, AERIA employees are proactively having conversations with clients to stay up to date. “For each of our clients it's a different situation. Some of them end their season after Labor Day,” says D'Aprile. As of now, many states have not re-opened or released re-opening plans, forcing some of AERIA's clients to consider canceling the rest of the 2020 season altogether. “Those shows and parks that operate after Labor Day especially are hoping to be able to get back to work in late Summer and into the Fall,” says D'Aprile.    

As some states like Florida and Georgia begin opening, D'Aprile encourages show and park owners to stay informed and continue communication with AERIA agents.“We are in a position to get our clients' insurance needs taken care of on the same day they are able to operate,” says D'Aprile. When asked about shows and parks reopening this Summer, D'Aprile says he thinks it depends on where they are in the country and when they normally operate.
While everyone in the industry anxiously waits to get back to work, D'Aprile is encouraged by those vendors and show owners who are selling food and getting great response from their communities. “If shows and parks are allowed to re-open, I'm hoping the public response is strong. Many people are getting cabin fever and will want to get out of the house and go do things,” says D'Aprile.

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In an effort to encourage unity during this period, D'Aprile reflects on his love for the outdoor amusement industry, “we only write for amusement parks, carnivals, and other entertainment clients. We love this business and we are all in this together. We hope everyone remains safe and that life can get back to normal as soon as possible.”
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