Members of the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions have survived one of the most challenging years in history of their industry, but CEO Paul Kelly wants to make sure the government knows that while many attractions have reopened, they still need support to fully recover.
The CEO of the the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions, Paul Kelly, has warned that despite many of the trade association’s members reopening this summer, the “crisis is not over”.
Indeed, after one of the toughest years the industry has ever experienced, the long shadow of Covid still looms large for many in hospitality and tourism. The government’s support package is now reaching its end game, but Kelly explained that businesses still have debts to pay and cashflow issues after a year of lockdowns and restrictions.
“The reduction in VAT and the business rates holiday have been much needed and well received, but this crisis is not over,” he said. “There is a mountain of rent debt that has not been dealt with and is pushed further down the line as each quarter goes by. For general cash flow purposes, the continuation of the VAT cut and business rates holiday until the end of 2022 is essential. Rent needs a solution and then we must look at other effects of Covid on the industry such as the mental health of staff and the potential skills and training gaps that will appear.”
While the British public will be desperate to support their favourite theme parks, piers and attractions with a visit, they may not be able to quite get back to them as ‘normal’. After a year of cautiousness, consumer confidence is fragile and expectations for health and safety are at an all-time high.
“I think ‘caution’ will be the watch word,” continued Kelly. “People will be careful where they go and will be conscious of what they consider to be a safe environment. Operators will need to be aware of this and it will become an important part of creating the correct environment.”
For businesses, the immediate focus will be on looking after customers and safely welcoming them back to a world they’ve been restricted from visiting since the pandemic began. For Kelly, however, the long term recovery of the sector must remain in the scope. While the government will be keen to wrap up support for businesses that are no longer locked down, it is BALPPA’s mission to ensure its members are supported enough to recover and rebuild what was lost to Covid-19.
“The next two years are all about maintain and re-building the sector. So many businesses have stretched themselves financially to stay afloat through Covid. They need governmental support to start to rebuild,” Kelly concluded. “Longer terms loans, business rate holidays, VAT reductions and other long term support infinitives are required. The worry is that the government thinks because we are open everything is okay again. It is our job to make sure they are aware of the damage that the extended shutdown has caused and to push for long term sector wide support initiatives.”
REGULATION, REGULATION, REGULATION
Coinslot: Thinking about your members with arcades and FECs on site, what will they be looking for in the new gambling act? And what changes do you want to see implemented?
Paul Kelly, CEO at BALPPA: Our members would welcome any increase in stakes and prizes but also realise that aspects of the arcade and FEC family offering are under attack. Everything seems to be considered as gambling at the moment which can be detrimental to redemption and other skill with prizes games.
Coinslot: Regarding changes to health and safety post-Brexit, what regulations need to be dropped and what measures would boost the opportunities for your sector?
Paul Kelly: I haven’t seen anything yet post Brexit that changes any of our H&S legislation. We have been lucky to have had very high standards in our sector and would not choose to remove controls or lower standards. If such a review comes along, we will argue to maintain standards. The EU are moving ahead with plans for vaccine passports but it is not clear what, if anything, the UK will adopt at this stage. We will review any proposals when they are published.
Coinslot: In real terms, what does Brexit for the attractions industry? And going forward, where do you see the advantages and disadvantages for the industry – both for employment positions and international visitors?
Paul Kelly: We think there will be a significant tariff on purchasing rides from abroad. The position on barriers to entry, for both staff and international visitors is unclear. The initial proposals were very unhelpful but subsequent amendments have improved that situation. Once we get slightly more post covid we can review post Brexit!