KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 — By the time the government announced last Sunday that theme parks will be allowed to reopen once the vaccination rate among the adult population reaches 90 per cent, most theme parks in Malaysia were ready.
“We are hoping it will be soon... that we don’t have to wait until the end of November. In fact, we have all standard operating procedures (SOPs) checked and in place ready to reopen even by October 1,” Sunway Theme Parks executive director Calvin Ho told Malay Mail.
(It was reported about a week ago that 80 per cent of Malaysia’s adult population is now fully vaccinated and now efforts are focused on inoculating teenagers.)
Among the preparations the Sunway Lagoon theme park has in place is the vaccination of all its staff — be it office-bound or on-site — and all have been fully vaccinated.
While waiting for an official announcement for the reopening of the theme park, Ho said staff have also started sanitising all rides and high-touch-points.
At the same time, with the park closed, Ho said the operations team took the opportunity to run scheduled maintenance work and even added a few new features, all ready to welcome visitors once its doors can open once again
“Since we can’t open the park, we took this opportunity to service all the rides without having to partially close it on a regular business day.
“We have even repainted the theme park, and now have a new park feature — Camp Out — which is an adaptation of an outdoor camping trip right here at Sunway Lagoon,” he said.
Now visitors can opt to stay in tents — even overnight — similar to a camping trip, with meals provided, and surrounded by water features such as a man-made waterfall, water rides and greenery.
The team at Sunway Lagoon has also embarked on some initiatives including a floating garden of vetiver grass (a type of plant suitable as feed for animals in the Wildlife Park) and a herbal garden with a variety of herbs and spices.
“We learned through our previous successes from a Junior Ranger programme we conducted at our theme park the Lost World of Tambun (LWOT), Ipoh.
“Once both theme parks reopen, we plan to bring back our Explorer Ranger programme where children can participate and develop a wide range of skill sets from wildlife knowledge to even public speaking and teamwork,” said Ho.
“All these preparations have been made taking into account that we will still have to live with the Covid-19 virus.
“We can’t expect to wait until the coronavirus is entirely gone; I think if we did, the economy will collapse.
“What we have planned for the reopening and plans in the near future will be moving towards ‘living with the virus’ and that includes high safety features for the public and our staff”.
For now, Ho said the theme park will accommodate only 50 per cent of its full capacity in order to ensure that physical distancing can be observed.
However, the theme park management will constantly be monitoring the number of visitors to prevent crowding in the theme park compound.
“Like last year, we didn’t even take 50 per cent... we reduced it to 30 per cent. This time around, we will try 50 per cent but with close monitoring, and if we see that the park can’t take more we will stop,” he said.
Over in Johor, the Adventure Waterpark in Desaru Coast is also ready to reopen once the green light is received from the government.
Adventure Waterpark Desaru Coast general manager Shahrul Nizar Ahmad said the waterpark has gone above and beyond the prescribed health and safety requirements to ensure the safety of both visitors and employees.
“Our park will be operating at half capacity for fully vaccinated adults when we reopen.
“Stringent checks will be conducted at the entry gates including vaccination status, risk profiles and temperature checks,” he said.
Shahrul said the waterpark’s common and high traffic areas will be sanitised frequently and chlorine tests of all water bodies done daily.
He also added that all employees of the waterpark are fully vaccinated.
“For public safety and to ensure guests abide by SOPs, we will deploy guest ambassadors to guide guests on social distancing and ensure masks are worn at all times.
“We certainly look forward to welcoming guests back to the park when it is allowed,” he said.
For Legoland Malaysia in Iskandar Puteri, Johor, its divisional director CS Lim said during the closure, the theme park took the opportunity to fine-tune its SOPs and also train teams.
“Once we reopen, guests can expect things at Legoland Malaysia to be a little different, with additional SOPs in place to ensure that the resort complies with the highest safety standard without compromising on the play and learning experiences,” he said.
Lim added that Legoland Malaysia is ready to welcome guests to its Legoland Hotel from September 30 onwards, and its Sea Life Malaysia attraction from October 1.
“As part of our commitment to further support the government’s efforts to reinvigorate the tourism industry, we will also be unveiling several promotions and packages that will allow guests to enjoy the convenience of an ‘all-in-one’ destination while helping to stretch their budget,’ he said.
Meanwhile, Sunway Lagoon’s Ho urged the government to consider excluding theme parks from the new entertainment tax rate set at 15 per cent.
With this tax in place, Ho said it will drive investors away from theme park expansions.
“We have halted some of our expansion plans due to the entertainment tax. With the current situation (Covid-19 pandemic), it is already very difficult to survive.
“With the entertainment tax put in place, many are going to ‘close shop’ or can’t even expand their businesses,” he said.
The entertainment tax was first introduced under the Entertainment Duty Act 1953, and later extended to include theme parks in 2014.