Grim outlook for theme parks

by ASILA JALIL / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE nationwide lockdown enforced since June 1 is putting further strain on theme parks, which have been barely surviving since the first Movement Control Order (MCO 1.0) that was put in place in March last year.

After almost a year of closure, theme parks are still waiting for the green light to resume operations, while preparing themselves for reopening by updating their standard operating procedures (SOPs), in line with the guidelines set by the government.

Sunway Lagoon Theme Park in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, was supposed to introduce a new night park as well as extend its operation hours in May, but the plans are now on pause due to the worsening outbreak.

“We were already preparing for the night park, but we have to postpone it because the number of cases have spiked.

“Looking at the cases now, we might have to wait a while until we have a more confirmed date to announce the launch of the night park,” Sunway Theme Parks ED Calvin Ho told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Theme parks under the group — namely Sunway Lagoon and Lost World of Tambun in Ipoh, Perak — operated for only four months in 2020 as the number of cases surged by year-end.

The group then opted to operate at a 30% maximum capacity although the government allowed for theme parks to operate with a 50% maximum capacity last year.

Ho said the group may further reduce its maximum capacity when theme parks are allowed to reopen as a precaution to ensure the space is at its optimum safety level for visitors, as well as their employees.

“We are always cautious with the SOPs and we definitely will take a lot of stringent precautions. The SOPs that we have are very well structured to maintain the cleanliness and hygiene of the parks.”

Ho previously told TMR that both theme parks under the group managed to stay afloat during the pandemic with the support of the group and other segments that were still allowed to operate during the various phases of movement restrictions last year.

Meanwhile, Wet World Water Park in Shah Alam, Selangor, was enjoying the return of customers when it resumed operations in February after almost a year of closure.

It, however, had to halt operations again in May due to the rise in daily infections especially in Selangor, which topped the daily figures.

“Wet World was supposed to open during Hari Raya and we had planned the schedules and activities that we could do to attract customers.

“However, when the government announced another lockdown, it hit us hard. Sales were doing well when we were allowed to open from February until May,” the theme park’s operations executive Wan Sheng-Li told TMR recently.

For now, Wan said, the management is only waiting for cases to subside before they get the nod from the government for reopening.

As the management is unsure of the duration for the closure, Wan said the team had decided to extend the expiry date of the day passes sold prior to the lockdown.

“If the customers have bought the tickets before the lockdown was announced and they have chosen a date that is still within the lockdown period, we have extended its expiry date until year-end.

“As long as you have the tickets, you can just show them to the operation teams and you can enter the park when we reopen.”

Last Friday, the government decided to extend the nationwide full lockdown until June 28.

Malaysia was initially put under a two-week total lockdown on June 1 after the number of daily cases exceeded 8,000 cases and pushed the tally for active cases to more than 70,000 cases.

During the lockdown period, social and economic sectors are not allowed to operate except for essential services.

In a special address yesterday, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said all economic sectors may reopen in the final phase of the lockdown, with the estimated target by December.

“We can move to this phase when cases are low, the public health system is safe and herd immunity is achieved, at the latest by the end of the year,” Muhyiddin said.