Belgium: Plopsa Group Disillusioned about Forced Closure of Amusement Parks
Now that four parks of the Plopsa Group in Belgium, namely Plopsaland De Panne, Mayaland Indoor, Plopsa Indoor Hasselt and Plopsa Coo, are affected by the sudden closure order (cf. EAP News of 23 Oct 2020), the company goes public with a clear statement: “I found the decision is totally unexpected. During last week’s meetings there was no indication that we would have to close again. I fully understand that 5,000 people cannot gather in one place right now and that non-essential movements must be avoided, but that 10,000 people can gather in an animal park is an incomprehensible contradiction. Not to mention the fact that foreign amusement parks stay open and launch targeted marketing campaigns to attract Belgian visitors,” comments Steve Van den Kerkhof, CEO of Plopsa Group. “The fact that the decision is taken just before the autumn vacation time, one of the most popular periods with our visitors, makes it even more painful,” he concludes.
Over the past few months, huge investments have been made by the operating group to make a visit to the parks “corona-proof”. The protocols included sharp reductions in total visitor capacities, every visitor was required to purchase his or her ticket online in advance for a possible necessary contact tracing and in every park, all needed adjustments to keep up with hygiene and safety rules were made – this also included an obligation for visitors to wear a mouth-nose covering. “Over the past few weeks, we have also had several politicians and virologists on the floor who have congratulated us extensively on the way we work.” Van den Kerkhof emphasizes that extra support measures from the government are urgently needed to bridge this period: “If they want to close us down, they must also ensure that there is sufficient support (…). The support should be in proportion to the size of the company. But what touches me most is the fact that we once again have to put more than 250 employees into economic unemployment. Our people are treated like yoyos, while they should be treated with respect”. As a result of the four weeks of compulsory closure, the Plopsa Group expects a loss of turnover in Belgium of more than 5 million euros. (eap)