With attractions starting to re-open across the UK following the national lockdown, enthusiasts of theme parks and scare attractions alike are starting to get used to a world where their favourite places are having to operate a little differently. For those with a love of all things scary, thoughts are turning towards just what the ‘new normal’ may mean for Halloween 2020, and how the ongoing situation surrounding COVID-19 may affect the Halloween offering in 2020. We look at both the challenges and opportunities of Halloween 2020.
Let us start with perhaps one of the most obvious challenges that the current social distancing rules present – capacity. As has been seen with the re-opening of theme parks across the UK, attractions are having to operate at a significantly reduced capacity to ensure they are able to meet the ‘Covid secure’ requirements, including social distancing measures.The Dungeon attractions, operated by Merlin Entertainments, are now having to run shows with significantly reduced numbers to ensure guests and actors can observe social distancing. For many seasonal Halloween attractions, this significant reduction in capacity may have an impact on the financial viability of their event, potentially leading some to decide it simply isn’t viable to open this year, with some already having made that difficult decision. For those that are able to open, and for scare mazes within theme parks, having to enforce social distancing will mean significantly fewer guests will be able to experience attractions compared to previous years with families/bubbles likely having to go through as their own group if it’s a free flowing maze, or a similar set up to the Dungeons having to be used for actor led shows. On the plus side,this could lead to guests receiving a much more individual experience with actors able to focus better on the smaller batch sizes.
Social distancing also has the potential to play an interesting part this Halloween. Many scare attractions use tight spaces, crawl tunnels, and narrow corridors to help set up some of their scares. With the need to maintain a distance of either two metres or one metre plus (in accordance with current guidelines at the time of writing), the need to avoid guests touching sets and props, and the requirement to ensure that actors can also remain socially distant from guests, this means that attractions will need to carefully consider the design of their mazes to ensure they meet the necessary requirements. At first glance this may seem like something which may present a problem, however it could also present a great opportunity for many scare attractions. Having to design and create scare mazes with the new guidelines in mind could potentially lead to a whole range of opportunities to find new ways to create scares – with actors no longer able to get up close to guests, and sets having to be redesigned this presents an interesting chance to find new methods to scare guests and could in fact be a catalyst for some interesting and innovative attractions this Halloween and beyond.
Recent events may also influence the themes of some attractions. Attractions designers will need to decide if the public will have any desire to experience a scare attraction based on a disease affecting people, or an experiment trying to find the cure for a plague. Themes which would usually see guests get lost in a labyrinth could also be forced to be reconsidered due to the high risk of guests encountering those outside their bubble when trying to escape the maze.
But what about the general public? With recent events will they really want to go somewhere to be scared? That is something which is incredibly difficult to predict. On the one hand some will argue that people simply will not want to go and experience something which is themed around scares and horror. On the other hand, scare attractions may provide just the kind of escape that people need, something that they can enjoy safely to get some sense of normal back, even if it is with ‘Covid secure’ restrictions in place.
As we get closer to the start of the peak Halloween season it is going to be interesting to discover just how attractions approach this year’s festivities. Whilst there will undoubtedly be challenges, we are certain that those attractions which proceed with their events will be able to rise to these as well as embrace the opportunities to create innovative new ways to scare guests whilst also ensuring the highest levels of safety re maintained.
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