Another Covid casualty — Waterparks struggle
Social distancing and mandated closures have cost the waterpark industry billions in lost revenue
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an unexpected and unprecedented abundance of work and increased profits for most of the pool and spa industry. With so many parents working from home, and children engaged in online learning, the backyard pool has become a near necessity for many families attempting to entertain themselves while committing to social distancing. Pool building, remodeling and service are among the few lucky fields that have not felt the devastating economic effects of the global pandemic.
But not every area of the recreational water industry has experienced this extraordinary boom in business. The current Covid-19 crisis has had and continues to have a significant negative effect on waterparks and water park resorts.
According to an August 26, 2020, article appearing in Hotel Online, informed by research conducted by hospitality consulting firm Hotel & Leisure Advisors, (H& LA) “with the mandated closures, limited capacities and travel restrictions, the waterpark industry has been one of the industries hardest hit in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Specifically, H& LA estimates an overall impact of $2.9 billion in lost revenue and 57.5 million in lost attendance for all outdoor waterparks, resorts with outdoor waterparks, standalone indoor waterparks and indoor waterpark resorts in the United States between March and August 2020. Standalone indoor and outdoor waterparks account for $1.2 billion in lost revenue and 40.2 million in lost attendance, while resorts with an indoor or outdoor waterpark account for $1.7 billion in lost revenue and 17.3 million in lost attendance. Attendance was down 69% from 2019 at U.S. waterparks due to the closures and mandates associated with Covid-19.
For the six-month period of March through August 2020, they estimate the waterpark industry attracted roughly 26 million attendees. Comparing that to the same six-month period in 2019, the industry saw approximately 83.5 million, a negative impact of 69%.
Compared to other recreation businesses opened year-round, outdoor waterparks have a shorter operating season; closing for even a week has a substantial impact on the profit margin for these businesses. Mandates forcing the closures of these properties began just as they would have opened for the 2020 season, and many were not allowed to reopen until May or June. H& LA estimates that 70% of outdoor water parks were closed through June. Some remained closed for the duration of the season (43% were still closed by mid-August) and some may not open until 2021, if at all. Furthermore, the full scope of this negative impact doesn’t include the manufacturers, suppliers and other businesses that cater to the waterpark industry.
Indoor waterparks have faired slightly better, given that they are open on a yearlong basis. That said, these establishments nonetheless suffered tremendous losses due to travel restrictions and government mandates. H& LA estimates that 80% of the indoor water parks were still closed by the beginning of June and by mid-August, 18% remained closed.
H& LA did not report any permanent waterpark closures or sales of waterparks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic but noted permanent closures are indeed possible and employment losses have already occurred.
The road to recovery will be difficult, but not impossible, as waterparks negotiate what may now be the new norm.