FALLING OFF THE “SURFBOARD”
22 March 2020 was when we all got thrown off our Surfboard by the huge COVID-19 wave. It took our breath away, like we were drowning, a moment of panic when you lose your bearings and you don’t know which way is up or down.
In March, we went from having a calendar (filled with 100’s of conferences and events to absolutely nothing at all. All our theme parks closed, our conference and events activity just stopped! Everything came to a complete full stop. Borders closed, flights cancelled, hotels, cafes, restaurants closed.
“Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” and believe me it wasn’t the night before Christmas!
Most of our teams across the whole of Village Roadshow Theme Parks were stood down. After the initial shock, then in April came the emotional rollercoaster of being worried for our jobs, our livelihood, our health, our loved ones near or far and wondering how we were going to pay the bills, home school the kids or what the next day would bring.
The Tourism, hospitality and entertainment industry were amongst the hardest hit however we are a creative and resilient bunch and it wasn’t long before we caught our breath and jumped back on our surfboard ready to take on this challenge.
THE SILVER LINING…WHAT WAS THAT BEFORE COVID?
Covid is the biggest disruption to the world in the last 100 years, however let’s talk about the silver lining: well this is an expression I discovered during COVID.
I had no idea what it meant until I figured it out (cue lightbulb moment💡), and the list is actually pretty long: no more stressing in the morning (ok ok there are different stresses we now go through…), such as running late to drop off the kids and get to work on time But my favorite silver lining moment no more getting stuck in traffic. YAY! In ½ hour I am ready in front of my computer with my coffee…ha ha ! Also, more time with your other half and your children! Having the time to actually put something on the stove to have a REAL meal at night because your computer is pretty much in your kitchen so you can watch what’s cooking whilst checking your emails.
I am sure many of us also did some work around the house and embraced having time to actually exercise…well walking around the block for my part, which was crucial to try to eliminate the new cake recipes we tried…and there was a lot of cakes…. and that we had to eat, binging in front of Netflix of course, because we all know that throwing food away is not right…. all the way thinking OMG if I put any more weight on I won’t have enough job keeper money to buy new clothes when it is time to go back to work.
Besides the term “Silver Lining” I also discovered a new word…” Zoom” which for me before COVID was a Mazda car ad “zoom zoom”! Ha ha!
So, of course let’s embrace the new technology to stay connected to our teams. Mmmm! Few new expressions that came out during those virtual meetings:
- “you’re on mute”
- “Turn your Camera on”
- “You’re still on mute”,
- “We still can’t see you”
- “You’re frozen” (and I am not talking about the movie wink wink),
- “oh John has left the meeting”
- “Is John coming back, shall we wait for him?”.
Please bring back our face to face meetings!
GETTING READY FOR THE NEW SET TO ROLL IN
Nothing and no one could have prepared us for COVID and it’s impacts to society. However, we couldn’t just twiddle our thumbs and do nothing especially when we came to realise that the COVID was going to be here for quite some time and a new way of doing business was looming.
Then on Friday 08 May, the QLD Roadmap to easing COVID-19 restrictions came out which got us up and going by putting a timeline on getting back into business and re-ignite the passion and hope in all our teams.
Now we had something to look forward to and something to work towards. We had dates, timelines and projects and now was the time to come up with plan B’s (and possibly C’s. D’s, E’s etc…).
The beauty of our industry is we know all there is to know about having a backup plan and working with crazy deadlines.
So there you have it! We were back in our element, planning! Such a great feeling getting that adrenaline back. That buzz that we missed for what seems to be an eternity. We were having withdrawal symptoms and the thoughts that soon we would be able to have in person events again was so invigorating.
Because let’s face it…how many “zoom” meetings can one have? We are humans and for many of us, we are craving this personal face to face interactions.
05 May 2020 was such a milestone with the two first site inspections since stand down, (scheduled on that day) for some large conferences for 2021.
We could really see the new sets rolling in, so we had to be ready to deliver conferences and events in a different way.
So, we started working on our Business Events COVID safe plan.
- Drafting new floor plans for safe face to face meetings and events within the new social distancing regulations,
- New food delivery ideas,
- Identifying new conference areas
- Making sure everything was spick and span
- Team training
- Sanitization procedures for safe conferences and events delivery,
Whilst Covid is recognized as a temporary challenge we seized the opportunity to think outside the box to ensure we can continue to deliver fantastic and memorable events.
When that time came, we were ready!
LEARNING TO SURF THE NEW SETS
And then everything followed very quickly:
- Topgolf reopened on the 12 June.
- On the 16th June we hosted our first COVID safe conference at Sea World Resort and what a day that was. We were ready for it and very excited at the same time to be back in business! Many more events and conferences have followed since then.
- On the 26th June Sea World and Paradise Country re-opened
- On the 11th July we hosted our first COVID Safe night event at Movie World
- On the 15th July, Movie World, Wet,n,Wild and Australian Outback Spectacular re-opened.
This pandemic has re-enforced something we already knew and this is how amazingly lucky we are, at Village Roadshow Theme Parks, to still be able to host events, thanks to the sheer volume, size and variety of our properties.
Located on the beautiful and sunny Gold Coast, Village Roadshow Theme Parks portfolio of six unique properties famous for their exhilarating rides, exciting shows, beautiful animals, spectacular theming and featuring up to 64 event venues offers great scope and opportunity for creating the perfect event but also gives flexibility to adjusting to COVID regulations.
The sheer range of unique venues and attractions we have has given us the upper edge to offer larger style events and we’re able to assist clients whose venues they had booked had become too small with the new social distancing restrictions.
We are also able to diversify our use of venues, Movie World is a prime example of this as we are able to host school formals in the Star Pavilion for 500 sit down guests and parents are able to watch their children for their grand arrival comfortably seated in the Hollywood Stunt Show arena.
Similarly, Sea World Resort’s Conference Centre usually used primarily for large conferences has also seen it’s focus turn to holding smaller conferences and events due to it’s flexibility and large COVID capacity.
Australian Outback Spectacular, mostly used (primarily) as a dinner theatre venue, can be transformed into a conference venue for up to 370 guests.
And today, it is very encouraging to see the number of enquiries coming through asking us to hold events and we expect end of year Christmas party celebrations to go full steam ahead with a few changes to comply with a COVID Safe plan.
With conference and event enquiries rolling in, COVID safe plans for all our 64 venues and a dedicated and creative team of professionals we are very excited for the future and can’t wait for 2021.
Nothing lasts forever, and we believe that with a bit of patience, creativity and faith, events will be back bigger and better than ever before.
Written by Caroline Duveau-Clayton, Head of Conferences & Events, Village Roadshow Theme Parks.