Before COVID-19, few attractions actively managed capacity. The principal benefit to doing so is not just that they’re complying with regulations, but also that matching the number of visitors to the attraction’s ability to create the most enjoyable experience is good for business.
We take the simple efficiencies of the internet and the related online ticket prepayment options very much for granted, forgetting the administrative burden – pre-internet – of pre-booking and mailed or ‘collect on arrival’ paper tickets.
Within the last decade online pre-purchase became simple, which – taken together with time-slot access – made the control of booking rides and features very straightforward, with “tickets” being issued online and validated on-site via visitors’ smartphones.
So when the UK government introduced its frequently changing and stop-go COVID-19 regulations for the attractions sector, it was practical to adapt online systems to manage access by pre-booking.
However, I’m a committed cynic when it comes to the ‘infection risk-management by government regulation’ approach, except for in really high-risk places, such as public transport or potentially crowded, unventilated spaces.
At most attractions, it was ridiculous to believe or expect that the management and staff could safely regulate public behaviour.
For attractions, hospitality, sports and other leisure and cultural businesses, the more government has defined rules, regulations and guidance, the more loopholes have emerged, and the more clarifications have had to be issued.
The fact is that sensible people behave sensibly and cautiously to minimise infection risks and those who do not maintain social distancing or follow government rules and guidance cannot be policed to do so.
We see the evidence in streets, outside pubs and in football crowd. Who polices that behaviour? No one.
Governments should encourage individual responsibility, rather than setting industry-specific capacity limits
Within an attraction, in capacity-controlled internal spaces, how is any member of staff to know whether people standing “too close” together are in a family group or bubble or not?
There is only one thing that can control infection – it is not government rules, or attractions’ management of capacity, it is the responsibility of every individual to maintain social distancing.
Education around COVID-safe behaviour is where energy should have been directed by government, instead of the misplaced focus on regulations.
Their rules were ineffective in many respects, while seriously impacting attractions businesses.