For WildPlay Element Parks, headquartered on Vancouver Island, the decision to voluntarily close their five locations due to COVID-19 was not made lightly. However, temporarily closing each park and laying off over 270 team members across North America was ultimately the most responsible decision to protect their staff, guests and the communities in which they operate.
Prior to closure, WildPlay had already hired their seasonal staff and spent all of their marketing budget in preparation for the upcoming season. Despite these hurdles, WildPlay CEO Tom Benson’s greatest concern was his staff. “Not knowing how everyone would fare during this process, both financially and in respect to their health and wellness, has had a huge emotional impact,” Benson shares.
WildPlay registered for the Vancouver Island Coastal Tourism Resiliency Program on behalf of their Victoria and Nanaimo locations. Alexis Santacruz, Director of Parks, found that having a dedicated Program Advisor to help navigate the federal aid programs and a Program Expert in marketing available for consultation to be greatly beneficial.
“There has been so much information from many different sources and it is overwhelming to determine what is most accurate,” says Santacruz. “Knowing that someone is continually available to help us and support our efforts to get the word out about our business and region has been a big help.”
Benson explains that reopening the parks has been a challenge and required his staff to go above and beyond. Managing cash flow, sourcing PPE and ramping up operations with no marketing budget has not been an easy endeavour. However, WildPlay has been incredibly impressed with the leadership, adaptability and quality of work their team has demonstrated. “Our staff didn’t question closing the parks even when their jobs were in jeopardy,” Benson says. “When it came to re-opening, they rolled up their sleeves and figured out how to make it happen safely.”
At all WildPlay Element Parks, additional sanitization and cleaning procedures, social distancing and the use of masks for all staff are just a few of the new health and safety procedures that have been updated to align with Provincial health orders.
As tourism businesses are struggling to make up for lost revenue in 2020, WildPlay has also instituted a Reseller Program as a way for their partners to generate commissions while promoting another local business. By promoting WildPlay to their customers, partner businesses receive a 12 per cent commission on tours purchased through a unique referral link. Of course, WildPlay cross-promotes all their partners in return.
As an outdoor activity with increased safety measures in place, WildPlay is confident their experience is one that guests can feel comfortable choosing. “Play more, fear less” is one of the mottos for WildPlay Element Parks and Benson hopes that everyone can continue to get outside and connect with friends and family, all while having fun and staying safe. Which is exactly what WildPlay is all about.