“We are crossing our fingers, for the time is tight,” said Sandra Nadeau, Calypso senior director for marketing and communications, during a May 22 phone interview.
Calypso Valcartier Group, the Québec-based company that owns both Calypso and another aquatic theme park in Québec, has approached both provincial governments with a proposal to allow its parks to open for the summer tourism season despite the current restrictions in both provinces against large gatherings of people.
The company argues that it can ensure the public health and safety of both park visitors and park staff through a combination of reduced numbers of people allowed in the park during day-to-day operations. “We are trying to show that we are able to apply the physical distancing,” said Nadeau, adding that the main point of the plan involves reducing to one third the day-to-day gate admission at the park.
“At 30 per cent daily occupancy,” Nadeau said, “the park will look like it is almost empty.”
The company’s plan also involves shutting down some of the water park attractions that would create a higher risk of COVID-19 contagion. That would include the wave machine and also some of the park “rivers” where the water flow may be too fast for people on tubes to avoid bumping into each other.
The plan also hinges on the fact that the chlorinated water in the pools and other park attractions should also act as a disinfectant, reducing the risk of COVID-19 contagion for visitors.
There would also be restrictions on the food concessions setup to prevent close contact. The plan also includes increased daily sanitization of park facilities and having all staff equipped with personal protection gear.
“People will have to do their part too,” said Nadeau, adding that family groups would stick together and avoid interaction with others, while individuals would be urged to maintain social distancing during their stays.
“We are confident that we can do it,” said Nadeau.
Sylvain Lauzon, Calypso Valcartier president, has presented the company’s proposal to both the Ontario and Québec provincial governments. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) has also received a copy of the proposal, which EOHU chief medical health officer Dr. Paul Roumeliotis described as “a very good document” during one of his daily regional teleconferences but noted that the provincial government would have to decide on it.
Time is urgent
Timing is critical if the Ontario provincial government decides to allow an exception to the pandemic restrictions against large gatherings so that the Limoges water park can open.
“Calypso is a seasonal project,” said Nadeau. “We need time to prepare.”
She noted that at least three or four weeks of advance preparation is needed before the park could open for the summer season. That involves washing down and sanitizing all of the pools and water park “rivers” and other features, repainting structures, and doing preseason maintenance on some of the equipment.
Cutting back daily attendance means a serious drop in the seasonal revenue for Calypso. But the water park could still make a profit even at just one third its usual visitor total if it can open now for the whole summer.
“If we have ‘Go’ now, it would be good,” said Nadeau, adding the park could be ready to receive its reduced visitor attendance the start of July. “Past July 5 to 10, we can’t open, so we need an answer very early.”
Nadeau noted that if the provincial government does not allow Calypso an early opening time, it will not mean the end of the 10-year-old public recreation attraction.
“We’re not going to disappear,” she said, adding that the company can manage with having its Limoges theme park closed for one season, though Calypso Valcartier may ask the provincial, federal and local governments for tax concessions or other types of aid to help it deal with the loss of revenue.