Since spring 2020, water parks and public pools have had to face up to opening and closure cycles as well as specific rules and regulations. To face this huge impact on their operations, pools have had to deploy boundless ingenuity and demonstrate their resilience. Complex management described by Calicéo wellness center and Origami public pool.
The objective? Reassure public pool users!
In addition to new obligatory sanitation rules (physical distancing, disinfection of buildings, availability of hand disinfectant, limit on the number of members of the public admitted…), the greatest challenge was to restore public confidence after the successive waves of the Covid-19 epidemic.
David Obozil, Manager of the Origami public pool in Rillieux-la-Pape (France), told us that “at the end of the first and third lockdowns, we ran advertising and promotional campaigns to reassure users and tell them that our public pool was open again. We had already adopted contact-free payment but we had to install Perspex panels at the reception desk, provide staff with masks and stick directional arrows on the floors. We shut down all the hair driers to stop people congregating in the zone and we have decided to continue this at this time. You have to stay alert and attentive because there is no way to anticipate the behavior of users. As soon as the public feels threatened – for example by the Delta variant - it can decide not to come to the pool!”
This is the same at the Calicéo wellness centers which were among the first to reopen after lockdowns. Marketing and Sales manager Martial Fritz told us how his company adapted to Covid. “We decided to adopt a coherent but somewhat expensive procedure so that our visitors found the wellbeing for which they come to see us. We went far beyond the stipulated rules for pools, for example by installing automated thermometers to take visitors’ temperatures at reception, communicating our charter of commitment to wellbeing and serenity and designating a person to contact in each center. We also published live detailed information on our Web site about the frequentation at all our centers so that customers could choose the best time to come.”
So public pools had to comply with anti-Covid measures which, overall, were understood and accepted by all, with very favorable feedback. Martial Fritz told us that “our customers feel safe despite the context which can be anxiety-provoking. We receive many favorable comments - more than usual, in fact. We remain prudent and we now have the experience gleaned over recent months so we know what to look for.”
The lack of users has put enormous pressure on the treasury of public pools
Opened, closed, opened with a limited number of users… It is difficult to sell admission tickets in these conditions. Although French public pools and water parks receive financial aids from the State, they were insufficient to cover the overheads due to Covid. How did public pool managers adapt to this financial challenge?
The Origami public pool shifted to maximum economy mode. “We emptied all the pools less than one meter deep which did not have structures threatened by closure, stopped water treatment except in the sports pool, stopped heating the water and reduced air conditioning to a minimum that ensured that the structure was not damaged by moisture.”
Over and above drastically reducing overheads, David Obozil took the time to analyze the situation. “We did not open immediately... We waited 15 or 20 days before making a decision so as to avoid opening our pool and then having to close it again after a week. Overall, these economies, the kind of corporate structure we had adopted combining our own capital and inputs from the city and the State including short-time working subsidies enabled us to limit the financial imbalance caused by the absence of income. We hope that users will renew their subscriptions in September.”
In the Calicéo wellness centers, the pools were not drained but were set in a dormant mode to reduce overheads. Martial Fritz concludes, “However, the introduction of our preventive measures required major investments. Thanks to our careful management and aid from the State, we got through these difficult times with as little damage as possible.”
Covid is still there and even progressing so it is impossible to know how soon public pools and water parks will be able to get back to work full-time nor how long the new sanitary rules will remain in force. What is sure though is that they do not lack commitment and imagination able to meet the challenge to reassure users and guarantee their safety!
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© Crédit photo : Goffkein / Adobe Stock