Waterpark operators across Ontario are ready to open this summer.
Keith Simmonds, general manager of Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls and a member of the Waterparks of Ontario Coalition, explains that: “We have been working hard with the province to create safe re-opening plans and appreciate the efforts from the Ministry of Tourism to be our partner towards making sure we have a 2021 season.”
But Simmonds points out that: “We are at a critical point right now. Having been closed for more than a year, we will need three months to prepare for the summer weather — to get the equipment ready, recruit staff and ensure they are properly trained on the safe re-opening guidelines.”
Ontario was the only jurisdiction in Canada — and one of the few in North America — that kept water and theme parks closed last summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But experiences and data from 2020 overwhelmingly supports waterparks being able to open and operate safely.
According to statistics from the World Waterpark Association – Canadian Committee, in those areas where waterparks did open, there was no evidence of COVID-19 cases or transmission, assuring a safe re-opening in Ontario in 2021 is possible:
- There were no reports of COVID from any waterpark in Quebec.
- The waterpark in West Edmonton Mall opened safely and operated without a COVID incident.
- Great Wolf Resorts operates 18 indoor waterparks across North America; the Niagara Falls location is one of only four that was not allowed to open over the past year. But across the other 14, they welcomed nearly 390,000 guests in 2020 and the early part of 2021 without a single investigation from a public health unit regarding any potential COVID-19 outbreak.
- Eight of the 12 waterparks in North America operated by Premier Parks opened in 2020 (Wet’n’Wild Toronto was not one of them), and they hosted more than one million guests over the season. There were no COVID-19 outbreaks or investigations of suspected COVID-19 cases at any of the parks in that time.
Water and theme parks have a culture of safety that is intrinsically ingrained in every aspect of their operation and safety training for staff is extensive.
Further, the Canadian Lifesaving Societies reports there is no evidence of COVID-19 being spread through water, and various health studies and the United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention have found chlorine kills the COVID virus in a second.
Outdoor waterparks also have the advantage of the ultraviolet rays from the sun killing the virus, and indoor parks have massive air space with state-of-the-art circulation — some including ultraviolet equipment — that is a highly efficient fresh air system.
Simmonds explained that: “Waterparks have chlorinated pools, ultraviolet light from the sun and specialized equipment and fresh air to fight the spread of the virus, not to mention enforcing physical distancing and other safety measures to keep guests and staff safe. We have seen by experience that even in a pandemic, waterparks are a perfectly safe option for a fun family staycation.”
Allowing water and theme parks to open will also be a boost for the entire tourism sector, and Ontario’s economic recovery in general.
He points out that: “Water and theme parks are key players in Ontario’s tourism industry, providing thousands of jobs for young people and attracting visitors who also stay in local hotels and eat in local restaurants.”
And he adds: “As part of a ‘staycation’ strategy to help the tourism industry rebound and get families out and about, waterparks are an integral part of the Ontario Reopening Plan.”
The Waterparks of Ontario Coalition represents six waterparks and one theme park across the province.
It was formed to advocate for the safe re-opening of these attractions for the 2021 summer season. Its members include Bingemans Big Splash, Calypso Waterpark, East Park, Fallsview Indoor Waterpark, Great Wolf Lodge, Santa’s Village and Wet’n’Wild Toronto.