Excitement as Butlin’s gets ready to reopen in Bognor Regis - Here’s how guests will be made safe
“It’s challenging times but as a team we wanted to step up to ensure we didn’t disappoint people wanting their summer holiday.”
Those were the words of Butlin’s Bognor Regis resort director Jeremy Pardey as the family holiday park gets set to reopen next Friday (July 24).
All three of its Butlin’s resorts, in Bognor, Minehead and Skegness, have been closed since March 20 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, following the continued relaxation of restrictions on the hospitality industry, the holiday resort is now in a position to welcome back up to 2,500 guests, down from its usual capacity of 7,000.
“It was all about how we could reopen, working alongside government guidelines which change on an ongoing basis,” Mr Pardey said.
“The first priority was ensuring the safety of everyone, the guests and our team.
“We got to the point about a week ago where we felt we knew what our proposition should be. We know exactly what we can do with the limitations of working.
“We’ve come up with a package which we believe will still deliver a great experience but it’s not what we have always delivered.
“It’s safe and secure. We’ve invested heavily into it.
“We are at the point of setting up, it’s not finished, but it will be ready for next Friday.”
Mr Pardey said the company has had to invest in a ‘different way’, with more hand sanitisers, an amphitheatre and a bigger circus tent.
The indoor theatre, which normally holds up to 2,500 people, will remain open but the volume of people allowed in will be reduced to 350.
All the tables are set up for families and small groups to watch a show ‘while feeling socially distanced’.
The open-air theatre, which has been ‘turned around in ten days’, will have room for 800 people to sit out to watch a show in their own space.
Comparing the new venue to Glastonbury, Mr Pardey said: “We will have everything from Rak-Su to Diversity to the Teletubbies on this stage.
“We will be running shows from 10am to 9pm. You will have dance shows, live music or character shows.”
On the increased circus space, he continued: “We always have a circus here during the summer. We’ve had to get a much bigger circus but we are running the same shows.
“We’ve hired a bigger tent and added that to the offer. It’s one of the first circuses which is going to be operated in the UK.
“It’s the first time circuses will operate again in the UK as part of a government trial for the UK circus community.”
Butlin’s has also developed a new app, whereby customers can book activities, shows and a table at a restaurant all from their phone.
Mr Pardey said: “It’s different but also quite exciting because we have engaged with new technology.
“You won’t have to arrive and join a queue. You will arrive with a guaranteed spot to sit, whilst also being socially distant. It takes a lot of the social distancing problems away.
“The customer service desk will be closed. Instead of going to a small area if you have a problem or need to book something, it is all done through the app or ring somebody and there will be a live chat.
“It’s resolving guests’ problems in a different way and it will make guests feel safer.
“We’ve got hundreds of hand sanitisers. The key is always no contact.”
In May 2019, Butlin’s officially opened its new £40 million swimming pool complex Splash at its Bognor resort.
The swimming pool would usually have 4,000 people in it but ‘this will be reduced to 350’, when the park reopens.
“We have worked with a number of authorities and specialists, including Swim England, to get it right,” Mr Pardey explained.
“We have worked with the health and safety team at Arun District Council.”
The resort director said he is ‘absolutely’ expecting a high demand with many people not travelling abroad this year due to the pandemic.
He said: “We have had more guests booked in than we could afford so we have had to tell some guests they can’t come because we won’t want to put them at risk.
“We’re at the hands of the government and we will react accordingly.
“We have protocols in place and do the right thing for our guests and local community. We don’t anticipate any problems.
“We are not operating at anyway near the volume of guests but we are putting exactly the same shows on. We are still delivering the Butlin’s experience.”
Mr Pardey revealed that 600 of the 1,300 staff members have returned to work but have all had to be retrained.
“I was obviously very concerned about my business but one of my biggest concerns was my team,” he said.
“I had a strong team who have worked at this resort for a long time and really built it up to be the business it is today.
“My key aim was to open up for our guests and for our team to be back at work.
“We’ve had to train them, over the last ten days, in a different way to work because there is so much involved.
“We are hoping all those people will be back at work at the beginning of next year. We are bringing them back slowly because we expect to build the numbers slowly.
“Hopefully, by the new year, we will be back doing what we were doing as long as we all, as individuals, do the right things.
“We have to take responsibility for our own behaviour and that’s what I will be asking my team and guests to do.
“We won’t make as much money but it’s not all about that.
“It’s about investing in the future to make sure we come out of this pandemic in the best place as we can.”
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