New Covid curbs: Amusement parks see gloomy prospects, ask Maha to ease controls

Mumbai, Jan 11 (IANS): For the third time in less 23 months, the amusement parks industry again finds itself in doldrums with at least 4 states imposing total curbs and one state slapping weekend restrictions on people as the Covid-19 third wave sets in, top players said here on Tuesday.

Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi and Haryana states have imposed closure orders while Karnataka has clamped weekend curbs which have hit the amusement industry encompassing open-to-sky theme parks, water parks, adventure parks and a few indoor centres.

The Indian Association of Amusement Parks & Industries (IAAPI) Chairman Rajeev Jalnapurkar recalled how the amusement industry was the first to shut down when the pandemic lockdown was imposed in March 2020 and the last to reopen during the series of phased unlockdowns in the country.

"We were permitted to reopen on October 22, 2021 after the second wave last year and since then, it has been barely three months and we are being closed down again" rued Jalnapurkar, who is also Director of the famed Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad in Telangana.

He warned that this could prove to be a fatal blow for the entire industry as huge investments and manpower planning had been undertaken to restart parks that were closed for over a year.

Other officials here said that the Maharashtra government's move would particularly hurt as there are 37 amusement parks here, compared with 8 in West Bengal, 6 in Delhi and 5 in Haryana, totalling to some 56 venues in the four states which comprise major metros like Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata.

In the past 23 months, most parks have remained totally shut for an average of 16-17 months owing to the lockdown and other reasons, taking a huge toll on their financial health.

"IAAPI has requested the Maharashtra government to permit our industry also to operate on 50 per cent capacity, as allowed for other indoor venues like malls, cinemas, restaurants, gyms, saloons, etc, to ensure our survival and retain the employment opportunities," urged Jalnapurkar.

He pointed out that the entry to amusement parks is strictly regulated with highly-priced based on the rides, themes or other attractions, besides registrations to avoid crowds at the entry gates, unlike the other unregulated ones like tourist spots, zoos, museums, forts which are either free or have very low ticket rates.

Moreover, the IAAPI's 160-plus members have been stringently adhering to all the norms of the Centre and different states' health and tourism departments, and have prepared their own SOPs for the benefit of the industry members.

On an average, the amusement park industry directly employs over 80,000 persons and indirectly another 320,000, and for Maharashtra the figures are 13,000 and 52,000 respectively, and hence need governmental support in these critical times, said IAAPI.



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