The First Step to Reopening in 2021, Updates from the HAA

Reopening in 2021 and Plans from the HAA

We’re chatting with Spencer Terry. Spencer is the GM of Fear Factory in Salt Lake City, and was the first haunted attraction to reopen way back in May 2020. After reopening, Spencer shared his team’s reopening guidelines with the whole industry and helped many attractions navigate their own reopening. Today we’re discussing the upcoming season for 2021, and some of the common questions that Spencer’s receiving now about how to reopen. Spencer’s also going to give us an update on what the haunted attraction association is planning for the upcoming year.

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Updates from The Haunted Attraction Association

“We’re getting ready for our three-year strategic plan. We’re assessing not only internally, how are we as board members doing, but what can we do better. What do our members want? And then we’re also going to be polling the industry and there’s a huge survey that’s going to be coming out pretty soon. Then we’ll collect all that data, and we’re going to look at where we at now and where are we heading.”

Upcoming Events

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Image Credit: Transworld Halloween and Attractions Expo

There’s going to be a lot happening for Transworld that’s coming up in May. We’re also getting ready to launch another one of our seminars. We’ve been doing video seminars for members, and we have another video seminar that will be happening before Transworld.”

HAA & The PPP

We were part of five or six other groups, and we all collectively got together and  we went to a lobbying firm and said, listen, you’re in DC. You have access to the people that we don’t have access to. We’re hiring you because we want to make sure that our haunt businesses in Q3 and Q4 are going to be able to have resources for PPP money. That was it, plain and simple. We were one of the folks that helped to make that happen, and we’re really excited to see that businesses were able to reap that reward. Yeah, we’re really happy with that outcome.”

FearExpo Panel

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Image Credit: Fear Expo

I still have people, literally every week, messaging me saying, Hey, I may still have to deal with some COVID stuff, I don’t know how to navigate my State, I don’t know what I should do. I didn’t have to worry about it last year, but now I do. What do I do? And so I’ve been trying to get those resources out to people, but what I realized is that people literally need these resources, they needed them weeks ago, not even now. And so we made a decision to be able to help out. We know that with Transworld, getting pushed back to May, we needed to get this out to people right now.

So we agreed to be able to bring a whole bunch of people together to really talk about each of these different angles, what we’re doing, and how the industry can use all of our examples to be able to help build that.

What should we do now to prepare for the Halloween 2021 Season?

“I think you gotta start early, start now. That’s ultimately it. Start your planning, start getting things ready. You should be able to start looking at purchases. There’s a lot of vendors that are out there right now. That are either A hurting or B needing those sales, give them the love. Like you’re going to need that anyway, and you’re right now, you’re able to get some discounted merchandise, so you might as well do it. Get that now, start looking at your build, start looking at your teams. 

We’ve already got our front of house team and some of our back of house team, they’re already meeting. We just signed all of our leadership. We have almost 45 leadership that are on deck, and so we have them signing and getting ready. They’re now engaging their groups, and there’s zones, and their actors, and their staff. We already have construction happening in our zone.

So there’s a lot, and I think it being able to just take it and bite off piece by piece. Most everybody at this point, I think, knows how to run their attraction that’s best for them locally. And to just break that down to what do I need to do this month, and just do your best that you can. But I think the more you can get it done now, the better off you’re going to be. So who knows what other curve ball we’re going to get thrown at the end of the year, or the beginning of the Summer, and we want to be ready for it.”

Common concerns that haunters have about reopening for 2021?

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Image Credit: Fear Factory

“So one of the things that I’m hearing is that even though COVID is almost gone, whatever your definition of that is, most cities are still requiring them to have some kind of a plan that shows that they are taking precautions, they’re being proactive, and that they can guarantee health and public safety. So in that case, you really do need to start from the beginning.

Download our contingency plan for free. It’s a simple, easy template that you can at least say, all right, here’s what Fear Factory did. I need to use my local guide guidance and governance, and then build my own plan. And feel free to use that as needed. I think we are still probably going to still be in mask territory for some States, not all.

But in general, for all we know, haunted houses may integrate masks because we all benefited as well. Cause we didn’t have the hot plate going around our staff, wasn’t sick, we had higher productivity and better scares because of that. So I think some of those are going to be here to stay. But as far as what other folks can do, it really is about just getting your plan together now. If you’re not working with your health department yet, most health departments at this point, you can go to their website and they have a either they’re going to have a, like a large group gathering or they’re going to have some kind of permit or a form that you can fill out that you can just put that information out there and just say, Hey, heads up. I’m going to be operating this year, and here’s my form now, because I don’t want you to tell me I can’t do this August 1st. I need you to tell me I can or cannot do this May 1st. So, I think those are all things is to just to be ahead of the game.

Where do I begin if I’ve not done this before?

Image Credit: Fear Factory

“It depends on jurisdiction. I think in general, what I have seen in my experience, most people don’t know I used to run casinos and restaurants for a living and was a private consultant in that space. I found that if I didn’t, if I wasn’t proactive and if I didn’t involve the health department at some point, I was going to regret it. And granted that’s food safety, it’s a whole other beast. But in this case for public safety and public health, you’re in that same boat where you at least have to show, even if it’s a one page, it doesn’t have to be 60 pages like ours. One page that says, we’re going to guarantee that we’re going to abide by all COVID safety regulation. We’re going to distance our people. Maybe it’s more than six feet. Like here at the Factory. We actually did 12 and 16 feet apart from groups. Which is one of the things that are ultimately gave us favor with our health department. And, I think just being able to show that you’re being proactive is better than having to prove that you’re reactive.

So just get out there, and even if it’s a single pager, here’s what we want to do, here’s some ideas, here’s the PPE we’re going to be making sure that our staff are using. Yeah, just do your best. Let’s be honest, there’s some States that are still closed down right now and they’re not doing a damn thing. We have to look at our own market and just make a decision of what’s going to work for us and then move in that direction.”