Zoomarine, in Albufeira, opened on 10 June with a reduction to about one third of its capacity, from 9,000 to 3,000 visitors. Slide & Splash, in Lagoa reduced by half the total capacity of visitors. Aquashow in Quarteira and Aqualand in Alcantarilha (Silves), announced that the parks will only be opening in 2021.

For a better control of the public, the two businesses opted to preferably sell the tickets online with mandatory previous registration, that allows the park to know exactly how many visitors they will receive.

Usually, Zoomarine has a long queue with hundreds of people at the entrance, before the doors open, but last weekend there were less than 100 people waiting to be the first to enter the park.

“We reopened with expectations of 30 percent occupancy and unfortunately the goal was not reached. At this moment, we are reaching 10 percent of what we expected”, said Élio Vicente of Zoomarine to Lusa News Agency.

Translated into numbers, on average Zoomarine has been receiving 400 visitors per day, while last year the park was visited by “about 6,000 people in July, reaching 9,000 on some days in August”, said Élio Vicente.

For the maritime biologist, this year will be “terrible from a financial point of view” and “it would be worth it to stay closed”, but the “ethical, zoological and social obligation has to be honoured”, he defended.

The park opened for 2020 season in early March, but they chose to close a week later, before the Government measures under the scope of the Covid-19 pandemic prevention. The doors reopened on 10 June, when it was guaranteed that the rules implied by the health authorities were going to be complied.

“We reduced the capacity of the park to 30 percent and of the water park by 50 percent. At the stadiums we marked the places so that people can easily identify where they are allowed to sit. We increased the hygiene conditions and we marked the floor so people only walk on the right side. There were also one-way streets created ”, highlighted Natália Neves, operational director of the park.

The reopening has been happening by areas, “firstly, with the zoological area, 4D cinema and the aquarium”, after it “the aquatic areas” and, in the last week it was authorised to open the mechanical equipment, that may “initiate until the next weekend, and it will occur in a slow way”, added the official.

For Élio Vicente, it is important that the visitors can continue to feel the “special moments” in the park, but highlighted that this year “it is necessary to have a balance between security and knowing how fun does not put other people in danger”.

The shortage of visitors is easily noticed while walking through the park, it reflects the decrease of tourists in the Algarve, mainly the British ones, that account for half of the visitors to the park, and Élio Vicente recognised that this year they will continue to focus on the Portuguese public, “the main public this Summer”.

In Estômbar (Lagoa), Slide & Splash reopened the doors on 19 June but with the necessary adaptations to meet the new reality.

“We had to prepare the park for social distancing, respiratory etiquette and protection, especially of our staff, who in the coming months will be in contact with thousands of people”, affirmed the Slide & Splash director to Lusa News Agency.

Recognising that this will be a tough year, Paulo Santinha revealed that the goal of this season is not “earning money”, but to “manage to make the equipment work for our customers”, besides all the social aspect that will be applied to the “50 workers that were under a lay-off regime” or the “150 seasonal workers hired every year”.

The security measures can be seen right at the entrance, whether by social distancing signs on the floor, the alcohol gel dispensers or the mandatory use of masks in closed areas. The grass is also strategically divided to follow all the rules of social distancing.

In the lawn areas there are now squares to help social distancing and there is an “indication of the area’s capacity”, the park staff also guide the visitors “to the least occupied areas”.

Despite the restrictions in place, the director of the park, is optimistic and in July he hopes to reach 2,100 visitors. Bruno Santos