Following the Prime Minister’s 5th July announcement on the plans for the lifting of COVID restrictions on the 19th of July, indoor play centres in England are rejoicing at the prospect of once again hosting children’s birthday parties which have not been allowed since the start of the pandemic, and are flooding with bookings.
It’s not a moment too soon. “Birthday party revenue accounts for 40% of the income for an indoor play operator. Most Operators are small family owned businesses and there over 1000 of them across the United Kingdom,” says Janice Dunphy, chair of the Association of Indoor Play and owner of Web Adventure Creepy Crawlies in York. The lifting of the ban comes at a critical time for an industry that has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic and at a time when operators are now facing having to pay accrued VAT and rent and with furlough and business rate relief coming to an end.
“15% of the indoor play industry was wiped out by the pandemic and we expect a further 5% of businesses to change hands”, commented Maria Cantarella, Operations Director of the Association of Indoor Play and former indoor play centre owner.
“For an industry that is in the business of helping parents make happy memories for their children by hosting these parties it has been devastating to see the empty party rooms, deflated balloons, party bags sat gathering dust and costume characters hanging unused and unloved. A whole generation of young children have missed out on celebrating their birthdays with their friends for near on two years now, and some will have never had one. The excitement of the special day, running around playing with their friends, balloons streamers, photos, yummy party food feats and having their friends sing them happy birthday. And if they have had a cake the candles will have been blown out in the privacy of their family or a small group,” Maria added.
In the BC years (before Covid) each year over half a million birthday parties were hosted in indoor play centres in the United Kingdom. Parties of all different types ranging from laser tag to make a bear, with character visit helium balloons cakes and much much more. And over 1000 small businesses in the United Kingdom have suffered greatly as a result of the parties having been put on pause, not to mention the knock on effect on the suppliers of birthday party theming, laser tag, plush make a bears and pocket money toys.
The indoor play industry has been operating under strictest measures of any industry and the Association will be refreshing the guidelines for its Members to follow with regards to masking, track and trace, social distancing and cleaning. The industry as a whole has already implemented measures that will stay in place such as online booking and changes to food service.
The Association of Indoor Play (AIP) is the leading trade association for the indoor play sector in the United Kingdom. We are a not for profit organisation set up to be the voice of the Indoor Play Sector. The Association was formed in at the start of the COVID pandemic by a group of seasoned national indoor softplay providers with over 150 years of combined indoor play experience between them with the aim of creating a specific and targeted vehicle to represent the smaller operators in this specialised sector
AIP is a Member of UK Hospitality, with whom we act to advise on government legislation for indoor play, we are accredited with Visit England/Visit Britain “Go to Go” scheme and are Members of IAPPA - The Global Association for the Attractions Industry.
Association of Indoor Play
Office Tel. 0203 951 8640