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Dans les coulisses de Plopsaland de Panne !


Hello, I’m Wim Wauters, Park Manager of Plopsaland de Panne. Half of my my time I’m also the manager on duty And that means taking care of all the practical issues during the day Making sure that we have enough staff making sure that everything is going according to plan. My name is Koen de Lepper, I am an Operation Supervisor at the operation department of Plopsaland de Panne. I’m working here now for almost two years and I started off in 2017 as an intern I’m coming from the Netherland I did my studies in the Netherlands for attractions and theme parks management At this moment, we are waiting for our last steward she’s doing KCO which stands for Kassa Controle Onthaal in Dutch, (Cashregister/Checking/Welcoming) guest services, guest relations… She’s already very busy, so we’re waiting for her and then we can start off with the briefing. (speaking Dutch) The briefing, we go through what’s expected for today so, what do we know, what is still unclear… We start with the opening hours, who’s the manager on duty, what’s the budget, what’s the visitor amount that we are expecting and so on… how many groups, what are special events today… So, we have the special Easter event, the egg hunting thing. and what time some attractions will open, because some open later. Those are things that we go over every morning. We also conclude which steward is on which side of the park. Then, we know who to contact if something is wrong, something we need to know, extra information or something… In fact, on the morning you never know what the day will bring If there is a collision between two cars in our parking site, you have to intervene Technical problem with an attraction, you have to intervene. It’s mostly about planning and making sure that the visitors have a wonderful day in every aspects of their visit. They are notifying our dispatch for who came in today. The dispatchers give them all the information they need for today : Here is your book, here are your keys, have a good day! That can be very brief, very short and then they go to their working station which can be an attraction, which can be the parking lot, which can be KCO as in guest register and guest services, or the event today. We start with the briefing together with the stewards and our dispatching Then we start our day and it always starts with a check round by the stewards and also by us, Operation Supervisors. We do some tests on rides and then we start. Now, we’re going to our dark ride, the only dark ride at this moment “Het Bos van Plop”, “La fôret de Plop » I ride the rides during my job, yeah. Child’s dream, I guess In this attraction, it’s mostly- Of course, safety is throughout everything we do, but this ride it’s more focusing on the ride experience So does every- Every puppet has its hat, is working properly, that it looks ok, that our emergency exits are free, that they are easily accessible So that’s basically this ride. We have several rides that we have to do before opening. A few of them can be done within the two hours of opening So before twelve o’clock in the afternoon And that’s all the same We do the dark ride, several rollercoasters The slides, because we need to test if it’s sliding properly and that can be very busy before opening, yeah. “Het Bos van Plop” is what we are that is Plopsaland. If you look at what visitors tell us about it it’s still a very, very popular attraction so I think one of these days it will get a big makeover Because the animatronics are now twenty years old, they need a lot of love. and a lot of maintenance But it would be a shame for me to let go of “Het Bos van Plop” That’s what we are, that is Plopsaland Now it’s confirmed in the daily sheet Which is a very important document for us because every downtime, we register that on the daily sheet so that we know at the end of the day how many downtimes we had. and we also confirm to Dispatching if it’s working or not if it’s still operational and if everything is ok. So now, I will call them on my radio to tell them that the test on rides is ok and it can be opened after training of our colleague. It’s a choice to be a small hard-working group. We will never over employ. Because you don’t need that many captains on the ship You need a captain and you need the soldiers and they have to work together very hard which has a financial implication on the result of the company allowing us to open new things. That’s true. We are a small hard-working group. (speaking Dutch) I go all the way to the wooden coaster now because that one is a very popular one and I want it to be open from start already Viktors Race, that we passed one minute ago is also a popular coaster but it’s as the end of the park So it will take more time for visitors to get there So if it’s opened a few minutes later, max five minutes later, it’s not a big deal for the visitor They won’t notice it. I have some sort of priority list. The dark ride is very busy in the morning The wooden coaster is very busy in the morning Anubis is very busy in the morning Those three need to be operational first. (speaking Dutch) It’s not just one training and then you’re good to go. Sometimes it looks like that but we have a lot of moments already before that they get the general rules, the general restrictions of the rides Of course, when it’s their very first day on the ride we take even more time for them And it really depends of the ride. You can tell for Heidi, it looks like a very complicated coaster but operating it is not very hard So it really depends on the ride. I feel lucky to ride the rides every day, yeah Yes, I guess it’s a child’s dream for every coaster enthusiasts that is in this world Of course, it is. But, in the end, after almost two years, it’s… Of course, it’s still a fun part of my job, But beside the fun, we are always aware of safety and ride comfort and the ride experience. So there is always, next to the fun, a serious aspect to it. The control ticketing is already open so visitors are coming in the park already but the rest of the park, except for the main square, is still closed It’s our daily prognosis to say to our staff members Ok, we have that many groups reservations. This is the daily weather forecast. This is the long term attendance on such kind of day. We will expect five, eight, ten thousand visitors… And it has become more and more difficult, the last two, three years to predict what today will bring I can see the visitor number in real time So I see that we have now more than thousand visitors already in one half hour. That’s good for business. We are budgeting our amount of visitors and we need to make sure that we reach that budget in order to have great results. So I can see that number which is the original budget. I can see that. When we see green figures we share a little Now it’s the start of the Easter weekend. So it’s Easter tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Which is a busy weekend. Very nice weather. Our park is located near the Belgian coast People are coming to the Belgian coast. We had a lot of traffic jams that past few days Not necesseraly for our park but for the coast as a whole There are a lot of tourists at the coast, at the Belgian coast, right now which was good but they were coming all at once. So that caused some queue lines at the entrance of the park. We tried to do our best to avoid queue lines and keep them as short as possible. Today, we were expecting ten to twelve thousand visitors and we have far less. We only have eight, nine. Whereas, on Thursday, we expected seven and a half and we had nearly fourteen thousand. There is no obvious reason: the weather is the same, it’s the holiday period, it’s even the week end Normally, the attendance today should be the same as last Thursday and it’s not the case. That’s one of the most difficult thing, because the actual prognosis also affects everything in operations. Like for instance, how many parkings do you open? How many staff will you put at the tiles? At the entrance? How many people will you put in restaurants? How many people will you put in shops? It is all depending on the predictions and the prognosis you made for the day. I think that to do this job, you really need to be flexible Since every day is a different day. You really need to be flexible towards your visitors To your employer, as well. Every day is a different day and sometimes the industry is very demanding. You have to love your job. You have to have an attitude of being comfortable with not knowing what will happen. For some people that might be difficult. For other people, like me, it’s the challenge that gives you the strength for going ahead and living with that uncertainty. But also, living with- Ok, what can we do next? What will be the next investment? How do we have to manage the park then? Oh, yeah, we can build a swimming pool What will that bring? How many people will we have to visit this swimming pool? How will we organise? Well, I would say to my boss, if he’s listening as well, that I start at nine and quit a working day after park closing. But normally i’ll be here starting at seven thirty, maybe eight o’clock in the morning already, to do some work prior to the briefing And since I’m in operations, I’m the last one leaving the park so when the last visitor is gone… I’m leaving as well. My favorite attraction here is… Personally, I think it’s Anubis. Yes, it’s Anubis. Experience is the addition, it’s the total sum of your mistakes I have a lot of experience, meaning I made a lot of mistakes Of course, over the years, we have to grow with our public. I think it will be time for a next big good coaster.

Stephen Childs

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