A guide to securing leisure facilities in ‘the new normal’

COVID-19 is something few of us could have predicted even a year ago and yet it’s a virus that has, in just six short months, completely changed the playing field for many sectors.

While there are a thousand think-pieces on the death of hospitality, one industry that seems to have been almost completely forgotten about is the leisure sector, which was almost decimated by the national lockdown.

Swimming centres, sports stadiums, theme parks, gyms, cinemas, and concert venues have all been closed for months and many were only just starting to return to some semblance of normality before the second national lockdown kicked in at the beginning of November.

But if these venues are to stand any chance of surviving the new normal as and when they are allowed to open once again, they are going to really need to consider bulking up their security measures. Particularly in light of an increasingly vague and complicated tiered COVID system, which doesn’t look to be going anywhere this side of Christmas.

 

Lockdown protection

Whereas retail and other businesses have the luxury of being able to offer online alternatives, for most leisure providers those options are few and far between.

This means that, while a retail business can perhaps afford to get rid of its brick-and-mortar presence and pivot to an online model, the leisure sector is still required to keep premises’ on the books, even if they are lying empty. And empty locations still need to be secured.

In some cases, the lockdown has presented an ideal opportunity to make upgrades and repairs to security systems, but it has also exposed how well (or not so well – as the case may be) existing systems are working.

Now that we’re returning to relatively normal operations, however, there are new considerations to make that might not have been relevant in ‘the old world’.

 

Returning to a new normal

First and foremost, social distancing measures will need to be put in place to keep both employees and visitors safe. Security systems can and should be utilised to help these measures become commonplace.

Surveillance cameras, for example, can be used to monitor traffic flow and pinpoint any potential proximity issues and can also be used to monitor areas where members of the public are not allowed to tread for their own safety.

Thermal imaging cameras could also potentially be used to see whether or not people have a temperature and could be carrying the virus, though obviously, this would only work in situations where it wasn’t too busy.

Security systems are also ideal for measuring footfall and figuring out what are the busiest periods. Managers could then use this data to better plan events.

 

Automation and non-touch

Intelligent, automated AI systems seem like the perfect fit for the leisure sector, particularly in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Imagine, for example, automated systems that are able to distribute PPE to customers and rearrange perspex screens on the fly.

Or perhaps directional wayfinding systems that can be manipulated automatically depending on footfall? The potential is almost limitless.

Then there’s the potential for security services that don’t require the use of touch. Major improvements have been made in facial recognition and voice recognition access control panels, for example.

Non-touch door switches are also more affordable than ever before and security systems can be used to remotely monitor and grant access (or not grant access) to customers without them having to touch any active surfaces.

The leisure sector is just one of many sectors that need to evolve and adapt to this new normal and given the importance of the sector on our collective mental health and wellbeing.

It’s going to be up to our business leaders to ensure that the restricted operations are seen not as a barrier but as an opportunity to prove they can do better and do so right here and right now.