Staggering amount theme parks are losing every month

THE Gold Coast's iconic theme parks have not received a bean of a $1 billion State Government rescue package, promised two months ago, to help them survive the coronavirus.

The Bulletin has learned Village Roadshow, which owns Movie World and Sea World, and rival Ardent Leisure, which runs Dreamworld, are burning through up to $15 million and $10 million respectively each month, even after Federal Government subsidies are taken into account.

Their plight is becoming desperate and crucial talks with the Government this week is expected to determine their future.

In March, the State Government announced a $2.5 billion package to support jobs and businesses, of which about $1 billion was to go to large employers such as the theme parks.

Tourism Minister Kate Jones visited the Gold Coast this week. Picture: Tertius Pickard
Tourism Minister Kate Jones visited the Gold Coast this week. Picture: Tertius Pickard

Last month, the Government also announced a $50 million tourism package for theme and animal parks. It is understood half of that money had been promised to the park operators.

However, money from either package is yet to arrive.

Sources from Village and Ardent told the Bulletin the dire financial situation of the parks meant funding could not come soon enough. They contrasted the speedy delivery of Federal Government assistance, including JobKeeper, with the slow pace of the Queensland Government.

The theme parks are among the city's largest employers.

Ms Jones, who met with bleeding tourism operators yesterday afternoon, vowed to speed up the process.

"I want that money out the door as quickly as possible," she said.

Questioned on whether she would ensure Gold Coast theme parks were given the cash injection promised on May 19, she responded "absolutely".

An empty car park is seen at Warner Bros Movie World. AAP Image/Darren England)
An empty car park is seen at Warner Bros Movie World. AAP Image/Darren England)

Village CEO Clark Kirby said he was "frustrated" with the pace of government support.

"But we have been working tirelessly with government and in particularly with Kate Jones and we are very confident we will get to a good decision in the next week," he said.

"The key is we need certainty in terms of funding and timing with the theme parks reopening."

Mr Kirby praised Ms Jones as a "great advocate" for the theme parks on the Gold Coast.

A spokesman for Ms Jones said negotiations with the theme parks on funding were in their final stages.

"The Government continues to hold confidential discussions with a number of large and regionally significant businesses on potential support measures that would allow them to scale up when economic activity improves," he said.

People began avoiding the theme parks in the early days of the pandemic. SUPPLIED
People began avoiding the theme parks in the early days of the pandemic. SUPPLIED

The funding drama comes as pressure mounts on the State Government to consider allowing the Gold Coast's theme parks to reopen ahead of Stage 3 of the easing of coronavirus restrictions on July 10.

Ms Jones said Village Roadshow and Ardent Leisure had submitted COVID-safe plans to the Government, detailing how they would safely reopen. She said the plans were being assessed by Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young.

She said the two big players had worked "collaboratively" to come up with the "very detailed plans" and that she would be meeting with representatives from both companies for further discussions.

Village CEO Clark Kirby. Pic Mike Batterham
Village CEO Clark Kirby. Pic Mike Batterham

"They want to do it quickly but the road map says theme parks are clearly part of Stage 3."

Stage 3 allows for a maximum of 100 patrons, a move that has been criticised as unworkable for the theme parks, which usually take in thousands of customers.

Mr Kirby has previously drawn attention towards what he believes is the inconsistent treatment between theme parks, which can take in 100 from July, and shopping centres which can already take in thousands of customers.

Destination Gold Coast chair Paul Donovan said "we need the theme parks open".

"I'm a strong advocate for Queensland's borders to be reopened when safe and for the theme parks to come online as soon as possible," he said.

He said that the Gold Coast Convention Centre had also put forward a COVID-safe reopening plan to the Government and "we're waiting for those to be approved".

Ardent Leisure's Dreamworld and Village Roadshow's Gold Coast theme parks, Warner Bros Movie World, Sea World, Wet'n'Wild and Paradise Country, have been closed since March 23.

Originally published as Staggering amount theme parks are losing every month


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