After one month, we interviewed exhibition director Eva-Maria Kriechbaum to know more details about this back to the new normal for in-person exhibitions.
DSE: Which were the main restrictions when you were allowed to reopen?
EMK: We are only allowed to welcome guests with a low epidemiological risk. They need to show a verification of their vaccination or recovery or an official current negative test for Covid-19 before taking part in a tour or other program. Guests need to register, so we have to keep the contact information of at least one person per booking for at least 4 weeks. If a guest does not have a verification, we have to test them or decline his/her entrance. Luckily, as a touristic institution we have received point-of-sale-tests free of charge. As soon as guests or employees enter the building, they need to wear an FFP2-mask and disinfect their hands. Of course, we still do a lot of cleaning, every item someone uses has to be disinfected afterwards.
Groups do not necessarily have to be smaller; it depends whether a group has booked together or not. School groups for example still participate in groups of 8 people but we do not mix up two different schools in one tour.
For dinner in the dark and breakfast tours we have to have one table per group (no mix-ups). Tables must be at least 1.5 meters away from each other and we are not allowed to have items on the table that guests could share. This means limited capacity for those programs.
We ask for reservation with particular emphasis because we have to avoid having too many people at the venue at once. Overall we are currently only allowed to book half of our full capacity.
DSE: How did visitors react when DiD Vienna re-opened?
EMK: Schools are really happy to be allowed to go on trips again after more than one year and enjoy a lot of quality time with all their classmates together. Some teachers want to have our hygiene- and safety concept beforehand. Private people are relieved that there is something to do for fun and purpose again. All those people who reject any restrictions simply do not book. Bookings are on really short notice at the moment, also for dinner tours, which is not common for us. And there is a lot of discussion about cancellation conditions before people book.
We have been very surprised that the first weekend was booked quite well. Now in June we live off the entrance fees from school classes, weekends are booked poorly because there are still no "parties" allowed. This means that not more than 10 people may meet privately indoors, so we only have rather small private groups. We hardly have any companies and there are no birthday parties. As soon as the schools got an okay to go on trips, we had all available slots booked within about a week without any marketing or sales actions. Dinner on the other hand took some time to get booked.
DSE: How did the visually impaired staff react when DiD Vienna re-opened?
EMK: We all have been very excited to get back to work. We had a meeting before the first day to understand how everybody is feeling and to explain what to be aware of. Of course, we had to get used to a daily routine again, but overall everybody was in a very good mood and motivated to start over.
DSE: What is different now one month after the reopening?
EMK: We do have a new routine (with all the testing and double-checking and cleaning) and got used to working again.
DSE. What are your expectations as manager for the next few weeks and months?
EMK. As usual we will not have our best booking months in July and August. It is hard to tell how the situation will be in autumn. We are somehow afraid of new restrictions and maybe another lockdown around September/October. New variants occur and we should be aware and cautious but at the moment all restrictions tend to be loosened. This was the same last year and we had to close in November. Nevertheless I am cautiously optimistic. I am pretty sure it will take a lot more time to be at the 2019-state (financially, booking-wise, and HR-wise). We will not overcome the economic damage within some months.
If you want to book a tour at DiD Vienna, please check their website here.