Audubon Aquarium Set to Reopen Tomorrow
Even with the aquarium joining the zoo in opening, Audubon anticipates an 80% loss in visitors this year.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, one of New Orleans’ top tourist attractions, will reopen tomorrow, July 16, for the first time in four months. The COVID-19 closure of the aquarium and Audubon Institute’s other facilities from March to June caused an estimated loss of revenue of approximately $21 million.
“We are thrilled to welcome families back to Audubon Aquarium of the Americas,” said Rebecca Dietz, executive vice president of public affairs and general counsel of Audubon Nature Institute. “During this unprecedented time, more than ever, families crave activities that uplift, inspire and cultivate positive experiences. We at Audubon Aquarium hope to spark action through these created experiences during your visit and encourage you to impact the natural world for the better.”
Audubon worked with local and state health officials to plan the reopening of the aquarium. It implemented new guidelines that include requiring advance reservations for timed entry and requiring guests to wear masks. Dietz said although they are allowed to have up to 50% capacity under Phase 2 rules, they are only admitting 25% capacity, approximately 1,300 guests a day. Additionally, guests who arrive without a mask will be provided one.
“Along with setting strict attendance limits, additional safety initiatives include stringent cleaning protocols, physical distancing signage, and requiring staff wear appropriate PPE,” said Audubon executive vice president and COO Kyle Burks in a statement. “In accordance with city health guidelines, masks will also be required for all guests visiting our indoor facilities, such as the aquarium. Although the city is not requiring face coverings for outdoor recreation if social distancing is maintained, we strongly encourage guests to wear a mask while visiting Audubon Zoo as well.”
The zoo reopened June 6 with limited capacity and new safety guidelines. According to Dietz, it is averaging 2,000 daily guests. There is no date planned for the reopening of the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.
Prior to the coronavirus closure, Audubon Nature Institute had 834 full-time, part-time and on-call employees. During the shutdown, 555 employees were laid off or furloughed. Dietz said a limited number of staff have been rehired with the reopening of the zoo and aquarium.
According to Audubon Institute, it welcomes 750,000 visitors over the summer and is estimating a nearly 80% decrease this year due to COVID-19 closures, limited capacity, cancelling groups and field trips, and decreased tourism visitation. It also had to cancel fee-based summer camps and private events, as well as its major annual fundraisers including Hancock Whitney Zoo-To-Do and Scales and Ales.
Audubon Institute is ineligible for forgivable COVID-19 relief packages because of its pre-COVID number of employees and annual revenue.
“We are an organization built on hope and our ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds,” said Audubon president and CEO Ron Forman in a statement. “Over the years, the Audubon Institute has made historic comebacks, resurrecting a neglected zoo to a world-class facility and rebuilding from the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. Our response to this challenge will be no exception. Together, we will get through this and come out the other side stronger than ever.”
Guests can reserve their tickets to the aquarium or zoo, which also requires advance tickets, online. Guests without internet access can also reserve tickets on the phone by calling 800-774-7394.