Following up a record breaking year is the welcomed challenge facing the largest outdoor facility & event organization in the world. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) recorded a record 38,161 registered attractions industry professionals – of which 24,720 were reportedly buyers – to its IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017, a 12 percent increase in buyer attendance over 2016.
The 2018 event celebrates the centennial of this global organization. Paul Noland, IAAPA president and CEO, said of the 2017 convention that its success was “a true testament to the continued growth and strength of attractions around the world. Achieving this record-breaking attendance as we kick off IAAPA’s 100th anniversary celebration is a remarkable milestone in our association’s history. We can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for our dynamic industry — the best is yet to come.”
The IAAPA Attractions Expo is considered the premier conference and trade show for the global attractions industry. Its 100th anniversary year theme is “Fun Forward. Build the Future,” and while the association is hesitant to forecast another record breaking year, their outlook rings of optimism. “IAAPA is looking forward to a strong year in Orlando,” said Susan Storey, Director of Communications, IAAPA. “We expect more than 35,000 global amusement park and attractions industry professionals from more than 100 countries to gather in Orlando to buy, learn, and network at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2018.”
The convention will be held Monday, Nov. 12, through Friday, Nov. 16 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. One of the highlights will be the keynote address by Bob Chapek, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Consumer Products. Chapek was named chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in 2015. Since that time, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has seen the largest investment and expansion in its 60-year history
“We are honored to have industry leader Bob Chapek deliver the keynote address for this year’s GM and Owners’ Breakfast,” said Hal McEvoy, interim president and CEO, IAAPA. “We look forward to hearing his insight and perspective on the continued growth and transformation of Disney parks, resorts, and experiences worldwide.”
IAAPA represents more than 5,600 attraction, supplier, and individual members from more than 100 countries. Members include professionals from amusement parks, theme parks, attractions, water parks, resorts, family entertainment centers, zoos, aquariums, science centers, museums, manufacturers, and suppliers. This audience gamut is precisely the reason companies such as Rides 4 U exhibit at the massive trade show.
“What this show does well is bringing everybody together,” said Len Soled, President. Rides 4 U. “Everyone is geared up for this show whether it is a an amusement park or carnival company or a private owner, it is really a great gathering of family entertainment shows of all kinds. You have five miles of every aspect of the business, you see some of the best new products and they have very informative conferences. The location is terrific too, the industry lends itself to Florida. People come from all over the world.”
The massive tradeshow floor featured at the event is one of the largest single exhibitions of rides and other outdoor amusement products and equipment of the year. Due to popular demand – and the fact last year’s event smashed attendance records – IAAPA celebrates its centennial with an annex floor supplementing the exiting exhibit space. “The trade show floor will feature more than 1,100 exhibitors, filling 560,000 net square feet of exhibit space,” said Storey. “For the first time in Expo history, the show floor will extend beyond the walls of the convention center into a custom-built, climate-controlled structure “Exploration Station” that will host 130 additional exhibitors, adjacent to the outdoor exhibit area.”
She added, “The global attractions industry is innovative and constantly developing new products and services to meet the evolving needs of millions of guests. IAAPA Attractions Expo is the place where manufacturers and suppliers debut their new products and services. We look forward to seeing what is next for the industry during Expo. “
Of particular interest in 2018 will be: “ new applications of technology – including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), enhanced mobile applications to provide reservations and food ordering, queue reservations and more are just a few enhancements and services exhibitors will offer on the tradeshow floor,” said Storey.
In addition, companies will be having official announcements of new products and services throughout the event with more than 35 press conferences scheduled. Storey: “IAAPA Attractions Expo is truly the place where news happens and where the global attractions industry shares what’s new and what’s next.”
Taking advantage of this high profile, media-saturated global event, Rides 4 U will feature their largest footprint at any trade show. According to Soled, the company will bring six newly manufactured attractions, such as the Look Out Ride – a brand new, high capacity machine with gondolas that accommodate up to 16 – “the ride has a nice action to it,” he said. “We have both the portable and the park model, and the new XXL, a spinning roller coaster – also in both park and portable versions. This new coaster will be showcased in the convention center and is believed to be one of the largest rides ever exhibited in the hall.
“It will be inside and very close to reaching the rafters,” he said. “This piece has a lot of pizazz, and also has a 36-inch height restriction. Most spectacular rides like this have 42-48-inch restrictions, which limits ridership. The XXL continues the success we’ve had with our spinning coasters.”
Other rides attendees will be on the look for under the Rides 4 U auspices include a trailer-mounted Mini-Break Dance, Frog Hopper, a Pirate Ship Air Show and a Drop & Twist Tower.
“It is one of our largest trade shows,” he said. “It keeps growing.”
Is the industry in general and potential buyers feeling bullish or bearish this year? “They are enthusiastic. A lot of amusement parks, like fairs, took a hit with the weather this year. Some of the numbers may be off, they’re not an indoor business. But there is enough business and a lot of money to be made.”
Storey insists the industry is very upbeat as the gear up to gather and celebrate their association’s 100th anniversary. “The global attractions industry continues to grow around the world,” she said. The Asia-Pacific region, particularly in China, is seeing the fastes-growing movement. The industry is innovative and focused on understanding the marketplace today as well as looking ahead to plan not only for continued growth, but also slower times..’
North America Slows
“An improvement in the economy, with such downturns in unemployment and upswings in spending, also bodes well for the turnout and business activity at the convention. “A strong economy is good for everyone,” said Storey. It allows companies to reinvest in themselves, to add new attractions, to hire new employees and more. Guests may also have additional incremental dollars to use for leisure activities such as visiting their favorite theme park.”
IAAPA issued its Global Theme and Amusement Park Outlook 2017-2021, a study of the industry based on its most recent statistical study year, 2016. The report did find growth in the North American sector in the industry, although that growth decelerated by half. “The North American theme and amusement park market rose 4.9 percent in 2016, down from the 7.7 percent increase in 2015. Attendance rose 2.3 percent, which was above the five-year average growth of 2.1 percent compounded annually but down from the 4.4 percent increase in 2015.”
These slowing numbers however reveal only a partial picture of the state-of-the-industry. “It is important to keep in mind the North American amusement park industry is mature,” said Storey. “While we see fewer new amusement parks and theme parks opening around North America, we continue to see parks invest in themselves with the addition of new lands, new rides and attractions and other enhancements to increase incremental spending and length of stay. The Outlook Report only reflects amusement parks and theme parks and does not include attractions and family entertainment centers. This segment of the attractions industry continues to grow throughout the country.”
The educational component of the convention is a crucial reason for many attendees. “IAAPA Attractions Expo offers more than 100 educational sessions throughout the week on important industry topics including Human Resources, Marketing, Food and Beverage and Revenue,” she said. “These sessions are designed to provide insight, best practices and real-world examples to help address issues facing the global attractions industry.”
At 100, the IAAPA convention reveals an industry at the forefront of popular culture. In this era when entertainment is as accessible as your cell phone, amusement parks and other facilities remain popular because of their ability to bring people together. “Guests around the world will always look for ways to be entertained and to spend time together,” said Storey. “Demands for time and competition for how and where to spend their leisure dollars will always challenge and motivate the attractions industry to find new ways to understand their guest needs, cut through the clutter and visit their facilities.”
She added, “For 100 years, IAAPA has been serving the attractions industry. We look ahead to serving the industry for another 100 years.”
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