Show review

IAAPA Attractions Expo

The epicentre of the attractions industry welcomed more than 40,000 of its members in November, with delegates from over 100 countries gathered in Orlando for the annual IAAPA Expo. Attractions Management was on-hand to see what was on offer.

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Emphasising diversity and highlighting the more than one billion people the industry serves each year, the IAAPA Expo started off in earnest with its Kickoff Event – a celebration of the attractions industry and the people that work in it.

Jonathan Lee Iverson – the last ringmaster the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus – played host, introducing IAAPA’s president and CEO Hal McEvoy.

“You create memories, you create magic, you stimulate economies, and you provide jobs,” said McEvoy addressing the audience. “We’re lucky to work in a field that is all about making people happy and creating opportunities.”

The Kickoff also saw Amanda Thompson officially take up her role as IAAPA chair for 2020, replacing the outgoing David Rosenberg of Monterey Bay Aquarium.

“I’ve got lots of plans for the year,” she said. “I’m going to make a difference, and try and listen to as many people as I possibly can. We have a great future.”

Living legends
During the Kickoff, IAAPA added two legendary members of the attractions industry to its prestigious hall of fame.

The first was Frederick Langford, the father of the modern-day waterslide. Before 1978, a waterslide was a concrete chute embedded into a hillside, which had to follow the path of the hill it had been dug into. In 1978, Langford introduced a fibreglass alternative, meaning these flumes could be lifted off the ground and onto wooden supports. Langford’s firm, Surf Coaster Corporation, would go on to design and build water slides in more than 50 parks around the world.

“I’ve had a normal share of accomplishments,” said Langford. “But nothing compares with this honour.”

The second Hall of Fame inductee is famous around the world for his rides and theme park attractions. When he took over the Zamperla Company in 1994, Alberto Zamperla helped his family business grow from manufacturing 50 rides annually to more than 200. Alberto has also worked to support the global attractions industry, serving as the founder and first chair of the European Suppliers Association (EAASI), which later became the Euro Attractions Show, last year rebranded as IAAPA Expo Europe.

“I’m honoured to receive this award in the presence of so many leaders and colleagues,” said Zamperla. “I’m also happy to join past recipients, for who I have a deep admiration and respect.”

Honouring service
The opening ceremony also recognised Hank Salemi, park president at Six Flags Great America, with the Special Service Award. For more than five years, Salemi has served on the IAAPA board as its treasurer and chair of the Compensation Committee. The Service Award recognises his commitment and exemplary service to IAAPA, where he was critical in guiding major projects for the organisation, including the relocation of its headquarters to Orlando and the selection of Hal McEvoy as its new president and CEO.

A host of education sessions took place through the week. Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy presented the keynote speech. Duffy shared how the cruise and attractions industries go hand-in-hand, both sectors encapsulated within the “experience industry”.

“More than ever today, people value experiences over things,” she said. “And we’re seeing this even more so with millennials, Generation X and Gen Z.”

Three industry experts were on-hand to share decades of experience during the ever-popular CEO Speaks panel.

Margo Manning, COO of Dave & Buster’s, thought people should take things slower, saying “if you throw a bunch out there and just hope that it works, it puts a strain on your team and leads to inconsistency in terms of the guest experience”.

Ryan Stana, founder and CEO of RWS Entertainment Group said that having a strong vision was the key, allowing employees to move on with their own projects under a guiding principle. “If you feel uncomfortable with that, do specific check-ins,” he said. “Maybe I’ll be there to guide them, or maybe they will be doing so amazing, I’ll tell them to keep going.”

Michael Browning, CEO of Urban Air Adventure Parks, had the final say: “Cared for employees care for your guests,” he said. “Yoga classes and a ping pong table are not caring – those are perks. They’re going to see through that. Understand what makes them tick and show you care.”

Bob Roger’s Legends Panel (see p58), saw Disney Imagineers Scott Trowbridge, Margaret Kerrison, Chris Beatty and Anisha Deshmane speak about the creation of Galaxy’s Edge, revealing how they created a new type of storytelling never-before-seen in theme parks.

Show floor
The largest show floor in IAAPA’s history – much of which spilled out into the car park under temporary housing thanks to its size – this year’s event featured 1,146 exhibiting companies, with more than 585,000sq ft (54,300sq m) of indoor and outdoor exhibition space. 42,600 attendees – 27,800 of them qualified buyers – came together during the week.

NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal was the big surprise for the show, with Shaq assisting in the reveal of Bolt, Maurer Rides’ new sea coaster. Set to debut in 2020 on Carnival’s Mardi Gras ship, the ride will offer 700ft (213m) of twists and turns in a vehicle that can reach speeds of up to 40mph. The electric car accelerates faster than a Porsche 9/11, with speed manually dictated by the rider.

Ahead of the launch of Legoland New York on 4 July 2020, Holovis, ETF and Merlin unveiled the all-new Lego Factory Ride. Using a combination of technologies, the dark ride will turn guests into Lego mini-figures using on-ride HoloTrac technology.

“We’re going to be analysing guest’s hair colours, looking at their hairstyles, deciding whether they have glasses on and the colour of their clothes,” said Holovis CEO Stuart Hetherington. “Then in real-time, they’re going to be transformed into a life-size Lego figure in a seamless experience done as guests pass through the ride.”

Knott’s Berry Farm celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020. As part of this celebration, representatives of the historic theme park unveiled plans by Triotech to revive its iconic Bear-y Tales ride, which ran from 1975 to 1986.

A modern rethinking of the attraction, Bear-y Tales: Return to the fair, is Triotech’s “largest-ever project”, according to its founder, president and CEO, Ernest Yale, “We will be taken through reimagined scenes reminiscent of the original ride,” said Yale. “The goal for us is to capture the spirit, creativity and originality of Knott’s Bear-y Tales.”

IAAPA returns to the Orange County Convention Center from 17-20 November. For more information, visit

A 5K run takes place each year

Celebrating 25 years of partnership, IAAPA Expo attendees raised US$155,000 for Give Kids The World (GKTW) Village through corporate donations and an annual series of events, including a golf tournament, motorcycle ride, fun run and walk. Since first partnering with GKTW, IAAPA has raised more than US$1m, helping make magical memories for children with critical illnesses and their families.


“Our members are focused on important issues such as safety and sustainability and they look to IAAPA to guide the conversation and take positive action.

“We also continue to see more Young Professionals attend the Expo, as members send their up-and-coming leaders to attend the education sessions and learn from industry leaders.

“This year’s event had record attendance, many sold out events, and positive feedback from our attendees and exhibitors. The IAAPA team coordinated one of the strongest Expos we have ever hosted.”

Hal McEvoy has led IAAPA as president and CEO since October 2018

“Due to the huge numbers that the Expo attracts we are expanding the size of the event for 2020. IAAPA Expo 2020 will be in the South and West halls of the Orange Country Convention Center for the first time. This allows us to have more educations session rooms, more special event space and allow for more exhibitors on the tradeshow floor.

“I loved seeing all of the new innovative ideas in the exploration station and I would like to see even more exciting innovations to take us into the 2020s.”

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