Plopsa Group’s Steve Van den Kerkhof to Keynote GM and Owners’ Breakfast

Steve Van den Kerkhof, CEO of Plopsa Group, will be the featured speaker of the GM and Owners’ Breakfast Wednesday at 8:15 a.m. Van den Kerkhof has been involved with Plopsa since its founding in 1999 by Studio 100, one of the largest family entertainment media companies in the world. He was instrumental in applying Studio 100’s intellectual property to the company’s theme parks and attractions. In preparation for his keynote address, we catch up with him on Plopsa Group’s success and what we can expect from the company in the future.

When we last checked in with you in 2014, Plopsa Group was focusing on extending its global reach. In the last two years, how has Plopsa Group furthered its international offerings?
At the moment we have several concrete leads in over 20 countries worldwide. We have a lot of interest in our licensing program. However, we only want to go for projects where we can guarantee the quality of our own theme parks, which we constructed and exploit ourselves. We really go for fully themed zones and/or parks with our characters; it’s not only adding some stickers on some attractions or only putting up some statues. Children have to have the feeling they really enter the world of their favorite character. Today we have six Plopsa theme parks. In 2015, we opened Plopsaqua De Panne, our first water park and newest Plopsa park. Within three to five years we hope/aim to have about 10 Plopsa parks, whether in our own exploitation, or not, under license.

Your company gives a lot of credit to acquiring and using intellectual property (IP) strategically. What qualities would you say a company should look for in an IP that will make a good investment?
A good IP is qualitative and has families with children as the main target group. It is also very important to close deals that last between five and 10 years. With this kind of cooperation, it is possible to theme all the way, and it’s worth a bigger investment. Next to that, it is also important that the owner of the IP keeps on investing in it with (new) series on television, (new) merchandising, [etc.] You have to be able to offer families the complete image, the story they know from cinemas or television.

IP is still a hot topic in the industry. What do you see as the next big trend in attraction development?
Virtual reality is really hot in theme parks these days. You can give existing rides a complete new experience by turning it into a virtual reality ride. Next to that, if you combine this with your IP, it offers a next dimension to your visitors. Visitors really enter into the world of their favorite character.

What’s next for Plopsa Group?
We aim to welcome 2 million visitors in our parks in De Panne Belgium, and evolve more and more to an all-weather, multiday destination. We keep on investing in amongst others new rides and a Plopsa Hotel (aimed for 2018).

The GM and Owners’ Breakfast takes place Wednesday at 8:15 a.m. in the IAAPA Theater (Room N320). A separate ticket is required: $99 for IAAPA members; $135 for nonmembers. Purchase tickets at Registration.


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