2017 IAAPA Attractions Expo Recap

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Expo Smashes Attendance Records!

As IAAPA looks to the future, nearly 40,000 gather in Orlando for an event that will never be forgotten

Story by Jeremy Schoolfield

Photos by Robert Benson, Patrick Buckley, Steven Miller, Nelson Rodriguez

IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017 kicked off the association’s centennial celebration in spectacular fashion. From Nov. 13-17, the world’s largest attractions industry event drew record crowds to Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center, with attendees packing the trade show floor, seminar rooms, receptions, shuttle buses, and just about anything having to do with IAAPA during the week.

Founded in 1918, IAAPA is planning to “Celebrate the Past. Build the Future” in 2018. At this year’s Expo, the organization revealed a commemorative “100 Years” logo and held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the association’s forthcoming new headquarters in Orlando. IAAPA has strong wind in its sails for this celebration following Expo, which drew 39,000 attendees, including 25,300 buyers—both all-time highs. 

“The success of this year’s show is a true testament to the continued growth and strength of attractions around the world,” said Paul Noland, IAAPA president and CEO. “Achieving this record-breaking attendance as we kick off IAAPA’s 100th anniversary celebration is a remarkable milestone in our association’s history. We thank all of our attendees, exhibitors, members, and sponsors for their support. We can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for our dynamic industry—the best is yet to come.”

The trade show floor covered 576,235 net square feet of exhibit space highlighting products and services from 1,114 companies. 

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To celebrate the construction of a new IAAPA headquarters in Orlando, IAAPA officers took part in a ceremonial groundbreaking during the Kickoff Event.

“This show continues to amaze—every year it seems to get bigger and better,” said 2017 IAAPA Chairman of the Board Greg Hale, chief safety officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “I think this year topped them all. I saw more new things this year than I recall ever seeing at a show.”

More than 260 media outlets registered to cover the Expo, flocking in droves to a record 37 press conferences held throughout the week announcing new products and services. 

“The show was very successful, and we got a lot of attention in the press,” said Maximilian Roeser of Mack Rides, which unveiled a new coaster train car going into Silver Dollar City in 2018. 

The weeklong conference program drew 13,523 participants to seminars covering all manner of critical and timely topics relevant to attraction operators around the world. 

“The diversity of the education presentations—you can’t see that anywhere else,” said David Rosenberg of Monterey Bay Aquarium, who will become IAAPA Chairman of the Board in 2019. “It inspires new ideas and helps you stay ahead of the curve.” 

Networking events provided ample opportunities for attendees to meet new people and strengthen prior business partnerships. The Expo’s Opening Reception drew more than 1,250 people, while a Thursday-night event at Disney’s Animal Kingdom sold out at 3,000 attendees. 

The Expo provided multiple ways for industry members to donate to Give Kids The World (GKTW), the nearby resort that provides wish-fulfilling vacations to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Attendees raised $123,000 in total across several events, while also donating products to the GKTW Village at Expo’s end. 

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Miss America 2018 Cara Mund made an appearance on the trade show floor to sign autographs for attendees.

The event even drew the attention of celebrities. Pro wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan, casino mogul Steve Wynn, and former NSYNC member Joey Fatone all spent time on the Expo floor, while Miss America 2018 Cara Mund signed autographs in the Apple Industries booth. 

“I had a group of staff members here this year, and we were all impressed with the volume, the quality, the seminars, the events … we’ve just loved every minute,” said 2018 IAAPA Chairman of the Board Andreas Andersen of Liseberg. “As an industry, we are in really good shape.”

In this extensive IAAPA Attractions Expo 2017 recap, Funworld brings you highlights of an exhilarating week, from new products to new insights to new award winners and much, much more.

By the Numbers

576,235 net square feet of exhibit space

$123,000 raised for Give Kids The World

39,000 total attendees

13,523 participants in education events

3,000 attendees of an evening event at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

2,000+ people in attendance for the Expo’s Kickoff Event

1,252 attendees for the Opening Reception

1,114 exhibiting companies on the trade show floor

260+ media outlets registered to cover the Expo

37 press conferences held on the trade show floor

Hulk Hogan in attendance