Euro Attractions Show 2018 Recap - November 2018


Euro Attractions Show 2018 Breaks Records in Amsterdam

More than 15,000 attractions industry professionals gather for a week full of inspiration, connections, and celebrations 

by Juliana Gilling
Photography by Kris Van de Sande

IAAPA’s Euro Attractions Show (EAS) 2018 in Amsterdam proved to be the best one yet (Sept. 23-27). Returning to the Dutch capital for the first time in four years, the event set records for attendance (15,800 registered attendees—a 24 percent increase from EAS 2017), exhibitor numbers (570 exhibiting companies), and space, with a 15,000-square-meter trade show floor spanning six halls at the RAI Amsterdam. 

“When the show opens in the mornings, we have been flooded with people,” said exhibitor Michela Favero, sales manager at EOS Rides.


EAS 2018 attendees connected with representatives from exhibiting companies on the trade show floor to discover the next big thing for their attractions.

A Meeting of Minds

“EAS’ success is a synonym for the development of the attractions industry in the EMEA region,” said Jakob Wahl, vice president of IAAPA Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). “If you look at the level of investment, from the bigger firms to family companies, it’s such a dynamic market.” 

The industry’s economic impact in Europe amounts to 20.2 billion euros and half a billion visits a year, according to IAAPA President and CEO Hal McEvoy.

Mona Keijzer, Dutch state secretary of economic affairs and climate policy, called EAS the “ultimate show and tell.” The opening showreel at EAS 2018 recapped launches including Energylandia’s “Hyperion” mega coaster, Liseberg’s “Valkyria” dive coaster, Majaland Kownaty, Mirabeach at Mirabilandia, and Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi. 

Still riding high after opening “ICON” this season, IAAPA Second Vice Chair Amanda Thompson OBE, managing director at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, said the networking opportunities at EAS were “invaluable.”

“It’s an amazing event to make friends, discover new ideas, understand the issues affecting us, and learn from each other,” she said. “It’s exciting to welcome new faces and young professionals into the industry. EAS shows that we share and we care.”

Wahl is reinforcing IAAPA EMEA’s mission as the meeting place for members by staging more regional events. After its popular Spring and Winter Forums, IAAPA EMEA’s first Christmas Forum at Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Dec. 19, 2018, promises to be a truly festive experience. “We want to bring more IAAPA to more people,” said Doug Stagner, chief operating officer and executive vice president of worldwide operations at IAAPA. 

“In IAAPA’s 100th year, EAS is adding to the birthday celebrations,” said Wahl. Members and guests partied in style in Amsterdam, enjoying a multitiered carousel cake at the Opening Reception at Strandzuid city beach. 


The EAS 2018 Opening Ceremony featured presentations by IAAPA leadership and Efteling performers.

Adding New Chapters to Fairytales

“This is it; this is the life. Fairytales all around you,” sang Efteling’s Lichtpuntjes singing group in the EAS 2018 Opening Ceremony, and there were dreams in evidence across the trade show.

Efteling Park Director and EAS 2018 Leadership Breakfast speaker Coen Bertens shared the park’s fairytale journey. Since opening in 1952, the Netherlands theme park has cherished its beloved attractions such as the Fairytale Forest, ensuring they remain true to guests’ memories.

Efteling has evolved into a fully themed family resort, open year-round. The Bosrijk (2009) and Loonsche Land (2017) holiday villages—along with new attractions—have added capacity, extended dwell time, and increased spend and attendances. Bertens revealed at EAS 2018 that the government had approved Efteling’s next expansion. 

Efteling must “stay focused on the guest experience,” which “starts months before a visit,” he said. Bertens highlighted the importance of Efteling’s online channels, which have racked up almost 65 million views. “We show how we build our attractions,” he said, citing the success of “The Making of Symbolica” videos on YouTube.

Bertens’ goals include immersive experiences (across restaurants, retail, and attractions), sustainability, and involving employees in decisions. Staff can bring ideas to a “Dragon’s Den”-style Innovation Lab, for example. One idea resulted in the “Droomvlucht” (“Dreamflight”) virtual reality (VR) solution, which allows guests with disabilities to experience the attraction virtually while communicating with their families inside the ride: “Guests have tears in their eyes,” he said, calling the investment “worthwhile.”

Bertens’ motto is: “You can only take excellent care of your guests if you take excellent care of your colleagues.” 


Lunch and Learn events at EAS 2018 discussed attractions industry trends and human resources topics

Bubbling Over with Ideas

Busy professionals often work in their own bubbles: “EAS connects those bubbles, bringing the whole attractions family together,” said 2018 IAAPA Chairman of the Board Andreas Andersen, who is CEO and president of Liseberg.

At networking events, established executives, operators, and exhibitors mingled with startup entrepreneurs, young professionals, and students. 

EAS 2018 served up a cocktail of conference sessions covering topics from safety to “other realities” such as VR, augmented reality, accessibility, design, and animal welfare. 

It was standing room only in the “Crazy About You?” session moderated by Robert Owen, director of marketing, sales, and public relations (PR) at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, which discussed dealing with delightful and difficult fanbases. “Make your fans feel special,” urged Wessel Wit, editor-in-chief of Looopings. Smaller parks have a personal touch, he noted, while larger parks use fan Facebook pages for updates. Fans love details and distinctive content. 

Gröna Lund’s Peter Osbeck advised offering exclusives. Jordan Middleton, Thorpe Park’s social media manager, encouraged businesses to acknowledge their fans, even those who are still building their followings: “Take the time to say, ‘I enjoy your content; please keep producing it.’” Toverland’s Tessa Maessen recommended staying on speaking terms with fan sites, even if they are critical: “They keep us sharp,” she said. “Also, never throw anything away—keep it for the fans!”


The EAS 2018 Conference Program presented 17 education sessions led by industry experts.

Projects to Inspire

Operators looking for seasonal success stories headed to Walibi Holland for the first Halloween Forum at EAS. There was no shortage of inspiration from different sectors. 

Massimiliano Freddi, vice president of strategic development at Leolandia, provided exciting examples of how entertainment is fusing with retail and food. Sara Liparesi, managing director of FICO Eataly World, talked about the Italian agri-food park’s field-to-fork showcase. The emphasis is on experiences, from demonstrations to hands-on courses. “You can even watch your plant grow for 30 days afterward over the internet,” said Freddi. 

Ingrid Grimbergen, marketing manager at Bright Buildings, showed how garden centers like Intratuin Duiven were growing into entertainment destinations.

Immense, integrated projects such as EuropaCity in Paris, France, are also happening. Chief Operating Officer Matteo Perino compared EuropaCity to a lab. There are “no boundaries between leisure, cultural, retail, dining, and sports activities” at the pioneering project. 

During the Family Entertainment Center (FEC)/Small Park/Indoor Playground Day, Steven Putzeys, leisure and entertainment operations manager at M.H. Alshaya Co., talked about Tekzone, a new FEC featuring VR and projection mapping by the Kuwait-based company. Daria Bohorodzicz, event coordinator at Loopy’s World in Gdańsk, Poland, made delegates’ jaws drop with details of themed night events for children hosted by the FEC. Steven Rhys, executive vice president of Forrec, profiled upcoming projects such as Xixi Park, a wetland park in China, which is transforming into a nighttime venue with illuminations and entertainment.

The Water Park Forum focused on private and public projects emerging across Europe. Ewelina Jędrysiak, marketing and PR specialist at Park of Poland, previewed the park’s first stage, a water park taking shape in Mszczonów near Warsaw. Opening in 2019, Suntago Water World will be “the largest indoor water park in Europe” with a total built area of 75,000 square meters. The park represents a 150 million euro investment.

Guests will be able to enjoy an exotic climate year-round in three zones: “Jamango Water Jungle,” “Relax Suntago,” and “Saunaria Suntago.” Global City Holdings is delivering the project, with strategic know-how from WUND Group. Polin Waterparks is providing 32 slides. Accommodations are also planned. 

Peter Curtis, director and founder of Hadron Consulting, charted the development of “The Wave,” Coventry’s £36.7 million water park and leisure destination. Designed by architect FaulknerBrowns, the U.K. facility is due to debut in spring 2019. Built over three floors, it is in a challenging city center site, next to one of Coventry’s priceless spires.

Guest comfort is a priority at Bellewaerde’s 17.4 million euro Aquapark, coming in July 2019. As well as a world-first water slide, the indoor water park will include a tube conveyor for guest convenience.

Across EAS 2018, companies reaffirmed their commitment to providing quality guest experiences. In changing times and complex businesses, industry leaders need heart, hard data, trusted teams, and a well-honed gut instinct. As the show closed, participants left Amsterdam with fresh ideas, ready to say “Bonjour” to Paris. Next year, EAS moves to the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles in France (Sept. 15-19, 2019).

IAAPA Hall of Fame Honors European Attractions Industry Innovators

Jack Morey, 2018 chairman of the IAAPA Hall of Fame and Archives Committee and executive vice president of Morey’s Piers, revealed four new inductees, “trailblazers” whose “work, insight, and influence helped to revolutionize the attractions industry”: 

  • Eugenius Birch (United Kingdom), architect and civil engineer who re-engineered seaside piers and transformed them into family entertainment destinations
  • Roland Callingham (United Kingdom), creator of Bekonscot Model Village 
  • Carl Hagenbeck (Germany), “Father of the Modern Zoo”
  • Dr. Peter Rosner (Germany), developer of magnetic braking and launch systems

Worthy Winners

This year, EAS introduced Best Exhibit Awards. The winners were: Spirello BV (in the 9- to 18-square-meter booth category), Eclipse Producciones S.L./KaraokeMedia (19-54 square meters), and SPI Global Play Ltd (54-plus square meters).



From the Floor

2018 was the year virtual reality (VR) went viral at EAS. Operators were looking for VR attractions that combined a satisfying guest experience and compelling content with reliability and return on investment.

“It’s important to be at EAS to be aware of what’s happening in the market, to connect with people, and to find new products. It’s easy to meet all of our suppliers here in one day,” said Bertrand Delgrange, founder and CEO of Koezio indoor centers. 

“Active entertainment” is one of the trends to watch, according to Michael Collins, founder and senior partner at LDP. “Also, live group experiences, where guests participate and become part of the entertainment.” 


Walking on Air

Airparx by Airquee turns any room into a “big inflatable wonderland,” according to Ollie Perry, business development executive. The inflatable theme park comes with classic elements but can be customized to suit any indoor space. Perry confirmed an Airparx attraction was going into the Gravity Zone FEC in Dublin the week after EAS 2018. Also, Bounce Poland in the Polish city of Lublin has used Airparx to transform a former supermarket site into a 2,800-square-meter inflatable park.


An Eye-Popping Reveal 

Alterface, ETF Ride Systems, and Walibi Belgium unveiled the retro cinema seat-style vehicle for “Revenge of the Corn” at EAS 2018. The nonlinear Erratic Ride—based on Alterface’s “Popcorn Revenge” intellectual property (IP)—will premiere at the Belgian park in spring 2019. 

“EAS is our home. We like to be here. There is so much potential for dark rides in Europe, and this is a great opportunity to promote them to the market,” said Benoit Cornet, CEO and founder of Alterface. 

Alterface’s pointing and shooting system is evolving. NOMAD (New Optimized Mobile Action Device) is now wireless. The device can be reduced to the size of a wand and is customizable. As the system is no longer tethered, “any type of indoor attraction can be turned into a new interactive adventure with this,” said Cornet.,

E-Virtuality and Virtual Friends

E-Virtuality demonstrated its 6-degrees-of-freedom (DOF) e-Motion seat, which is an integral part of one of the most high-tech attractions to open in a major French park this year. Each seat moves individually, making it ideally suited for VR applications.

“Technically, the seat is the most precise and most efficient self-contained ride on the market,” said development manager Jean-Marie Villaume. The system is available with three or six seats in a row. E-Virtuality has also introduced a new 3 DOF model in 2018. 

E-Virtuality acts as a distributor for two room-scale VR adventure experiences, which last around 30-45 minutes. Jean-Noël Chiganne, CEO of Incarna, has created an artistic, dream-like VR universe, where three or four people can become explorers. Players have to help each other to succeed. During the cosmic, escape room-style game, “we can target the difficulty levels in real time,” he said.

“Eclipse” is a VR team-based adventure from BackLight. Sites have opened recently in France at the Carré Sénart shopping center and Escape Lab in Paris. BackLight showed a teaser version of “Eclipse” at EAS 2018.

‘Paradrop VR’ Drops into The Bear Grylls Adventure

September saw the opening of The Bear Grylls Adventure in Birmingham, United Kingdom. Guests can indulge their adventurous spirit on a “Paradrop VR” unit. Frontgrid first introduced the VR paragliding experience with Simworx at EAS 2017. 

Matt Wells, Frontgrid co-founder and chief executive, said “Paradrop VR” was the “perfect fit” because Bear Grylls is a regular paraglider. “Paradrop VR” units have already gone into the United Kingdom’s Brighton Palace Pier and Denmark’s Universe Science Park.


Intercard’s New Collection

Intercard previewed its new Edge Mobile App Collection at EAS 2018 ahead of its launch at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2018.

The trio of apps includes the iService arcade management tool. Joining it is Intercard Upshot, a card management app that family entertainment center (FEC) proprietors can provide to their customers. This allows people to add value to multiple game cards from a mobile device rather than visiting the kiosk. Operators can customize the app with their own colors and designs. There’s also a new Inventory app. Intercard is also investing in its service department for 2019. “Service makes the difference,” said Intercard CEO Scott Sherrod.


Taking It to the Macks

Michael Mack, Europa-Park CEO, reviewed the revamp of “Eurosat – CanCan Coaster,” which now combines two rides on one track thanks to Mack Rides’ ingenious engineering. 

In addition to “Eurosat – CanCan Coaster” (a stunning trip through Paris by night), the ride offers “Eurosat Coastiality,” a seamless, 360-degree VR experience. Based on Luc Besson’s 2017 movie “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” the attraction lets visitors wear VR headsets through an extra ride station and onto the coaster for maximum immersion. MackMedia collaborated with VR Coaster, Holodeck VR, and EuropaCorp on the venture.

Mack celebrated the park’s Moulin Rouge collaboration: “It looks beautiful, and we are the first place outside Paris to have a replica of the Moulin Rouge,” he said. 

He announced the formation of two new companies for the Mack family at EAS 2018: Mack Animation (in conjunction with Ambient Entertainment) and Tacumeon Rides, which can “pimp up your ride.” He also revealed a new 4D movie called “Nachts im Park 4D” (A Night in the Park).


Sunkid Adds Shiny New Train to Conny Land 

Sunkid, which specializes in transport solutions and family rides for leisure and tourism destinations, is delivering a new train for the “Cobra” roller coaster at Conny Land in Switzerland. The train will feature a new restraint system. “We will install by the end of next year for a 2020 launch,” said Sunkid CEO Dirk Runzheimer. 

Sunkid is also providing an eight-cabin “Loopster” family ride to the Legoland New York Resort opening in 2020.


Triotech Targets Players with ‘Assassin’s Creed’

Triotech invited visitors to play at being master assassins in “Assassin’s Creed: The Temple of Anubis,” its new VR adventure, at EAS 2018. Developed in partnership with Ubisoft, the experience is exclusive to Triotech’s VR Maze. “It’s important to have world-class IPs, and working with Ubisoft means we have amazing content,” said Christian Martin, vice president of marketing at Triotech. 

Players embody the hero Bayek, wielding a virtual bow and arrow as they explore an Egyptian temple. Triotech’s technology allows for a free-roaming VR experience. The maze may be compact but it feels “like forever.”

At the touch of a button, operators can switch between “Assassin’s Creed: The Temple of Anubis,” Ubisoft’s “Virtual Rabbids: The Big Maze,” and “Minotaur.”


Walltopia’s Ahead of the Curve

“As a growing European company, it’s important for us to be [at EAS 2018],” said Zlatimira Bancheva, head of sales at Walltopia. “We have many new products to showcase, such as Ropetopia Curves. At EAS, we can meet existing contacts, find new ones, and see what is going on in the industry in general.”

Ropetopia Curves is Walltopia’s latest ropes course innovation. “We can curve the belay line in any shape,” said Bancheva, meaning the product can be fitted around existing attractions. “There are endless design options and theming possibilities.” A linear layout improves guest throughput and means fewer operators are needed.


Wheely Good News for Water Parks

WhiteWater made a splash at EAS 2018 as President and CEO Geoff Chutter announced that it had struck a licensing agreement with wiegand.maelzer GmbH, “specifically for the SlideWheel product and technologies going forward.” Chutter had been “incredibly impressed” with the inventive rotating water slide after riding it at Chimelong in Guangzhou, China. Rainer Maelzer, managing director at wiegand.maelzer, added that the intention was to develop the SlideWheel product further.

WhiteWater also showcased the new and interactive Raft Battle ride at its booth and announced a partnership with Life Floor, an aquatic safety surfacing company.