IAAPA News - Asian Attractions Expo 2018 Recap - August 2018

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IAAPA officers, joined by June Ko (far right) and Hong Kong government official Michael Wong (far left), kicked off the opening of the trade show floor.

It's All Here

Asian Attractions Expo 2018 sees 27 percent increase in buyers and expanded education sessions

by Scott Fais


LIKE THE TOWERING SKYSCRAPERS THAT CONTINUE TO RISE on Hong Kong Island’s Victoria Harbour, ­IAAPA’s Asian Attractions Expo also continues to grow. The coastline that once supported fishing and salt production 100 years ago played host to a weeklong industry gathering that’s remembered for innovation, education, discussion, and plenty of inspiration for the leaders of the global attractions industry.  

The spacious Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, with its graceful architecture overlooking Victoria Harbour, played host to more than 6,500 qualified buyers June 5-8. 

“We’ve had significant traffic through the booth, so much so that we’ve actually had people walk away and come back because we were often inundated with visitors to the booth,” said Steve Bell with Gateway Ticketing Systems.

The total number of buyers in attendance represents a 27 percent increase from Asian Attractions Expo 2017 in Singapore, and a 7 percent increase from 2015 when the Expo was last held in Hong Kong.

“This is the only show IAAPA hosts in Asia, and the international representation from exhibiting companies and attendees demonstrated the appeal of the destination and the strength of the global attractions industry,” said Hal McEvoy, IAAPA interim president and CEO.

The Opening Ceremony featured a nod to Hong Kong’s past with a bagpiper, reminiscent of the 150 years of British rule in Hong Kong, and a traditional Chinese face-changing performance, presented by a skilled dancer, along with performances by The Hong Kong Police Band. 


Floor Traffic

The trade show floor provided more than 10,224 net square meters of exhibit space. 

“Since the doors first opened, the flood of traffic that came through on the show floor is just another testament of how the industry in this region is booming,” said Phil Wilson, executive vice president, Extreme Engineering. “The opportunities here are just massive.”

Almost 400 companies showcased new products and stood ready to discuss new projects in the region. 

“There were a lot of people here from Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere,” said Leif Arne Petersen, CEO of Hologate, a virtual reality (VR) producer from Germany.

To make the best use of space, many booths featured large-screen televisions playing sizzle reels, while several others featured rides and VR gaming ready for sampling.

The Opening Ceremony featured a traditional Chinese face-changing performance presented by a skilled dancer.

Education Sessions Soar

From buying a ride to building a water park, and sharing global best practices for animals in professional care, Asian Attractions Expo 2018 was the place to learn and engage. 

Attendance for the education conference was almost 1,600 participants, including 61 attendees in the sold-out IAAPA Institute for Attractions Managers and 95 attendees at the sold-out IAAPA Safety Institute.

“The number of attendees who made education a priority at this year’s Asian Attractions Expo is exceptional,” said IAAPA Asia-Pacific Operations Vice President June Ko.

“The great participation level we saw proves not only is the attractions industry booming in the region, but it is also full of professionals who are passionate about providing the safest and most memorable experiences.”

Education sessions began on Sunday and lasted through Friday. The IAAPA Institute for Attractions Managers started early, with an intense two-and-a-half-day program that blended classroom learning, case studies, and small group presentations.  

Additional education opportunities included an EDUTour to Ocean Park Hong Kong to learn how the park maintains its world-famous cable car ride, and how VR was successfully added to the park’s mine train roller coaster. Other attendees traveled to Hong Kong Disneyland for a behind-the-scenes EDUTour showcasing how the resort satisfies guest appetites through a robust food and beverage program in the theme park and three onsite hotels.

A young professional networking event brought together future leaders from the region, while at the opposite end of the career spectrum, three industry legends were inducted into the IAAPA Hall of Fame.

In all, Asian Attractions Expo 2018 attracted more than 9,000 participants between June 3 and 8.

Three Attractions Industry Legends from Asia-Pacific Region Inducted into IAAPA Hall of Fame


FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER,  and in conjunction with the association’s 100th Anniversary celebration, IAAPA inducted three attractions industry leaders into the IAAPA Hall of Fame at Asian Attractions Expo. The inductions of Bernard Harrison, Masatomo Takahashi, and Kelly Tarlton were a highlight during the Opening Ceremony. In celebration of IAAPA’s 100th anniversary, the association inducted this esteemed group of leaders from the Asia-Pacific region who have positively shaped both the region and the global attractions industry. 

“Throughout their careers, each brought a spirit of innovation, creativity, and passion that not only changed the landscape of the attractions industry in Asia-Pacific, but throughout the world,” said Jack Morey, 2018 chairman of the IAAPA Hall of Fame and Archives Committee and executive vice president of Morey’s Piers. “Their powerful legacies and lasting contributions are nothing short of remarkable.”

Bernard Harrison

Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Singapore

Harrison is renowned for creating a legacy of innovation in the zoological world over the span of four decades with his vision and enthusiasm. At age 29, Harrison accepted the position of CEO at the Singapore Zoo, becoming one of the zoological community’s youngest zoo directors. 

In 1994, he created the “Night Safari,” a groundbreaking concept hailed as one of the most significant shifts in zoological history. The 100-acre development showcased nocturnal animals using subtle, atmospheric lighting in a naturalistic forest setting. Recognized as a game-changing innovation for modern zoos, the “Night Safari” has inspired similar installations around the world. 

“I was really happy and honored to be part of that creative process of being part of that paradigm and turning it upside down, literally, from day to night,” Harrison said of “Night Safari” upon accepting the honor on stage.

In addition, Harrison’s theories on naturalism and animal welfare are now at work worldwide.

Masatomo Takahashi 


Oriental Land Company, Tokyo, Japan 

Takahashi rose through the corporate ranks of leadership at the Oriental Land Company, eventually becoming president in 1978. He helped bring the magic of Disneyland to the people of Japan and worked closely with the Walt Disney Company to develop Tokyo Disneyland. Takahashi correctly predicted the appeal of a Disneyland theme park in Japan that would be modeled exactly after the parks in the United States. His leadership and perseverance guided the multimillion-dollar project to open in 1983. Today, Tokyo Disneyland draws more than 17 million guests annually. 

In the late 1990s, he presented the idea for Tokyo DisneySea, inspired by the myths and legends of the ocean, which opened in 2001. 

Takahashi’s vision, creativity, and courage have brought a lifetime of memories to millions of Japanese families.  

Colleagues of Takahashi from the Oriental Land Company accepted the honor on his behalf.

Kelly Tarlton 


Underwater World, Auckland, New Zealand 

An avid scuba diver, archaeologist, and lover of marine exploration, Tarlton’s innovative approach changed the way aquarium visitors around the world view marine life. Inspired by the discovery of some unused sewage tanks along the Auckland waterfront, Tarlton imagined an aquarium that would provide the opportunity for guests to be underwater, without actually getting in the water. He used heavy-duty, clear acrylic sheets, molding them with heat into an arch. When assembled, those sheets formed a tunnel to provide passage through the tanks. 

The underwater observation tunnel opened for the first time at Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World in 1985. Adding to the experience, Tarlton created a curved, moving walkway, adapted from airline baggage delivery belts, to move visitors through the tunnel. 

Today, this underwater experience is enjoyed in hundreds of aquariums and marine exhibits around the world.

Tarlton’s daughters accepted the honor on behalf of their father. 

IAAPA Hall of Fame inductions typically take place each year during IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando, Florida. In honor of IAAPA’s centennial anniversary, special inductions are taking place at each IAAPA Expo, including Asian Attractions Expo 2018 and Euro Attractions Show 2018 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Inspiring the Next Leaders from Asia-Pacific


A LEVEL BELOW THE TRADE SHOW FLOOR at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, behind a winding alcove, and in a quiet conference room sat an attentive group making up the next generation of attractions industry leaders. 

The IAAPA Foundation partnered with JA Worldwide (Junior Achievement) to bring 16 college students studying in Hong Kong to Asian Attractions Expo 2018 for an unprecedented educational experience.

“Although many students have a general understanding of the hospitality industry, they are often unaware of the many career opportunities within the attractions industry,” said IAAPA Foundation Co-Executive Director Tom Wages. “It is fun to watch as their eyes are opened to the fact that engineers, finance executives, and managers in numerous disciplines are part of our industry. They start to think, ‘Hey, I could do that—and it looks like fun.’”

To showcase the stages of what a rewarding career in the attractions industry looks like, Wages formed a panel of Asia-Pacific leaders made up of a young manager, a seasoned director, and an experienced executive.


Doug Akers from Universal Beijing Resort and Chris Perry from Icon Global Partners Limited joined Matthias Li from Ocean Park Hong Kong to help students envision growth in a rewarding career.

“It was a great opportunity to see the excitement and upcoming talent within this industry that will take theme parks to the next level,” said Akers, a 10-year veteran of working in Asia.

Perry said talking with the students gave him an opportunity to give back, stating mentors helped his career immensely.

“If people hadn’t taken the time to share their thoughts or experiences, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Perry said. Li agreed.

 “I wish when I was young, I had this experience!” Li said.

After a morning spent listening to wisdom from Akers, Perry, and Li, the students were given access to the trade show floor. Small groups of students met with exhibitors in their booths, furthering an opportunity to engage with IAAPA members, and yes—that meant enjoying rides and virtual reality games.

“The manufacturer and supplier community have been super supportive of our efforts to engage students with our industry,” Wages said following the event. “I think many of them understand that some of these students will be tomorrow’s industry decision-makers.”

To learn more about the IAAPA Foundation or to make a donation, visit www.IAAPA.org/Foundation.

IAAPA Foundation Hosts Education-Focused Discussion on Developing Future Leaders

1808_IAAPA_FoundationEducation and business leaders from Hong Kong, China, Canada, and the United States spent a full day at Asian Attractions Expo 2018 exploring ideas about how the attractions industry can best groom future industry leaders. 

“We continually hear from attractions operators that they are concerned about finding their next generation of managers,” said IAAPA Foundation Co-Executive Director Bobbie Wages. “I think this is particularly true in Asia due to the industry’s explosive growth in the region.”

Dean-Elect Youcheng Wang from the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management in Orlando opened a detailed discussion with world educators, operators, and designers on how to approach attractions management. 

The seminar then put industry leaders into smaller groups, where they explored the challenges of grooming the next generation of leaders. Creating new curricula and better human resources training were the focus, as Wang said 90 percent of new theme park construction is taking place in China.

“The information the industry people provided are what the academic people are interested in, and vice versa,” Wang said. “This is one way to uplift the industry to have more of this type of collaborative work.”

The one thing that is important to Wang and Wages is not keeping the knowledge to themselves but taking the information back to their students and industry decision-makers as a whole.

“We believe that participation by educators at these events not only allows for sharing information on attractions education, but encourages personal connections that in the long run will pay dividends to the industry,” said Wages.

A similar session will headline the educational opportunities at Euro Attractions Show 2018 in Amsterdam this September. Klaus Hoven, who teaches attractions management courses at Breda College in the Netherlands, will lead a roundtable discussion in conjunction with the IAAPA Foundation.


Hal McEvoy (right), IAAPA interim president and CEO, presented Allan Zeman with an award commemorating his Leadership Breakfast keynote presentation.

Dr. Allan Zeman Provides Delight and Insight


“‘Think big,’ that was my motto,” Zeman told 350 attendees at Asian Attractions Expo 2018’s sold-out Leadership Breakfast.

The Chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group explained how leaving high school early to sell women’s lingerie in his native Canada led him to Hong Kong, where he became a real estate magnate and, eventually, chairman of Ocean Park Hong Kong. 

“If somebody else can do it, why can’t I?” Zeman asked the crowd, adding quickly, “Be humble, even if you’re chairman of the board.”

Zeman said he found success throughout his career  by surrounding himself with young people and giving them what they wanted—whether that was adding virtual reality to a roller coaster, using technology to further understand guest patterns, or providing quality food and beverage service.

“The most important thing is to understand who your customer is. You can’t change their culture;  you have to play to who your audience is,” Zeman said.

When lines for Ocean Park’s famed cable car attraction stretched over 30 minutes, Zeman initiated boring through the mountain that divides the top and bottom of the park by adding a subway-like train through the center of the landmass to give visitors a second transportation option.

Corporate culture should also be important to managers, according to Zeman, sharing his belief that there are “no bad teams, rather only bad bosses,” and success comes only from a group effort.

“Death is the great equalizer. You cannot think you’re better than someone else,” Zeman concluded.

Planning for Your Next Ride and Water Slide

1808_IAAPA_WaterslidesWET OR DRY? Education sessions at Asian Attractions Expo 2018 gave insight on best practices when considering new capital investments with rides and water slides.

“The industry is booming,” Adrian Summers from Village Roadshow told the crowd at a session entitled “Select a Ride? Buy a New Ride? Questions to Ask for Operators.” 

“If you are planning to buy a new ride, my advice is to be in contact with a manufacturer as soon as possible and see what the lead time is,” said Summers, adding many manufacturers are all booked through 2021 and 2022.

When planning for new attractions, Jose “Blue” Reyna III, head of the safety and risk management division at Enchanted Kingdom in the Philippines, recommended each park operator and maintenance team speak with other IAAPA member attractions that have installed the same ride before committing to a purchase, along with asking a manufacturer these questions:

  • Will ASTM standards be followed?
  • When can I visit the factory during fabrication?
  • What is the manufacturing timeline?
  • How long will delivery take?
  • Can you provide an assembly calendar?

Alan Mahony, vice president of Aquaventure at Atlantis Sanya, agreed on the importance of strong communication and operations.

“It’s important the operation’s team gets very, very involved in the design,” shared Mahony at a session named “Successful Water Park Developments and Operations.”

Mahony said he believes the most important strategy during the development of Aquaventure was looking at the design and operations before deciding on a theme. The water park in Sanya, on Hainan Island, China, uses a lazy river as a transportation device. Once it was placed on the map, the wave pool from Murphy’s Waves and slide complexes from ProSlide were installed, before Mahony approached Falcon’s Treehouse for theming work.

“We did the hard-core details first, then added the pretty pictures,” Mahony said.

A Lesson in Good Taste


What’s in the eye of the beholder can also result in greater sales.

In “The Food and Beverage Learning Lab” workshop, participants received food items to sample, which became a topic for discussion.

“Food is an emotional trigger,” said Joseph Leung, senior director of food service operations at Universal Beijing Resort. “Food is subjective—how it smells, looks, and tastes—the look makes a real difference.”

Leung has the challenge of taking a blank menu and filling it, creating an entire food and beverage program at the Universal Beijing Resort, now under construction in China. He spent time in Hong Kong challenging attendees to elevate their presentation standards. Aesthetically pleasing beverage containers, packaging, and higher presentation standards used when placing food on plates can generate buzz and increase sales.

While many session attendees wore headphones listening to dialogue translated into Mandarin (a service IAAPA provided at Asian Attractions Expo 2018), sharing in the taste buds’ delights was a universal language.

“Food is the key complement of the experience guests have at attractions,” Leung said.

He teamed up with Ellis Ku, head of learning and organizational development at Maxim’s Caterers Ltd. Leung and Ku shared their passion and energy for innovation.

“Customer service can be replaced by automation,” Ku said, encouraging the adoption of customer-facing mobile payments, self-service ordering kiosks, and developing smartphone apps where customers can pre-order. In order to reduce labor costs, Ku also introduced the crowd to kitchen automation concepts, like using robots to cook chicken and steam vegetables—staples of an Asian diet.

The pair also encouraged attractions to begin planning now for the next revolution in food service, what they call “going green.”

“It’s coming in five years,” Leung said of pressure from consumers to find locally sourced ingredients, organic options, and meals that are freshly prepared.