Look Forward with Fresh Eyes

forward

Young leaders envision the next 100 years

by Scott Fais

100th Anniversary-w dates-colorOne hundred years ago, when a committee of park operators from the National Outdoor Showmen’s Association gathered in New York City to discuss issues of the day pertaining to the attractions industry, none could fathom roller coasters soaring 400 feet tall, engaging dark rides utilizing robotic arms, or water slides applying electromagnetics as means for propulsion.  

Just as the forefathers of IAAPA gathered to discuss the future of the attractions industry, so do the young professionals of today in this special issue of Funworld.

“IAAPA not only provides advice and direction to its hundreds of members, but brings us all together—park owners, manufacturers, directors, managers, and even the next generation—to learn about each other, from each other,” says Lauren Wood Weaver, marketing director at Sally Corporation.

Moving forward together comes naturally to the attractions business;―log flumes, lazy rivers, go-karts, ziplines, and even the conveyors on salt water taffy machines all push ahead. The same can be said with the promise of the next season being more prosperous than the previous. In part, this is what drives us to dream, to learn, to change.

“Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future,” Walt Disney said roughly 50 years after that 1918 meeting in New York City.

Like Disney, the young visionaries of today believe meeting the demands of the future will take an even greater focus on ingenuity.

“Instead of making everything taller and faster, the industry will leverage new and better ways of affecting the human senses in order to create thrills and other experiences,” says Skyline Attractions partner Evan Souliere.  

While technology will continue to play a role, some believe creating a memorable experience involves the basics used by Disney himself. 

“Although technology is so abundant and will be in the future, I believe there is no substitute for an impressive, engaging, personal, hands-on experience,” says Marie Collins, displays curator at Sea Life Aquarium at Legoland California Resort.

Having that experience means being available longer. For many regional amusement parks, the days of settling in for a long winter’s nap are over.  The shoulder season has become broader than ever before.

“The addition of unique leisure experiences over the course of the year have made the greatest gains in guest participation,” says John Chiu, food and beverage director at Knott’s Berry Farm. The park known for its Halloween “Haunt” event now balances the calendar with the spring “Boysenberry Festival.”

While the attractions industry continues to reinvent, Jamie Johnson, vice president of entertainment at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Florida believes one of today’s driving forces will always be present in the future: “What I love the most about the attractions industry is that our core objective never changes. We create a place for our guests to escape the everyday and create meaningful memories with the ones that they love most.”

As IAAPA celebrates its centennial in 2018, Funworld asks several young professionals (industry members under age 35) three questions about what the next 100 years—the century they will shape—will look like.


What will the attraction facility of the future look like? 

chakWith the advance of technology, we will strive for how real storytelling can be. The complexity of ride motion and stimulation of senses will offer better ride experiences that will wow guests.

Ivan Chak, Project Specialist,
Hong Kong Disneyland


allisonThe industry continues to produce new, over-the-top attractions. In the future, I see larger attractions previously only designed for big parks being designed in a way that they can be integrated into smaller operations—both physically and economically.

Kyle Allison, Owner,
Andy Alligator’s Fun Park and Water Park


akersThe industry will continue to evolve and focus on compelling, story-based experiences for guests through a mix of digital technology and new, cutting-edge ride systems. Intellectual properties (IPs) will continue to play an important role in connecting guests across different media platforms, but we may also see a rise in theme parks creating their own original storylines to continue providing more unique, immersive experiences. 

Doug Akers, Director of Operations,
Universal Beijing Resort


collinsAt Sea Life, we will always keep animal welfare education and conservation as our main focus; however, we are introducing a lot of high-tech and digital interactives to keep up with the learning styles of our younger audience. We continue to work on displays and exhibits that can engage all generations.  

Marie Collins, Displays Curator,
Sea Life Aquarium at Legoland California Resort


freddiThe future will have a top level of service, allowing our guests not only to have fun, but to be pampered throughout the experience. The lines will get much shorter thanks to virtual queueing, the food will be amazing, and the shows will become better and better. The industry will most likely be divided into low-cost/good value parks leveraging on rides and IPs vs. high-cost/experience-based parks leveraging on their strong brand and a legacy experience from generation to generation. 

Massimiliano Freddi, Vice President of Strategic Development,
Leolandia


smartSuccessful, big-budget attractions will have much finer detail for the rider—the kind of detail that convinces the guest the experience is real, even if the story is not. Clever use of existing technology has already touched this, but with new technology, further immersion will be integrated and, with it, the elongation of the guest experience. I can envision a future where artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics come to the forefront. Not just as an attraction element, but used in ways to complement the whole visitor experience. Imagine an experience within a park where no visit is the same, and the suspended disbelief remains constant for hours, rather than minutes.

Ash Smart, Deputy Managing Director,
Harbour Park


souliereTechnology will be the driving force over the next one, five, and 50 years. I don’t mean just leveraging computers and effects in new ways―though, there will be plenty of that,―but also using materials in different ways and finding clever alternatives to safely generate unique experiences.

Evan Souliere, PE, Partner/Treasurer,
Skyline Attractions


walkerAttractions can only get so big and so fast, and we are already hitting some of these limits with the technology currently available to us. As we develop the attractions of the future, great thought needs to be placed into bringing extraordinary experiences to life, and enabling the regular person to take part in the unimaginable or unachievable.

Andrew Walker, General Manager,
The Dungeons and Shrek’s Adventure


coyleThere will be a greater focus on reducing queue times. As opposed to line-skipping passes, I believe the focus will be on innovative measures, like booking time slots or guests using apps on their own smartphones. We are in the final stages of providing free Wi-Fi across the park. This will benefit us by enabling our guests to share their experiences quickly with their social media circles but also enable us to gather information on our guests, tailor our product to better suit their needs, and, as a result, hopefully encourage them to return in the future. 

Charles Coyle, General Manager,
Tayto Park


pollackI believe as time moves on, we will see the demand for high-quality, out-of-home experiences continue to grow, and technology playing a key role in delivering a great product. Attractions require more focus on theming and immersive environments as we’ve seen at trampoline parks and escape rooms. These attractions of the future will focus on entertainment and guest-service value that cannot be obtained from an at-home setting. 

Marc Pollack, Director of Games,
Apex Parks Group


seidersAt Merlin Entertainments, we are working to make the traditional theme park visit seamless and easier to manage. To be able to buy your tickets, open your hotel room door, pre-order your lunch, jump the queues, and make your dinner reservation all from the touch of your smartphone will allow for more time to play and spend quality time as a family. 

Kent Seiders, Head of Marketing,
Legoland California Resort


erasmusTechnology will always play a role in our industry, but to supplement our attractions, never to replace them. It is the authentic and shared experiences that will continue to define theme parks.

Michelle Erasmus, Topgolf Director of Operations,
Village Roadshow Theme Parks 


moreyAt Morey’s Piers, we are continuously trying to balance innovation with nostalgia. Being a classic seaside park gives us a great landscape, but we must continue to evolve our offerings so we’re a compelling place for not only families, but for people of all ages. That means expanding our food and beverage [offerings] and strolling entertainment to blend with our ride mix.

Will B. Morey, Water Park Operations Manager,
Morey’s Piers




How will the attractions industry evolve in the years ahead?

weaverWhile new technology will always be sought after, it’s not always embraced long term. Storytelling is now making a comeback. Parks are discovering new technology may bring a surge of guests one time around; it’s the storytelling attractions that make them come back year after year. Engaging stories and immersive environments are what make memories, and that’s the greatest value an attraction can have.

Lauren Wood Weaver, Marketing Director,
Sally Corporation 


hausfieldThe continual growth of the industry in regions that have not always led the way is a real indicator showing they’re ready and willing to create lasting destinations that will leave audiences wanting more. The industry isn’t slowing down, and neither are the advances in technology.    

Chloe Hausfeld, Director, Marketing and Business Development,
Jack Rouse Associates


chakI imagine the attractions industry will continue to grow with more theme parks built in growing nations like China and India. The industry will answer the call for places of leisure, with attractions using the next level of technology. Then the next question will be how to maintain the quality of hardware and guest services to keep visitors returning.

Ivan Chak, Project Specialist,
Hong Kong Disneyland


tanMore artificial intelligence will run the attractions, and they’ll operate on the least amount of manpower possible. From merchandise and food and beverage purchases, to attractions operating, we expect to see guests dealing with more automation and less with human interactions. 

Pengwen Tan, Team Manager,
Universal Studios Singapore


ngPerhaps one of the biggest changes could be that of operating with sustainability measures. People are becoming more conscious of their own impact on the environment, and they expect attraction owners and operators to do the same.

Midori Ng, Master Graduate and Technical Safety Compliance Writer,
Lund University


chiuI believe certain kinds of automation will continue to cultivate the industry from an entertainment and novelty standpoint. However human interaction and immersive experiences are still going to dominate all the different touchpoints of guest interaction. The world is moving in the direction of planning ahead, quicker service, and a lot of customization. I can see theme parks digging deep into their process flows to see how they can better offer these to their guests in all areas of their experience.   

John Chiu, Director of Food and Beverage,
Knott’s Berry Farm


seidersAttraction experiences of the future will be designed around integrating live action with animation using the latest technologies and hottest IPs to create “can only experience here” thrills. Not to mention allowing consumers the opportunity to personalize and share their experiences in real time along the way … because we all know we love to post about ourselves eating, traveling, and experiencing new things to the world!

Kent Seiders, Head of Marketing,
Legoland California Resort 


collinsThe future of our industry lies in impactful conservation efforts around the world. We work to collaborate with as many zoos, aquariums, and others who are focused on ocean conservation. Simple beach cleanups and educational outreach can make a huge impact. We are involved in some research and development projects, along with breeding and species survival plan efforts throughout the aquarium industry. I believe this will shape the future of the public perception by making people aware of how special these animals and their habitats are, and what they can do to help save them for future generations.

Marie Collins, Displays Curator,
Sea Life Aquarium at Legoland California Resort


moreyIn many places, I think we may start to see more services automated, whether that be ticket sales or food and beverage service. Rising labor costs and technological advancements are making this more and more likely. Additionally, I think it is more and more difficult to wow an audience these days. This will continue to push our industry to create new ride technology and innovative show ideas.

Will B. Morey, Water Park Operations Manager,
Morey’s Piers




How will IAAPA continue to play an important role in the attractions industry during the next 100 years?

weaverIAAPA will forever play an important role in shaping our industry. I honestly can’t imagine this industry without IAAPA. IAAPA not only provides advice and direction to its thousands of members, but brings us all together—park owners, manufacturers, directors, managers, and even the next generation—to learn about each other, from each other. IAAPA is almost the directory to our industry. The three main trade shows, and conferences in between, provide thought-provoking discussions, behind-the-scenes experiences, and networking opportunities with like-minded individuals. You always walk away with fresh perspectives, unique ideas, and new friends.

Lauren Wood Weaver, Marketing Director,
Sally Corporation 


hausfieldSince IAAPA’s members come from different companies throughout the world, the depth of knowledge is immeasurable. IAAPA is what keeps us all unified. From its member committees, to the trade shows and other events, to the educational seminars, IAAPA has created a platform that continually helps the partnerships in our industry work.  

Chloe Hausfeld, Director, Marketing and Business Development,
Jack Rouse Associates


souliereWhat I think makes IAAPA so helpful is that the organization allows the industry to drive where it’s going. IAAPA is the support system that fosters our growth and development, allowing us to innovate and provide new attractions every year. It provides the resources and overall encouragement Skyline and other industry members like us need to be able to take the next step and introduce something new. Our industry accomplishes more with IAAPA at our side.

Evan Souliere, PE, Partner / Treasurer,
Skyline Attractions


chakI think IAAPA will continue its important role of connecting the industry and holding each other close through strong trade shows and conferences. It will also play a big part in cultivating future leaders and progressively promoting industry standards to sustain healthy growth.

Ivan Chak, Project Specialist,
Hong Kong Disneyland 


garciaAlmost 20 years ago, I remember attending my very first IAAPA trade show. I was just an eager games supervisor at the time and remember being mesmerized. IAAPA will continue to be at the cornerstone of the industry and be the lifeline that continues to bring all of the various operators, suppliers, designers, and innovators together.

Jennifer Garcia, Retail Manager,
Six Flags Over Texas and Hurricane Harbor


chiuIAAPA has been the source of education and bringing great minds and leaders together in coming up with forward-thinking and ingenious ideas. As the organization continues to grow its awareness into post-secondary institutions, it is planting the seed for generations in inspiring future theme park leaders about the vast opportunities of the all-encompassing theme park industry.    

John Chiu, Director of Food and Beverage,
Knott’s Berry Farm


walkerIAAPA plays a vital role in the industry to share the knowledge, expertise, and technological advances that individual members are creating, adapting, or experimenting with. Learning from others and using the combined thoughts of entertainment specialists will only propel the industry forward in ways we can only imagine at this point. How exciting is that! 

Andrew Walker, General Manager,
The Dungeons and Shrek’s Adventure


pollackIAAPA will continue to play an important role in the future by growing young leaders through education and networking. The resources and knowledge of the IAAPA community have played a key role in my career advancement and my ability to provide the best experience at our park for our staff and our guests. 

Marc Pollack, Director of Games,
Apex Parks Group



allisonAs operators grow and open new locations, IAAPA is the source for going from a mom-and-pop shop to a corporate operation. The networking and education IAAPA provides is not available anywhere else.

Kyle Allison, Owner,
Andy Alligator’s Fun Park and Water Park


seidersWith the industry’s expansion, it’s more important than ever to keep each other accountable for safety and advocacy, communications, and training. The tools and resources provided by IAAPA keep industry professionals in the know and allow leaders to sharpen their skills needed to provide memorable guest experiences. In the end, that’s what we all want! 

Kent Seiders, Head of Marketing,
Legoland California Resort


soysterIAAPA will continue to be the leader in preserving our industry’s history and honoring its heritage, while simultaneously helping attractions of all sizes seize new opportunities to grow and connect with one another. IAAPA has always been a window to the rest of the industry for my colleagues and me, and I hope it will continue to do so for the next 100 years … when I’ll be 134.

Jason Soyster, Director, Marketing and Sales,
California’s Great America


moreyAs the industry grows around the world, it will be increasingly important for members of the attractions community to have a place to come together to learn from each other. Whether that be through Expos, industry advocacy, summits, or other conferences, IAAPA will continue to play an important role in advancing the overall health and success of our industry.

Will B. Morey, Water Park Operations Manager,
Morey’s Piers


johnsonIAAPA plays a critical role in our future by fueling our research, benchmarking, and collaboration with the entire industry. IAAPA gives us all a way to network together, share best practices, and discuss the unique challenges that we all face on a daily basis. We all share the same passion for our guests, and remaining connected is essential to our continued success.

Jamie Johnson, Vice President of Entertainment,
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay


ngAt its core, IAAPA will definitely continue to bring everyone involved in this industry together in one place. I believe there is a need to take international education further, perhaps develop specific courses for those who are interested and passionate in the industry. This important role will not only raise a new generation of leaders, but also nurture and prepare them for the industry.

Midori Ng, Master Graduate and Technical Safety Compliance Writer,
Lund University


freddiOrganizing events that elevate every year’s―forums, trade shows, conferences, and classes―is what IAAPA will continue to do. From finding new ways for professionals to network all around the world, to using digital media to share content and insights in new ways will continue. 

Massimiliano Freddi, Vice President Strategic Development,
Leolandia


smartThrough IAAPA’s continued industry education, training, and certification, the association will become even more vital to member companies. This will ensure there is never a shortage in talent or knowledge between generations. By engaging young industry professionals early, IAAPA will play an important role in the development of potential industry lifers.   

Ash Smart, Deputy Managing Director,
Harbour Park


coyleIAAPA’s greatest role is that of bringing members of the industry together, whether it be for the buying and selling of products, or the exchange of knowledge and ideas. This is extremely useful for its newer members such as ourselves. Whatever the issue or challenge, someone in the industry has either faced it or has a solution for it. No matter how our industry changes, IAAPA’s core roles will always be central to the success of everyone in our business.

Charles Coyle, General Manager,
Tayto Park


akersAs IAAPA continues to represent the industry around the globe, I see the association continuing the development of its training programs and courses that drive safety for employees and guests at facilities worldwide. I also see IAAPA being a critical piece of the puzzle for sharing best practices across the entire industry—expanding on what IAAPA has consistently done for the past 100 years.

Doug Akers, Director of Operations,
Universal Beijing Resort