Mission in Motion

strategic_gearsIAAPA leaders provide insight into organization’s future

by Scott Fais

Step outside of the office of 2018 IAAPA chairman and Liseberg CEO Andreas Andersen this winter and you’ll find one of the most complex construction sites in Sweden.

Building the 154-foot-tall “Valkyria” Dive Coaster amidst snow flurries is like a game of chess—several cranes are strategically wedged between existing rides and facilities as they artfully float track pieces across Gothenburg’s skyline. Careful positioning for the new ride from Bollinger & Mabillard follows several years of preparation. 

Simultaneously, Andersen is developing a new hotel and indoor water park at Liseberg, one of Europe’s grand city-center promenade parks. Both additions are part of a greater strategic plan, securing Liseberg’s future for generations to come.

Who better than Andersen, then, to chair the committee plotting the future of IAAPA with the development of the association’s new strategic plan, and simultaneously contribute to a task force working on a new brand image.

“It’s the road map forward,” Andersen says of both initiatives. “It’s the direction we should take, when driving into the future.”

MISSION

Our mission is to serve the membership by promoting safe operations, global development, professional growth, and commercial success of the amusement parks and attractions industry

VISION

We envision a professional association regarded as an indispensable resource for our members and an international authority for our industry. Central to achieving our vision is a focus on our members as the reason for our existence and a resolute respect for our employees as the source of our strength.

Imagine the strategic plan to mirror the set of instructions Andersen’s park needed when beginning construction of its new Dive Coaster, and the new brand image to be like the blueprints needed when constructing a new water park/hotel. As IAAPA begins to build the next 100 years, both plans are essential when outlining the direction of the organization, while also holding it accountable for a set period of time. Overall, the strategic plan document represents a broader commitment to understanding the driving forces of IAAPA’s success and identifies future paths to association excellence.

Strategic Plan

The current strategic plan—governing since 2016 and expiring at the end of 2018—has a framework built on several hallmarks. Safety is the foundation. Top priorities include telling the industry story to the public, governments, and press, while protecting the attractions business. Those cornerstones, along with identifying members’ needs and aiding them in finding success, will not change.

However, it’s change itself that Andersen says the next plan—to take effect in 2019—will focus on.

“The main theme is how IAAPA should adapt to accelerating change,” he says of the new strategic plan. “We have to be attentive. We have to be nimble. And we can’t rest on our laurels.”

Along with the contemporary strategy of the new plan, the duration is new, as well. In the past, the plan has governed for three years.

“This is rather short, and can make it difficult to keep the plan strategic, instead of more tactical,” Andersen explains of the three-year duration. “The new strategic plan will be a five-year plan. This means we can keep the current format, but the strategies should be more high level and long term.”

Andersen’s hope is by creating a plan that is future-proof, and addresses change, the document can serve the needs of IAAPA longer.

“We will have to incorporate mechanisms to calibrate the plan on an ongoing basis,” he forecasts. 

Andersen and other members of the IAAPA Strategic Planning Committee have already taken 12 months to focus on issues like globalization, broadening the safety message, and new technology.

“Technology plays a part in our daily lives and people’s expectations, whether it’s virtual reality, augmented reality, social media, or different ways to engage the consumer. All those elements have to be taken into account when we are considering the plan for the next five years,” says committee member Denise Beckson, director of operations and human resources at Morey’s Piers Beachfront Waterparks & Resorts in Wildwood, New Jersey.

Beckson says the new plan must look at the challenges and threats to the industry, while focusing on member needs and the organization’s 100th anniversary.

“It’s really a nice convergence of some big moments in IAAPA’s history and an opportunity to springboard into the next 100 years,” she says.

“It’s a tangible plan—we’re going to show results,” adds David Rosenberg, 2018 IAAPA first vice chair and vice president of guest experience at Monterey Bay Aquarium, in Monterey, California. “The member benefits we’ll be able to create are extremely tangible, and if we do our job right, we’ll be able to show all our members what the plan can offer them.”

The current plan, approved in 2015, already had an eye on the future when it suggested a revision and strengthening of “a brand that has nearly 100 years of capital behind it, so it can grow and flourish for 100 more.” While the current centennial logo is part of that context, there is more to come.

Brand Update 

Andersen says the work on IAAPA’s new strategic plan dovetails nicely with a separate project evaluating IAAPA’s evolving brand.

“Part of this process is to assess the brand’s relevance throughout the membership and regions, all done through very broad surveys,” says Andersen, who is also part of the IAAPA Branding Task Force currently looking at the association’s story, and where that narrative should go as the association passes its centennial milestone.

Where the brand should go is a global effort, and involved worldwide survey. 

“We wanted a broad understanding from a variety of people,” says Bonnie Sherman Weber, president of Six Flags Magic Mountain, who chairs the task force. She explains survey participants included members, nonmembers, those who attend IAAPA events and those who don’t, along with operators of parks, zoos, family entertainment centers, and manufacturers and suppliers from around the world.

With the surveying phase now complete, Weber explains the task force—comprised of marketing and branding experts from the industry—is working to create a refreshed image for the organization.

“We want to bring the IAAPA brand to life in more compelling ways and more closely align the association’s identity with that of the global attractions industry,” she says. “Our goal is to better define the IAAPA brand—where it is today and where the association strategically wants it to be in the future— and assess and improve its relevance among all stakeholders.”

In the 2016-2018 IAAPA Strategic Plan, the board established a goal to define and strengthen IAAPA’s brand on both global and regional levels. The IAAPA Branding Task Force is part of this mission. IAAPA has already begun the transformation with a centennial celebration, moving the global headquarters to Orlando, and a new global headquarters building slated to open in 2019.

Yet Andersen, who helped lead a brand overhaul at Liseberg with the retirement of the park’s classic logo, is quick to suggest branding is not just a typeface or a graphical identity, but rather about strategy.

“It is about defining the DNA of the association, conceptualizing this DNA in a strategy, having this strategy reflected in the product and services, communicating these products and services effectively, and having everyone—staff as well as volunteers—living the brand, being the best brand ambassadors they can be,” he says.

Andersen desires, moving forward, that the organization have one consistent identity across IAAPA’s global community. The current plan that went into effect in 2016 found perception, value, and recognition of IAAPA brand were different by region and industry segment.

“My hope is we will see the new brand reflected in all IAAPA touchpoints,” Andrersen says.

The strategic planning committee has a goal to deliver a first draft of the new strategic plan to the IAAPA Board of Directors this spring, well before Andersen climbs aboard “Valkyria” for a test ride. He jokes both will be thrilling, and admits, a little frightening. The culmination of work on the strategic plan will represent an 18-month process, just like construction of his new ride. Revisions will follow the first draft, with it sent back to the strategic planning committee for tweaks. A final strategic plan will be published after a vote by the IAAPA board later in 2018. Meanwhile, the branding task force plans to conclude its work this summer and begin a rollout of its work later in 2018 and into 2019 and beyond.

IAAPA Strategic Planning Committee

Andreas Andersen, ICAE
President & CEO, Liseberg Group, Goteberg, Sweden

Denise Beckson, ICAE
Director of Operations & Human Resources, Morey’s Piers Beachfront Waterparks & Resorts, Wildwood, New Jersey

Cecilia Chávez, ICAE
Executive Director, La Granja Villa Y Su Mundo Magico, Lima, Peru

Chris Herschend
President, Ride The Ducks International & Vice Chairman, Herschend Family Entertainment, Atlanta, Georgia

Patrick Lamb
Managing Director, Severn Lamb, Alcester, United Kingdom

Matthias S.C. Li, ICAE
Chief Executive, Ocean Park Corporation, Aberdeen, Hong Kong

Jim Pattison Jr., ICAE
President, Ripley Entertainment, Orlando, Florida

David Rosenberg, ICAE
Vice President, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California 

Charles H. Salemi, ICAE
President, Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Illinois 

Bonnie Sherman Weber, ICAE
Park President, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor, Los Angeles, California