Expo 2012 Keynote: ‘Our Job Is to Make Life a Little More Fun’

CEOs from Cedar Fair, Liseberg, Palace Entertainment offer keys to success

by Jeremy Schoolfield

Here’s a tip: If the program is called “CEO Speak,” do everything you can to get there.

This is the fifth year IAAPA Attractions Expo has been holding these special seminars that gather some of the industry’s leading executives onto a panel to take a peek inside their minds and philosophies.

The latest installment featured Cedar Fair President/CEO Matt Ouimet, Liseberg President/CEO Andreas Andersen, and Palace Entertainment President/ CEO Fernando Eiroa. Here is just a taste of the insights they passed on during their hour-long discussion.

Andreas Andersen, ­Liseberg

  • Andersen said he strives to be “humble and respectful” in all of his interactions with his employees.
  • “Zero tolerance when it comes to errors can paralyze a company,” he said. He strives for excellence, but he will tolerate mistakes if they’re born out of a sensible risk and are used as a learning experience.
  • “This industry is an emotional product,” Andersen said, so attractions must understand what is the most meaningful to its guests on that level.
  • Along those lines, he believes attractions must play up the real, physical aspects of the experience—something that can’t be re-created elsewhere. “It’s not a digital experience,” he said.

Fernando Eiroa, Palace Entertainment

  • “You have to show loyalty and fight for your team,” Eiroa said, which extends to promoting from within.
  • Eiroa visits all of the Palace properties at least twice a year, often unannounced. He wants to see the attraction as it is day in and day out. He then makes a list of things he likes (which he shares first) and which things he wants improved, and shares those with his management teams.
  • Palace uses special events to help create a sense of urgency for visiting an attraction.

Matt Ouimet, Cedar Fair

  • Employees understand the difference between authentic and fake leaders, so Ouimet seeks to create an environment where his team has “permission to push back” without fear of reprisal.
  • “The world’s a really complicated place. Our job is to make it a little more fun,” he said. To accomplish that goal, attractions must “lessen the stress points” that can creep into the guest experience, most notably waiting in line. He focuses on increasing ride capacity and lessening wait times at any point of financial transaction.
  • Ouimet believes the season-pass model has shifted from a value-based proposition to one where the pass provides “snippets of time” that guests can squeeze into their hectic schedules.