Make the Most of Your Season: Strategies to Unlock New Revenue Opportunities in Venues. Presented by Vantage

May 16, 2024

Event Type: Education
Region: Global
Event Time: -
Venue: Online
Member Price: $0 | Nonmember Price: $0
Credit Hour(s): 1

This webcast will be presented in English and is free for IAAPA members and non-members; However, registration is required. Attendees are eligible to earn one continuing education unit (1 CEU) towards IAAPA recertification.

There isn’t one secret we can share that will unlock endless new revenue, but instead, there are many opportunities and tactics which you can implement in your park and this session will outline some successful strategies and what operators need to know to evaluate which are best for them.

Selling tickets is crucial for parks' revenue, but for steady growth and less risk, diversifying income is key. While rides are a small part of guests' time in the park, it's essential to make every moment memorable. This session will delve into revenue opportunities like food and beverage, photo and video services, ticketing, marketing, lockers, and season passes, which can significantly impact the bottom line.

Parks hold many untapped opportunities, and technology is the tool to uncover them:

  • Implementing cashless payment systems is another way to enhance guest convenience and boost spending. It also provides valuable data for improving offerings and personalizing communication.
  • Understanding individual preferences is key to shaping the guest experience. With available technology, parks can personalize and modernize, meeting guest expectations before, during, and after their visit. Joy has evolved, and meeting guests' high expectations is crucial for success.
  • The era of guesses has ended. Data collection and data analysis help operators in decision-making and process automation for better efficiency and ultimate ROI.

Operations management is all about resource allocation and where you invest to maximize your guest experience and bottom line. This panel has a wealth of practical experience tackling these difficult decisions and learnings to share.


Image of Aaron Mendelson

Aaron Mendelson

Senior VP

Aaron’s expertise in building world-class guest experiences that drive operational insight has been acquired through a combination of hands-on experience and product vision. Starting with a degree in science and technology, he served in a leadership role at Universal Orlando’s entertainment division. From there, Aaron spent over 10 years creating technology-driven experiences within the hospitality industry at Marriott Hotels as the Director of Special Events and Entertainment. In this position, Aaron was responsible for the strategy, execution, marketing, operation, and financial success of each entertainment event. Using RFID, Bluetooth Low Energy, and interactive video, Aaron created a themed attraction that helped cement his ability to blend guest journey with operational excellence. Since 2012, Aaron has been part of the WhiteWater family to successfully drive technology across multiple product lines, with each one of them contributing to the client-focused product vision and stability that Vantage enjoys today.

Image of Jesse Varga

Jesse Vargas

San Antonio Zoo

Mr. Vargas presently serves the San Antonio Zoo as its Chief Operating Officer, overseeing Capital Projects & Planning, Conservation, Education, Facilities, and Animal Care.  He has more than 25 years of experience in park management, having started right here in San Antonio as a seasonal Goodwill Ambassador at Fiesta Texas while earning his Bachelors of Business Management from UTSA.  After spending his first 14 years working with Six Flags (TX, OH, KY and CA) in various progressive capacities, Jesse was appointed as the Chief Operating Officer of the San Francisco Zoo.  There, he coordinated the finalization and implementation of their $250m master plan and carried out 38 refurbishment and new construction projects inclusive of Hearst Grizzly Gulch, the largest grizzly bear exhibit in the lower 48 states.

Following his time in San Francisco, Jesse moved overseas and, over a 12-year period, led teams responsible for opening, expanding, or operating innovative parks and educational attractions in the Bahamas and the Middle East. Notable achievements during this time include guiding Ferrari World Abu Dhabi through 5 years of consecutive record growth to include the implementation of a $650m master plan expansion.  Jesse also spearheaded the opening of the world’s first STEM-based, experiential learning and entertainment facility, an attraction that utilized innovative mediums to showcase teachings ranging from paleontological biomechanics to interstellar physics. 

Jesse spent two years as the Assistant Director, Parks & Recreation for the City of Austin managing hundreds of recreational areas to include parks, recreational facilities, and programming.  Jesse’s most recent assignment was as Vice-President at Atlantis Dubai where he was responsible for the resort’s three world-class animal attractions to include Lost Chambers Aquarium, Sea Lion Point, and Dolphin Bay.  While in this role, his team achieved AZA accreditation, the first facility in the Middle East and North Africa to have done so.  Jesse also established a Conservation & Education Department, and campus-wide sustainability program.

Melissa Lockwood

Melissa Lockwood

General Manager
Baha Bay

Melissa Lockwood is the General Manager of Baha Bay at Baha Mar, located in Nassau, Bahamas. Opening in July 2021, Baha Bay is set on 15 lush beachfront acres and is home to several region’s first attractions, impressive culinary experiences and the world’s first gaming pavilion inside a waterpark. Prior to joining Baha Mar, she spent 7 years with Miral Experiences in Abu Dhabi, where she was on the pre-opening team at Yas Waterworld and worked at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi in both operations and guest services. Her experience also includes working in parks and recreation for several municipalities in Texas and Missouri. She has been a frequent speaker at industry conferences and trade shows and is on the World Waterpark Association Board of Directors. She is an IAAPA Certified Attractions Executive, a NRPA Certified Parks and Recreation Executive, and a PHTA Certified Pool Operator.

Una DeBoer Photo

Una de Boer (Moderator)

CMO, WhiteWater

Una joined the WhiteWater family in 2015, already an international business to business marketing expert having enjoyed a broad 20-year career ranging across several market sectors from professional services to energy management SaaS.  Una started her career running B2B advertising campaigns and then consulted on direct marketing best practice for large financial services providers in the UK.

Since 2005 Una’s roles have involved building marketing teams to help organizations put customer understanding at their center and build meaningful brands which connect with employees and customers alike. As a literature graduate and MBA Una believes that Marketing merges storytelling, psychology, data analysis and common commercial sense to simplify ‘why?’ for customers.

A member of WhiteWater’s executive leadership team, Una leads the marketing for WhiteWater and all its brands; making sure each international market and business area has a voice which leads the industry. She also heads WhiteWater’s Sustainability initiatives.

James Harhi

James Harhi

JFH Technologies

JAMES HARHI is a strategic, forward-thinking, and entrepreneurial executive with 20+ years of experience leading operational strategy, financial planning and analysis, product management, and M&A to support unprecedented levels of business growth and transformation.

Throughout his career, James has been recognized for his ability to revitalize business strategy, drive innovative product development end-to-end, and create value and bottom-line revenue growth for corporations and emerging businesses. Leveraging his multidisciplinary skill set, James analyzes business challenges and develops strategies and solutions to create quick wins and promote long-term business growth.

At the start of his career, James developed his talent for entrepreneurship and innovation while developing a strong foundation for identifying and understanding customer and employee concerns at a high level. James drew upon this experience to drive products, services, and overall operations, that allow companies to focus on their core business while implementing innovative solutions to resolve issues.

In his most recent role as Senior VP for ProParks Attraction Group, James led business development and performance, while establishing board oversight for StarGuard Elite as part of an acquisition of two of his companies. James incorporated business process improvements, technology integrations, and reporting for four existing water parks with over 1,200 employees and trained staff on acquired IP system. He grew top-line sales by $6M and increased profit to $2.5M within two years while battling COVID’s impact to the amusement industry.

James is passionate about building top-performing teams to drive change and growth at all levels. He sets high expectations and provides both challenge and support while mentoring employees and building meaningful relationships with his teams. James focuses on supporting his team and providing them the professional development, skills, resources, and tools to be successful. He has proven success of building trust throughout all levels of an organization, from executives to vendors and serves as a true partner to all those he works with.

A firm believer in empowering his community, James served six years as a member of the Board of Directors for Prospera, providing leadership, advising, and funding for other small businesses to realize their dreams. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the UCF Foundation, his alma mater, transforming lives through philanthropy.

Complementing an impressive career history, James holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from University of Central Florida with minors in both Finance and Mathematics. He has been the recipient of multiple awards, such as Disney Strategic Partner Award, 4 time Harris Small Business of the Year, Disney Partners in Excellence, Prospera Small Business Success Story, Brother of the Generation from Delta Upsilon UCF chapter for exceeding expectations.


Please Note: Agenda is subject to change.