ORLANDO, FL — Some 27,000 visitors from 98 countries attended the IAAPA Attractions Expo here at the Orange County Convention Center, an increase of nearly 30% over traffic at the 2006 event. International participation soared by 72%.
Produced by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (Alexandria, VA), the annual conference and trade show, the world’s largest for the attractions industry, took place from November 12 through 16. This year’s theme was: “Expand Your Universe, Outside of This World.”
IAAPA said buyer attendance from Europe doubled while attendance from Southeast Asia, Canada and Latin America increased between 30% and 50%. The number of buyers from theme parks and the party rentals and inflatables category doubled; attendance from waterparks, zoos, aquariums and tourist attractions all increased approximately 50%.
However, reviews from coin-op exhibitors and visiting operators were mixed. Some reported good business and others said that aisle traffic was “lackluster.” The American Amusement Machine Association once again hosted a pavilion, where several member companies showed off the latest music and games products. Family entertainment center operators had a strong presence, but street operator attendance was described as light. Discussion among amusement industry members focused on future plans and prospects for the AMOA International Expo and Fun Expo.
Buyers met with exhibitors from the 1,147 companies and organizations that showcased products and services on the trade show floor. Representing 120 different product categories, including thrill rides, innovative new technologies, creative services and coin-op amusements, among many others, these companies displayed and demonstrated products in 512,738 net sq.ft. of exhibit space, making this year’s parks show the second-largest indoor show in the event’s history.
A highlight of the IAAPA conference was an expanded educational program, which drew a record 7,000 showgoers who participated in more than 90 workshops, roundtable discussions and seminars. Participation was up more than 20%, compared with last year, IAAPA reported. Thirty-seven industry professionals graduated from the association’s first-ever Institute for Emerging Leaders, which provided training on marketing, operations, safety, human resources, finance and revenue operations.
The educational conference also included a number of unique behind-the-scenes tours at Orlando-area attractions. Fright Night at Universal Orlando, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede and the Nickelodeon Family Suites Hotel were among the featured sites. The new trade show floor tours – which stopped at exhibits offering point-of-sale systems, haunted equipment and supplies, inflatables and security products – were sold out.
IAAPA presented numerous awards in a wide range of industry categories. In the coin sector, the association honored ICE’s Deal Or No Deal as the year’s best coin-op arcade or redemption game. Honorable mention went to Namco’s Jumpin’ Jackpot. It said the best new noncoin game was the Mini Electric Clay Machine Turn Table from a company called Play with Real Clay.
In the FEC market, a toddlers’ educational play center from Comfy Entertainment Centers was named the best new FEC children’s attraction. Zamperla’s Kang-A-Bounce was named best new kiddie ride. Best new technology applied to amusements was Krush Kushionz from Sans Gear NZ Aktion AttracktioNZ; it’s an innovative airbag designed to let players use trapezes without safety harnesses. Boondocks Fun Center (Draper, UT), Diversia (Córdoba, Argentina) and The Amazing Pizza Machine (Omaha, NE) were named 2007’s best FECs. Jack Mendes of Bob’s Space Racers received the Outstanding Service Award.
During the show, IAAPA announced that Bob Masterson, president of Ripley Entertainment Inc., was elected to serve as chairman for 2008. The board of directors also confirmed the election of officers and selected six members to three-year terms. Linda Fernandez of E.K. Fernandez (Kapolei, HI) was among the newly elected board members.
Masterson, who has extensive experience in leisure concept design, development and construction, is a dual citizen of both Canada and the United States, and is the first Canadian leader of IAAPA. He has been with Ripley Entertainment since 1973. As president, he has guided the company through a period of growth and diversification. During his tenure, the company has become a leisure industry leader in trademark licensing, franchising, aquariums and attraction operations.
Ripley’s attractions entertain more than 13 million guests annually. They include the world-famous Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museums; Ripley’s Aquariums; Ripley’s Haunted Adventures; the Guinness World Record Museums; interactive mini-golf courses; Super Fun Zone arcades; and the latest addition, a Great Wolf Lodge indoor waterpark resort in Niagara Falls. Additionally, Ripley Entertainment owns a syndicated TV show and The Believe It or Not! cartoon panel Robert Ripley began in 1918, which is still seen daily in nearly 200 newspapers in 42 countries.
The IAAPA convention and trade show will return to Orlando next year, when it will be held from November 17 to 21; the event will take place in Las Vegas in 2009.