GAMES GALORE: Attractions at IAAPA’s 2011 expo took up not only the entire 950,282 square feet of exhibit space in the Orange County Convention Center’s north/south build- ing, but part of the center’s parking lot, which accom- modated a full-size Ferris wheel andbounce houses.
The expo’s show floor was a carnival-esque mix of everything
an amusement park could need or want, from full-size rides, food- and-beverage stands, and arcade games, to an array of support products and services like ticketing systems and insurance. Tak- ing up the entire 950,282-square-foot exhibit floor inside the Orange County Convention Center’s north/south building, the expo spilled out into the parking lot, which accommodated over- size attractions from bounce houses to a full-size Ferris wheel. “It’s a living theme park,” said Julie Parsons, IAAPA’s vice
president of membership and marketing. In fact, buyers often bring their families and children to help with purchasing deci- sions, adding evenmore fun to the atmosphere. Although it seems like a giant playground, the show’s message and goals promote serious business. The global attractions industry generates $24 billion a year in revenue, and IAAPA’s attendees travel from more than 100 countries to the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), which in 2010 signed a 10-year contract with the show. Beyond the show floor, the expo included a packed educa-
tional program with five tracks and a number of in-depth insti- tutes —more than 120 sessions all told. Speakers came from some of the highest-profile attractions in the world, including Walt DisneyWorld Resort, the American Museum of Natural History, and the San Diego Zoo. Off-site tours and exclusive experiences around Orlando —such as behind-the-scenes peeks atDisneyWorld,LEGOLANDFlorida, and Aquatica, SeaWorld’s water park —supplemented IAAPA’s educational sessions.Many of these tours and other special events sold out, and were part of an ongoing plan to offer attendees and exhibitors a well-rounded convention experience that went beyond the show floor.
A 94-Year Rollercoaster Ride Established in 1918 as the National Outdoor Showmen’s Asso- ciation, the organization went through a number of name changes until 1972, when it became IAAPA. The association has held an annual convention since its inception, meaning show organizers have spent nearly a century fine-tuning the event to keep it relevant and forward-thinking. Creating a new marketing theme every year, finding new attendee segments, creatively catering to first-time exhibitors, and beefing up its educational offerings are just a few of the ways that IAAPA is reinventing the Ferris wheel. And it seems to be working: Attractions Expo 2011 saw an attendance increase of 3 per- cent alongwith a 5-percent jump in buyer attendance. Exhibit space shot up, too, with the outdoor exhibit area surpassing 49,000 square feet —the largest since 2002. “There has been a resurgence of positive feelings in the indus-
try,” Parsons said. “There was a lot more buying [at Attrac- tions Expo 2011]. People came and actually spent their money on new things to put in their park. They were there to be in the marketplace.” Dutch Magrath, president of Chattanooga, Tenn.–based Amusement Products, has attended Attractions Expo since the early 1980s.Hesaid that the success of a show can steer the suc- cess of the rest of his year. “The impact on business for the year —asmuch as 50 percent—canin some way be attributed back to IAAPA,” said Magrath, whose company manufactures go- karts, batting cages, bumper cars, and other products sold to FECs, and also offers consulting and design services. “It’s nice to have a good show, because it probably means you’re going to
“The impact on business for the year—as much as 50 percent—can in some way be attributed back to IAAPA. It’s nice to have a good show, because it probably means you’re going to have a good year. If you have a bad show, then it might mean it’s not going to be a good year. Fifty percent of my potential sales over the next two-year period originated at IAAPA.”