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aterparks have popped up in all the expected places that tourists like to travel – Egypt, Turkey, Dubai, Sydney, Bangkok, Singapore,

Barcelona, Las Vegas and the Caribbean, plus a few others where they will happily uncover these hidden recreational gems – South Africa, Kuwait, Scotland, Afghanistan, among others. And, they aren’t just places for tourists either. Waterparks now provide the backdrop to movies, television commercials, reality shows etc. Currently, the World Waterpark Association is aware of more than 2,000 waterparks located throughout the world, with potentially hundreds more in the works for 2015 and beyond.

The waterpark industry as a whole is experiencing solid and sustained growth, both in the opening of new facilities and in the addition of major new attractions to existing parks in North America and Asia. More and more people are visiting waterparks. Consider the following observation made within the Theme Index 2013 global attractions attendance report published by the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM: “Waterparks grew at about 9 percent globally with some good numbers coming out of Asia, and increasingly Latin America.”

While this report focuses only on the top 20 facilities worldwide, the Top 20 facilities in North America and the Top 15 facilities in Asia, these numbers support the idea that the industry is making significant strides in entering more markets and attracting more visitors. New waterpark development is being driven by a few factors, some of which relate to financial data and some of which relate to geography. First, many economies are now recovering to the point where investors and large leisure entertainment corporations are pursuing investment in new leisure attractions. This is especially true in areas throughout China, which relates back to the observations made in the Theme Index. There continues to be broad-based waterpark development in China, including new properties or major waterpark expansions in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Wuhan and Tianjin, among others. According to AECOM’s senior vice-president for Economics in Asia-Pacific Chris Yoshi, “Unlike the US, where there was a push to create a standard, in Asia there’s a lot of variety and experimentation.” He goes on to discuss how some Asia waterpark developers are promoting Chinese heritage and culture within the themes and stories found throughout the park. China, and Asia in general, have become a hotbed of waterpark development. A new, if not unexpected, trend. And some of those parks are recording amazing visitor numbers, placing them among the worldwide best performers. One reason for this is waterparks have mass appeal but cost less than their dry counterparts to construct. “Waterparks are an easier venture than theme parks as they incur lower capital costs and a smaller footprint,” highlights Yoshii.

Waterparks to watch

For examples of some of the best and most innovative new waterpark facilities across the globe, the WWA has compiled this list. Check them out online or elsewhere in this issue!

•Cartoon Network Amazone, Bangsaray, Pattaya, Thailand – see page 40

•Lotte Water Park, Gimhae, Busan, South Korea – see page 44

•Schlitterbahn, Corpus Christi, Texas, USA

•Aquamagica, Mumbai/Pune, India

•Splashworld, d’Avignon, France – opening 2015

In addition to their lower costs, waterparks lend themselves to a multitude of development styles and themes. Waterpark development in North America has focused on appealing to families. New facilities opening here within the last few years have included more emphasis on thematic design and elements, interactive ride attractions that are appropriate for many age levels, as well as private rental spaces for gathering as a family such as cabanas. Designers have focused on creating relevant play areas for toddlers, tweens, teens, parents and grandparents, with rides that appeal to the youngest visitor and their parents.

While strong growth continues in Asia and still North America, attendance remains steady at facilities throughout Europe, Latin America, Australia and the Middle East.

There are still a few issues that should be of concern to developers and operators of waterparks, however – mainly changing weather patterns and water conservation. If the industry is to continue growing in both size and attendance, designers and builders must continue to develop with green practices in mind and operators must continue to be good stewards of the environment. Fortunately, advancements in water filtration, heating and cooling equipment, solar technologies, recirculation systems etc, have allowed waterparks to use less while reclaiming more water to decrease their impact on the natural environment.

Overall, the waterpark industry is enjoying a period of innovation and expansion that doesn’t appear to be tapering off anytime soon. Tourists and local visitors continue to seek out recreational experiences with friends and families and waterparks are fulfilling that need on a daily basis. “There is a global rise in the importance of leisure as a driving influence in culture and economies,” concludes John Robinett, senior vice-president of Ecomonics for AECOM. “As post-modern society in the West continues to change, as the immediacy of knowledge increases due to the internet, and as global militantism spreads, many traditional societal structures and securities are fraying creating uncertainty, and in some cases anxieties. Leisure and culture are, and will continue to be, a perfect antidote to these circumstances.”

Aleatha Ezra is the director of park member development for the World Waterpark Association, (WWA) a member-based trade organisation serving the waterpark industry with members in more than 42 countries. Aleatha began her career as a guest photographer at Worlds of Fun theme park in Kansas City, Missouri, and is also the editor of all WWA publications and oversees the association’s marketing campaigns.

•Vana Nava Water Jungle, Hua Hin, Thailand

•Jewel Runaway Bay Waterpark, Runaway Bay, Jamaica – opening 2015 runawaybay/waterpark

•Kalahari Resort, The Poconos, Pennslyvania, USA

•Camelback Lodge & Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark, The Poconos, Pennsylvania, USA – opening spring 2015

Plopsaqua, De Panne, Belgium – opening spring 2015

•Nantong Adventure Kingdom Waterpark World, Nantong, Jiangsu Province, China

•Sirlen’s Aqua Paradise, Brazil

Waterparks If the

industry is to continue growing, designers and builders must continue to develop with green practices in mind and operators must continue to be good stewards of the environment

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