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Park News

ParkHoppin’ with Paul Ruben

Tubing in the dark

One of the most important things I think I can do while visiting parks is to discover what is new and different, then share this information with you. One innovation I discovered was at Hyland Hills Water World, a waterpark in Federal Heights, Colorado (near Denver). Water World opened in 1979 with two waterslides and is now celebrating its 35th season. Today it has 48 water attractions on its 70 acre (28-hectare) site, with 12,300ft (3,7km) of water slides. I first visited Water World in 1994, the year after it added Voyage to the Center of the Earth, a tubing ride in the dark, and four years after it had introduced Lost River of the Pharaohs (pictured below), the world’s first-ever dark tube float. These were like dark rides, but guests in bathing suits floated into the depths of the unknown in family-sized tubes rather than on mechanical ride vehicles. Both Pharaohs and Voyage have won numerous awards from World

Waterpark Association (WWA) and IAAPA. The two attractions have 15 animatronic figures, including a Tyrannosaurus Rex, which stretches 12ft (3.5m) high. Lost River of the Pharaohs is a 1,569ft (478m) family tube river ride through an Egyptian pyramid. Voyage to the Center of the Earth is a 1,600-t long family tube ride that uncovers a world of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures. The brainchild of Water World founder Greg Mastriona, they feature theming and storylines by R&R Creative Amusement Designs. Pharoahs is a fairly serene float, like a lazy river, but Voyage is more turbulent, more intimidating. I thought both were wildly successful and would quickly be adopted and imitated at other waterparks. I was wrong. Instead, waterparks have added bigger and wilder slides, uphill water coasters, larger wave pools and action rivers. But no themed dark tube rides, and most lazy rivers remain rather lacking in terms of theming. This year, 20 years later, I revisited Water World. Greg Mastriona has retired, but his dark water rides remain and they even named the adjacent golf course after him. I wanted to reconfirm my original thoughts. Were these rides as good as I thought? It turns out that the rides, two of the park's favourite attractions, have been enhanced in a big way. Voyage to the Center of the Earth now features a more realistic and menacing T-Rex, which lurches towards those floating by. Also new are some animated prehistoric turtles and Pteranodons, plus some interesting lighting elements. I thought they should have added a prehistoric swine and renamed the attraction “Jurassic Pork”. Today’s waterparks, more or less, all look the same. Same attractions, minimal theming, or the same tried-and-tested tropical themes. I still think a themed dark tube float is a great idea, and every waterpark in the world is missing out by not introducing at least one dark ride experience. Chances are you’ve already got a lazy river, but don’t be lazy when it comes to theming. A themed dark tube float adds character and uniqueness; it will make your waterpark distinctive.

IAAPA’s manife

During the recent Euro Attractions Show (EAS) in Amsterdam, IAAPA launched a new European manifesto to give policymakers a clear idea about what matters to the parks and attractions industry ahead of the arrival of a new European commissioner for tourism

“This matters because behind the fun and escapism of a day out spent at an amusement park there are some hard economic facts and figures,” says Liseberg CEO Andrea Andersen, who serves as the chairmman of IAAPA’s European Advisory Committee. “We’re also a sector that is capital intensive; we need to invest in new and existing rides to keep guests coming back to our parks and attractions. Very often this investment stays in Europe as most suppliers of new rides are based here.”

Joining Andersen at a press conference during EAS were IAAPA president and CEO Paul Noland, IAAPA Europe vice-president Karen Staley, IAAPA policy advisor Kieran O’Keeffe, Jakob Wahl of Europa-Park, PortAventura CEO Fernando Aldecoa and Francesca Tudini, head of the Tourism Policy unit at the European Commission.

“I cannot offer you a lot of solutions today, but I understand the issues,”

said Tudini. She also remarked that is was not her role to, “harmonise laws.” The latter may come as a frustration to those campaigners seeking parity among value added tax (VAT) rates for parks and attractions in Europe, Aldecoa highlighting during his presentation how widely they vary – from 3% in Luxembourg to 27% in Hungary. What remains significant on this issue is the reduced rate levied in some countries on tourism services. Spain, for example, scrapped it last year, forcing park operators like PortAventura to leap from 9 to 22% VAT in a single season. Aldecoa and his team absorbed the increase (at a cost of several million Euros) while other Spanish parks laid off staff. Clearly it is important to reinforce the case for a reduced rate, via arguments such as the industry’s capital and labour intensive nature (it is often one of the first employers of young people for instance). There was a worrying issue put forward in the press conference, however, by a journalist from the Netherlands, who suggested there is some pressure to abandon the reduced rate in his country as tourism is considered a “luxury”. Among other issues that IAAPA is campaigning on as part of the European manifesto is fair competition between public and private sector attractions, the association asking that, “free or subsidised entry to new publicly funded attractions should be offered only where it does not have a negative impact on existing commercially operated attractions.” There has in the past, for example, been some publicly funded attractions developed based on poor feasibility studies. As a result, some have either failed or needed further public support to keep going. IAAPA Europe does, however fully support the policy objectives set out in a 2010 European Commission document regarding the stimulation of competitiveness in the tourism sector and is keen to see that, four years on, more work is done. Easing barriers to visas for non-EU tourists is one thing that will help IAAPA’s members attract more trade, for example.

Francesca Tudini, head of the Tourism Policy unit for the European Commission, addresses the press conference as Jakob Wahl (Europa-Park) and Andreas Andersen (Liseberg/IAAPA) look on



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