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EVENT REPORT

Attractions Expo Returns to Orlando With Thousands of Amusements and Buyers

Photo: Benjamin Michel for BizBash

The I.A.A.P.A. Attractions Expo, put on by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, returned to Orlando November 15 though 19, filling more than 450,000 square feet inside and outside the Orange County Convention Center with rides, inflatables, games, food, and just about everything for the attractions industry worldwide. More than 25,000 people from 96 countries attended the show—the world’s largest conference and trade show for the $24 billion attractions industry—which came back to town after a stop in Las Vegas last year.
 
“It’s good to be back home here in Orlando,” said I.A.A.P.A. president and C.E.O. Charles Bray. “There’s an overall sense of optimism in the industry. Exhibit sales are strong, and attractions industry leaders came here to buy.” In September the association announced it had signed an agreement to hold the show in Orlando for the next 10 years, canceling plans to go back to Las Vegas next year, citing Central Florida’s appeal to attendees, the quality of the convention center, the proximity to world-class attractions, and the accessibility for attendees from around the world.

The program took advantage of Orlando’s many attractions to provide on-site learning experiences to attendees. SeaWorld Orlando demonstrated high-tech cashless systems in its midway games area, Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios allowed participants to talk to production staff and see how shows are put together, and Kennedy Space Center hosted a tour of innovative exhibits showcasing the latest technology.

“You can visit the companies you want to see, and you can visit the parks, so you get an intensive program,” said Roland Mack of Mack Rides and Europa-Park in Germany. “You can take clients with you and have both the discussion and the reality of using the products in the parks. We had a lot of good talks, and we sold three rides, which doesn’t happen too often.”

The expo, which is closed to the public, attracted about 5 percent more attendees and exhibitors than in 2009, including 165 first-time exhibitors. For the second year in a row I.A.A.P.A. tracked the number of qualified buyers attending the show and shared that figure with exhibitors every day on its Web site. This year’s show attracted about 14,800 buyers, about the same as last year, shopping for water rides, ropes courses, bumper cars, arcade games, 4-D theaters, and shooting galleries, as well as support products such as ticketing systems and concessions equipment.  

The education program of the expo offered more than 90 sessions, covering topics such as revenue operations, human resources, facilities, safety, and marketing. Due to increased interest from attendees in recent years, organizers created a half-day social media symposium this year covering a range of topics about how attractions can use social media to communicate with guests and employees. I.A.A.P.A. also debuted a “Rookies and Newcomers” session for new family entertainment center owners and operators. Five on-call translators provided services to international attendees in Spanish, Japanese, French, Italian, and Chinese.

For the eighth year in a row, I.A.A.P.A. planned several events in conjunction with the expo to benefit Give Kids the World, an Orlando-based organization that provides vacations for children with life-threatening illnesses. The charitable activities included a golf tournament, 5K run, car raffle, motorcycle ride, and a half-day cleaning and fixing up the property at Give Kids the World Village. The fund-raising activities generated more than $73,000 for the nonprofit.


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