In a conundrum of guest attendance, economic downturn, and troubling status of fiscal flexibility, the amusement industry is full of more questions and uncertainty this year than years past.
The opening of the annual International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (IAAPA) Attractions Expo opened unto sadder thoughts: This year we buried Disney legend’s Art Linkletter and Harrison “Buzz” Price. To standing ovation, we witnessed industry speaker Tim O’Brien announce the unexpected passing of Holiday World’s amusement icon, Will Koch, and his subsequent induction into the IAAPA Hall of Fame.
But this wasn’t my first rodeo – I’ve been fortunate to have been a guest of IAAPA Attractions Expo several times before; however, there was something different this year: something unnerving and earthly to what most attractions operators fear – that of our industry in a global downturn. Years passed, the meeting rooms of guest instructors, keynote speakers, education rooms, and dynamic seminars have been a remote, but a back lit part to the annual IAAPA Attractions Expo. This year, these very same quarters were cramped with attendees migrating their time from the showroom floor to the meeting rooms to learn everything from strategy, to formulations applicable to their profession.
Note, it wasn’t just the seminars and meetings that took course of a new route this year. The expo show floor followed suit in another fashion. Exhibitors had cut back in many ways – collateral was only available upon request, booth displays had contracted, and vendors were mindful of approach to Buyers. In an era where Exhibitors are forced to be financially apprehensive, the expectation of creativeness would become an eminent factor to take a competitive edge. Surprisingly, this skillset was lacked by most Exhibitors/vendors. In an industry of contraction (fiscal spending respect to years prior), there ceased the usual element of new products being staple showcases for Exhibitors.
In an odd, harmonic sort of way, the “playing field” actually became leveled. Large Exhibitors with capital tensity were seemingly equal to smaller vendors, birthing a much narrower spectrum of exhibition. It meant that for the first time, in an environment dissimilar to many attendees, it became a multeity of command and manifestation.
IAAPA Attractions Expo is a living, breathing, awe-inspiring experience. It highlights the pinnacle of industry and the best we have to offer. This year, albeit a different breed, rekindled that thought of something we’re all proud to be a part of. That through it all, we will persevere.
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) is the largest international trade association for amusements and attractions. IAAPA holds its annual Attractions Expo each Fall. For more information visit IAAPA.org or call +1 703/836-4800