Takeaways from IAAPA

David Sangree, MAI, CPA, ISHC and Nuresh Maredia attended IAAPA’s annual convention and trade show in Orlando with over 38,000 other attendees last week. The show was the highest attended in several years and had a wealth of exhibits from a wide range of vendors for the attractions industry. The following are some key takeaways from the show:

  1. David and Nuresh had a back of the house tour of the new Volcano Bay Water and Theme Park. This property has met with strong success since its late spring of 2017 opening and was at capacity during its first 100 days. The property contains 26 slides and 14 beaches with 8,000 tons of sand.  Although the pricing is high at $67 for a walk-up admission ticket, many people have a park hopper pass or a season pass, which results in lower pricing per visit. The property has 51 larger cabanas and 50 premium seating cabanas, which are very popular. The unique feature about the park is the ability for guests to utilize the Tapu Tapu wristband to reserve their place in line as well as to make all payments. The landscaping and design are one of the most attractive of any waterpark in North America.
  2. Nick Varney with Merlin Entertainments gave an inspiring talk at one of the conference sessions. His comments centered around the need to invest in the story and theme of an amusement park, not just a mascot. The story operators convey is an important part of selling the experience to guests. Nick gave a cautionary tale of a park that spent over $1,000,000 creating a mascot, including merchandise. Without a compelling story behind it, the mascot never took off with the public and ended up being scrapped by the park.
  3. At a session on family entertainment centers, the speakers discussed the range of labor costs associated with their operation. The range was from 20% to 35% of total revenue and heavily dependent upon the minimum wage within each of the states represented.
  4. Virtual Reality (VR) is trying to make its way into mainstream amusement and attractions. There were many vendors with a wide variety of VR products and content from virtual paragliding to wearable VR. We are looking forward to see improvements in VR quality and content at the next IAAPA Attractions Expo.