Thursday, November 21, 2013

Day 14: Last Day at IAAPA

My last day of IAAPA came quickly and quietly; by the time it arrived, I was most definitely not ready to be nearly done. It was easily the biggest day for me at the convention, with three classes on my schedule and still lots to see. I started the morning very early as I needed to be at the convention center by 9:00 a.m. for my first class.

The trade show floor wasn't open yet, so just the south concourse was open for classes. This one was titled "Young Professionals Panel," in which four panelists shared their stories on entering the industry and what they've learned. It was nice to hear from a younger perspective as they spoke about where they began and how they've found their way. The biggest take-away from the morning class was that being in the amusement industry takes passion & persistence, and the rest is a lot of fun. Everybody in the industry seems to really enjoy their jobs, and I know that I will want to work in a place where work and play can be the same thing.

After my first class, I wandered downstairs to find an IAAPA bookstore that I didn't know existed. They had shelves upon shelves of books related to the amusement industry, everything from managing parks to history to roller coaster calendars (I did buy one). I spent quite a while taking a look at all of the books before walking with three favorites: "The Global Theme Park Industry," "Poster Art of the Disney Parks," and "Dream It! Do It!"

These books were rather large so I grabbed a Coca Cola bag from their booth to carry every thing, taking the opportunity to get a drink at one of the free Coca Cola Freestyle machines they were displaying. My next class would not be until 3:30 so I decided to walk around the show floor and take pictures. All IAAPA photos are now online, by the way, right here. I started in one corner and proceeded back and forth through every aisle, each one a 10 minute walk. I took pictures of the most interesting booths along the way, namely coaster manufacturers or other prominent companies. Many of the booths also had product flyers or promotional pamphlets for visitors to take, which I began collecting (I'll be displaying many of these at Winterim Fair).

After getting through about half of the floor in no less than two hours, I decided to break for lunch. When I returned, I realized I still hadn't seen any of the outdoor exhibits. Most of these were just inflatables, but there were several portable zipline models that I tried. After that, it was back inside for more photography. I managed to get more than a few pictures of the trade show but before long it was 3:30 and time for my next class, "Consumer Special Events: Development, Operation and Management." After having learned a lot about the events that Cedar Point holds for various groups, I thought it would be interesting to hear how special events are planned at other parks. We learned a lot about a halloween event that Universal Studios Japan hosts and the various development challenges they faced due to cultural barriers. This session really stressed the importance of surveying guests and applying the results to your business strategy. For example, the Japanese are not very familiar with Halloween. When the park began the event, some of the scare tactics were too intense. Based on the results they saw in this initial stage, they determined that it was necessary to make the event a little more friendly.

My last class, however, was particularly inspiring. This one was titled "Theme Park Resorts: Business Planning for New and Expansion Projects," which is basically exactly what I was looking for. It has long been a dream of mine to find a way to start my own small amusement park venture, and this session confirmed my enthusiasm. By using Germany's hugely successful Europa Park as a case study, the two speakers showed the audience how to plan successful theme park expansions. They focused heavily on mixing leisure activities, such as shopping, entertainment, amusement parks, resorts, education, etc. Mixing any of the above will drive up attendance and profit, while actually being more cost-efficient to develop. They also encouraged us to follow an integrated planning process that would combine business planning with design planning to ensure success. Often times, one or the other is focused on almost exclusively, yielding a project that cannot be completed. I took notes like a madman through the entire session and I am very excited about everything that I've learned - I hope that I'll be able to apply this knowledge in a very real way in the future.

By the time the class concluded, the trade show floor had closed and most people were on their way out. It was the end of IAAPA for me, and I couldn't believe how quickly it had gone by! It's hard to believe that Winterim is already nearly over, but I've still got a lot to look forward to - time at Disney and Universal before I get to come home and share all of my work with you! I look forward to getting to show you all the exciting things I've been doing.

See you soon!


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