by Dr Jack Samuels
The amusement and attractions business is extremely diverse but it is also part of a much wider industry, that of the leisure, entertainment and hospitality – or tourism if you prefer.
It’s amazing how often parks and attractions professionals fail to recognise the resources that are out there in similar businesses to their own. Those in other industries are just as guilty.
Some years ago I decided to attend a conference for the ski resort industry in, of all places, Orlando. When I enquired why there were no speakers from the amusement park and attractions industry I was asked, “Why?” Then I proceeded to point out that these two industries share many things in common, and in some cases even share the same facilities. For example, in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area we have two snow sports areas (Mountain Creek and Camelback) that operate as ski resorts in the winter but large waterparks over the summer season.
Further the problems faced and the operating knowledge used by these industries is very similar. Both have seasonality, cater to similar market segments, offer food & beverage/gift shops, use heavy equipment and have safety issues to address – amongst other common factors. After I pointed this at the conference, my fellow delegate replied, “Yes, you certainly have a point.” In fact, one of the few things the ski resort industry doesn’t share with parks and attractions business is an extensive educational programme. Parks 1, ski resorts 0.
But stepping back inside our own industry, we can see such sub sectors as waterparks, bowling, miniature golf and haunted attractions. Attending a trade show or conference event for one of these related industries can offer a tremendously valuable learning curve. It’s amazing how many speakers and exhibitors I have recruited over the years for IAAPA and other events simply by telling them other industry groups exist. Think who you might encounter by widening your network.
Here are several of the resources/events I have found useful over the years:
•Travel and Tourism Research Association. Not so much a trade show as an opportunity to learn about the latest trends and research influencing the entire tourism industry.
•International Association of Assembly Managers (IAAM) and International Special Events Society (ISES). Just two of about six US-based groups in the events industry that offer seminars at their trade shows that are useful to the amusement park and attractions industry.
•Outdoor merchandise retailers shows. As well as this event in Salt Lake City, Utah, other merchandise shows include New York City’s Variety Merchandise Show and ASD/AMD in Las Vegas. Here you can find a lot of useful information relating to merchandise that is sold for use in the outdoors and gift shops. These shows are very important for merchandisers in our industry and sometimes provide useful seminars as well.
It may seem as though you can spend the entire year on the road attending conferences and industry events, but if you like to travel and learn new things, start shopping around. A whole new world of educational opportunities is out there waiting for you – and might just give you the edge when it comes to making improvements at your park or facility.
Dr Samuels has written over 150 articles for the amusement, theme park and entertainment industries. He provides diverse consulting services in general marketing and market research, facility development, customer service, safety, crowd and event management and promotional activities programming such as birthday parties. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org