InPark speaks with industry leaders taking on new challenges
Interviews by Martin Palicki
ABOVE (L to R): Josh Adcock, Jakob Wahl, Paul Noland
Jakob Wahl Mr. IAAPA Europe
In July 2017, Jakob Wahl returned to IAAPA’s EMEA division in the role of Vice President, after more than five years with Europa-Park, where his most recent title had been Director of Communications/ Executive Manager Special Projects. He had previously been IAAPA Europe Program Manager for more than four years. At IAAPA EMEA he has taken over for Karen Staley, who transferred across the pond to head up the IAAPA North American division (Staley left IAAPA earlier this year).
How has your first year been as head of the EMEA division of IAAPA?
Intense! I have considered it a transitional year to come up to speed and continue the great development of IAAPA EMEA. We had some very well-attended events such as our winter and spring forums, which received great reviews from participants. Membership has developed nicely and the Euro Attractions Show 2018 will be by far the largest EAS show IAAPA has ever had. So it looks like we are on the right track.
The next step is to have additional staff join the office and then further develop our work and membership offering. We are working on some very nice projects in terms of events and member services that I look forward to over the next year.
What is your outlook on the future of the industry in your region?
If I look among members in the EMEA region, I see very impressive confidence in the market. These are just a few examples to highlight the positive dynamics in the industry:
• Abu Dhabi just opened the very impressive Warner Bros. World
• Disney announced a 2 billion EUR investment to their Paris property
• Large park groups are expanding their offerings
• Many family-owned amusement parks (such as Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Toverland or Europa-Park) have launched or started construction of the singlelargest investments in their history
• Smaller parks are innovating and investing in very smart additions to their portfolios
Personally, I also think the growth of EAS is actually a good indicator for the optimism of the whole market.
IAAPA is an evolving organization. What changes are you seeing in your division?
I think change is vital to stay relevant. On a global level, the association is changing very fast with the move to Orlando and the new headquarters building. Here at IAAPA EMEA, we currently are looking into opening up a new office in the Middle East next year to better service our members in the region, all while providing a more hands-on approach and striving for transparency in our work.
What can people expect at this year’s EAS show in Amsterdam?
First, they will experience the largest show floor ever at EAS (following last year’s record show in Berlin). Exhibitor space grew by more than 10%, which is a great sign for business and innovation in this industry. We also further developed the conference program, which will offer more than 100 hours of educational events.
For the first time we are combining a tour with a dedicated session and will visit Walibi Holland to experience their Halloween event behind the scenes and learn more on this subject in several presentations. The IAAPA EMEA education sub-committee has really put together a very strong program and I highly recommend everyone to attend the various sessions.
What two or three things should people be sure not to miss during EAS?
The opening ceremony on the opening day of EAS will be a very special one this year and is a great start to the week. The same evening, the opening reception will be the major networking event of the week with more than 1,200 attendees enjoying the wonderful atmosphere of the beach club right next to the trade show halls. To finish the week we will have an intense, one-day trip on Friday, September 28th to experience the new areas of two Dutch star attractions: Toverland and Efteling. This will be a long day, but it gives participants the great chance to see these two wonderful but very different facilities and experience some of their most recent additions.
How else can folks get involved in IAAPA?
We like our members to be active: I always encourage members (and non-members) to tell us what they like, what they don’t and what they are missing. IAAPA is a member-driven association and feedback will only make us better. So I’m always happy to hear from them to further develop this wonderful association and industry together. •
Josh Adcock Creative design
With a rich work history at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Falcon’s Creative Group, VOA and more, Josh Adcock recently became Executive Director of BRPH Creative. Historically known as an architecture and engineering (A/E) firm, by adding Josh to the team BRPH signals a commitment to providing complete design solutions.
What led you to make this transition in your career?
I have always been entrepreneurial in my approach to projects, clients and critical problem-solving. BRPH leadership has the same philosophy and encourages every team member to perform this way. I have been very fortunate in my career to find myself working with people and companies that have also valued this trait. The differentiator for me to choose to join BRPH was twofold: (1) Executive leadership is fully committed to elevating the company’s presence in the creative arena and, (2) I find pure excitement in curating an expanding team, infecting an established company culture with curiosity and innovation that will ultimately bring BRPH to the front line of creative offerings – but with 54 years of architectural and engineering prowess behind it.
Tell us about your new role at BRPH.
My role as Executive Director of BRPH Creative is very simple: to bring BRPH to the forefront of creative offerings by truly aligning with and anticipating clients’ needs. We will do this by leveraging our existing A/E
resources to help execute creatively driven design solutions better than any other singular Creative or A/E firm in the marketplace. Today, my role is to lay the groundwork and define new processes across all market sectors. I am joined on this journey by Jessica Roddenberry, Director of Design. We are exposing the power of design thinking and collaborative culture, which has already shown successful results across entertainment, aerospace and manufacturing markets. We will build off of each success, enhancing our client relationships and offerings through a new era of critical thinking, creativity and disruption.
I’m also responsible for making French Press coffee and terrible puns (so they say).
What do you hope to bring to BRPH?
First, I want to introduce a new way of looking at problem solving and be the example of how fun work should be performed – by having FUN. Second, I will encourage cross collaboration and break down perceived barriers between creative and A/E teams. BRPH is a very successful A/E firm, and has a well-established history. However, creative teams have very different methodologies, so the tools and processes are unique. I am eager to bring my personal experience and introduce more world-class creative resources to our teams and show the world what we can do. Maybe we can change it from A/E firm to A/C/E firm!
Landscape architecture is your specialty – in what ways can parks and attractions make better use of their landscapes?
The beautiful thing about the creative and entertainment industries is that people arrive there from very unique paths and backgrounds. Mine happens to be landscape architecture, which, for me, has had nothing to do with traditional landscape or plants. It’s a deceiving name for an area of study. It is broad and allows designers to sculpt environments and directly affect a person’s psychology inside or outside of a space. Manipulating environments and shifting psychologies is paramount to building parks and attractions. It could be argued that is the sole purpose, and this is why my landscape architecture background has a powerful alignment with parks and attractions all over the world. Owners of parks and attractions will always be more successful taking a step back and looking at the guest
experience holistically, debating how the project fits into the larger picture or long-range master plan.
You came to BRPH directly from SeaWorld Parks; how did working directly for an operator change your design?
Having been part of the owner team of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment simply gives me more knowledge and insight into how to more successfully align with future clients’ needs. Having overseen attraction development for 12 parks across North America helps me understand various operating methods and building challenges in different environments. Most importantly, it helps me anticipate the needs of executive owner teams and sets BRPH up to become a better overall partner.
What designer(s) have most inspired you?
My primary inspiration has come from more writers and musicians, than designers, as a matter of fact. One of my favorite inspirations is Oscar Wilde. If I had to pick a designer, it would be Lebbeus Woods. I can’t explain it, you gotta look it up. It’s unarchitecture. It’s alive and dead at the same time. It’s fantastic. •
Paul Noland Ticket to success
In February of this year, IAAPA announced Paul Noland’s resignation from the association’s CEO role. Days later, Noland was named as the new CEO of accesso, a leader in queuing and ticketing technology solutions. He replaced Steve Brown, who is remaining on in an advisory capacity during the transition. Prior to his position with IAAPA, Noland worked for many years at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts and Marriott International.
What are you most proud of with your IAAPA role?
I think I’m most proud of the association’s ability to expand globally. In particular, the growth of the IAAPA expos in Asia, Europe and North America really enabled everything else the association does. It allowed us to expand our services around the globe. Of course, it wasn’t just me – the whole team deserves great credit.
Why was now the right time to change direction?
My role at IAAPA was my dream job. I really enjoyed it and was perfectly happy. But I have some real background in this area, like ticketing, revenue management and queuing. It’s something I’ve had a great passion for. In regards to accesso, Steve Brown and I have known each other for years. We worked together at Disney doing ticketing for Walt Disney World. I knew if ever there was a company that would be a natural fit, it was here. When Tom Burnet, chairman of accesso, approached me in the fall, I felt like it was the right move.
You have much experience as an operator, and you led an association representing operators, why move to the supplier side?
To me there is not a great division between the two. It is really one industry and had this not come along, I would have stayed with IAAPA indefinitely. accesso is really a company that is doing great work and the products and lines of business they are in are areas I’ve had over 20 years of passion and experience in, so it was really the right opportunity.
What can you bring to the accesso team?
First, I think I have a pretty good appreciation of the industry from a global level and I’ve had relationships for many years with key players in the industry. Second, I have a lot of strategic planning and business development in my background and accesso has changed so much over the last five years, including five major acquisitions. Now it’s time to put together the long-term strategy for how we make those products work better together, and armed with that information, figure out what markets we should pursue. We have a limitless set of markets to pursue, so my first year I expect to start prioritizing where we should be.
What are your thoughts on the state of the industry?
Overall, can you believe it is still this strong? It’s been a long run and things are still extremely strong. But I’m old
enough and experienced enough to know the tree doesn’t grow to the sky – but it is really healthy right now. There are some socioeconomic phenomena that are spurring us on, independent of the health of the economy. The fact that people value experiences much more than things, an emerging middle class in Asia and other regions, and a general growth in leisure are fueling it and will continue to fuel it.
It seems like parks and attractions would be even more embracing of tech than they have been, and I think we are starting to really see that. Historically, if you own a park, capital is a huge thing and you always want to put it into guest-facing projects. We don’t always think of ticketing as guest-facing, but rather as infrastructure. Now that is changing. People are losing tolerance for waiting in lines, so to have technology that gets a ticket in your hand before you show up, or can manage queues during the day really is guest-focused and adds to the guest experience and, frankly, adds to the revenues of the park.
It’s driven as much by the consumer as it is by the operator.
Absolutely. People don’t have tolerance for lines, because once some lines get removed from your life, the next line you hit makes you incrementally madder. Now you don’t have to wait in line at airports, you can buy things instantly online, etc. Now that line you do encounter makes you much more upset than it would have three years ago. That puts the onus on everyone in business to find ways to break down those lines and barriers. It’s a real opportunity for parks to improve the guest experience. • • •