Monday, September 27, 2021

IAAPA: Back to Barcelona

Jakob Wahl on IAAPA Expo’s return to Europe

by Martin Palicki

We are anticipating the first in-person IAAPA Expo since 2019. IAAPA Expo Europe is scheduled September 27-30, 2021 in Barcelona, Spain. We asked Jakob Wahl, Executive Director and Vice President, IAAPA Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) for insight into this year’s event.

What new changes will people see at IAAPA Expo Europe this year?

There is so much in terms of innovation this year – we thought through every aspect of the Expo and how we could best support our members – exhibitors and attendees – to ensure success for everyone.

First, we decided to invite all IAAPA member facilities to attend the show for free. Depending on their membership category, facility members can receive 2-5 complimentary admission tickets to IAAPA Expo Europe. We understand the past year has been difficult for our members, and that many were closed for long periods of time, and we know attending the Expo is an important step toward recovery. We wanted to help the show be as accessible as possible.

In addition, we placed a strong focus on the educational content of this year’s Expo and will have some inspiring speakers and sessions. We have new opportunities including an entire day dedicated to the topic of sustainability, to be held at PortAventura World. We will feature some of the best examples of sustainable practices across Europe, and discuss the strides the industry continues to make in this area.

We also created a new “Cheers to our mistakes” session, where storied industry leaders such as Andreas Andersen and Jim Pattison Jr. will share their biggest professional “mistakes” and what they learned. It will be a candid conversation in a relaxed and open setting and I’m sure it will inspire everyone.

We added more opportunities for Young Professionals to take part, learn and engage during the Expo. They are the future of our industry and we look forward to providing more for this important member segment than ever before.

Finally, I think attendees will enjoy the new IAAPA Member Lounge, where members can hang out, relax, and have fun with their peers while at the Fira Barcelona.

What sort of educational component will you be offering?

The IAAPA EMEA Education Subcommittee has put together a great conference program with presentations and discussions highlighting many of the most important subjects and issues facing our industry. Annual sessions including the IAAPA Safety Institute, the Water Park Day, the Indoor Entertainment Day, and an EDUTour to PortAventura World make up part of the conference. We developed new sessions highlighting service and the guest experience, food and beverage trends, branded attractions and intellectual property, ticketing and more.

We’ve also made some overall program changes this year. The Opening Ceremony has been replaced with a keynote presentation that will help set the tone for the show and provide memorable insight for everyone. This free event will feature Doug Lansky, a renowned travel expert, as he discusses the future of our business.

We also look forward to the return of the annual Leadership Breakfast event and a Lunch and Learn focusing on “Strategy and Growth After a Downturn.”

Our work is not done yet, though. We are working on a special “The Host Country Special at IAAPA Expo Europe” which will focus on the current state of the industry in our host country, as well as discuss the future of the market.

What kinds of networking opportunities will be available?

Each of the above-mentioned events will have networking components and opportunities, and the highlight event will be the IAAPA Expo Europe Opening Reception at Tibidabo. We will spend a wonderful evening at this classic amusement park, located above the city of Barcelona, and together enjoy food, drinks, and the attractions. The park just opened the new Tibidabo Funicular which will make access to the event easier!

Why is now the right time for the industry to come together in Europe?
Jakob Wahl. Photos courtesy IAAPA.

The impact of COVID-19 brought the global attractions industry to a halt. Once countries began to reopen and operate with new safety protocols, our members began to consistently tell us they wanted to meet in person. We hosted our first in-person event last month. The IAAPA EMEA Spring Summit took place in Belgium and it was an outstanding time for members to come together again to reconnect.

It IS different to be able to see each other in person, and not in front of a screen. Nothing beats personal interaction, and being able to talk about the past, the present, and the future, and even share personal stories and updates. Manufacturers and suppliers have used the past months to really innovate and look at their products and services in new ways. To be able to debut them, share them at a trade show, and have intimate, candid conversations with potential clients is the cornerstone of success for IAAPA Expo Europe.

A lot has changed since we last came together in Paris and we are excited to bring global industry professionals together once again for our first Expo since 2019 in the dynamic city of Barcelona. The event truly is the best way to help position us all for a better future.

What COVID precautions are going to be in place?

The health and safety of our exhibitors, attendees and team members remains our number-one priority. We have been working closely with the Fira Barcelona, where IAAPA Expo Europe will be held, the Catalonian authorities, and our entire IAAPA team to ensure we provide a safe environment that meets current recommended procedures for meetings and events. This will include the use of facial coverings, physical distancing, a new “no physical contact” policy, managing the flow and density of crowds, increased cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and more.

For those traveling back home, we will also have a COVID-19 testing station onsite so attendees can easily get any additional required health certification before they leave Barcelona.

How are you handling the uncertainty of travel policies?

The pandemic is still part of our lives and its impact continues to change almost daily. We are monitoring the situation around the world, and especially in Europe. We are proactively communicating with members and working individually to answer any questions and concerns that are shared. The attractions sector is part of the hospitality industry, and we expect many of the participants, including IAAPA team members, will be fully vaccinated before the Expo, allowing for easy international travel to and from Barcelona.

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Expo in Europe?

Nothing will beat being able to see everyone face-to-face again, even if our smiles must be concealed behind our masks! I’m also excited by the new offerings we developed this year to help keep IAAPA Expo Europe fresh and different from past events. While it’s hard for me to attend sessions, I am very excited about Sustainability Day at PortAventura World and the “Cheers to our Mistakes” education session. Both will provide great insight and information in fun settings. • • •

Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, CNN.com and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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