IAAPA welcomed Peter van der Schans as executive director and vice president of the IAAPA Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region in April 2022. To his new role, van der Schans brings a broad range of attraction management experience including zoos and theaters as well as theme parks. In this exclusive interview, van der Schans shares his unique perspective on IAAPA and the EMEA region, how he will serve the association, and what to look forward to at IAAPA Expo Europe (12-15 September 2022 in London, registration is now open). Interview by Judith Rubin.
How will you build on your past experience in your new role at IAAPA EMEA?
I think this will work two ways. Of course, I do know IAAPA well enough as a member. I have participated in the Expos in Europe and Orlando and I have attended the IAAPA Institute for Attractions Managers – all experienced as a member. I have also worked outside of our industry for a few years during my career. Doing that was such an eye opener. I think we sometimes take for granted what a wonderful industry this is. It is impressive to see how well we work together and how much we are willing to share with each other. This is something that is not usual for every industry. It is very important to be aware of what we have achieved and still want to achieve together.
Tell us about your vision for growing membership. Where do you see opportunities?
The biggest way to grow our membership is to continue showing the benefits of being part of IAAPA. We have so much to offer and sometimes we should communicate this better to our members. It is our goal to support our members in a variety of aspects including continuing education and professional development, creating connections and opportunities, and representing our members to political bodies such as the E.U.
Part of growing membership is in maintaining our presence by hosting events in and around the EMEA region. Last year’s IAAPA Expo Europe was in Barcelona and this year we’re in London. We rotate the Expo host city to better reach the members we have throughout the region. Additionally, we’re actively working to host new regional events in the Middle East and Africa.
It’s a given that we always want to grow membership, because it strengthens us as an industry. However, at the same time it is most important to stay relevant for our current members and increase their value gained out of our work. I firmly believe new members will join because of that. The growth is not a goal in itself; it is intertwined with the other goals we want to achieve for our members.
Tell us about your vision for member services – how is this evolving for today’s member needs?
Our industry will always be changing and it will always be innovative. And so will IAAPA. Covid prompted us to change our way of thinking and working – just as all of our members did. And now our industry is facing different challenges such as labor shortages, supply chain issues and increasing prices. Like we did with our response to Covid, IAAPA will show leadership in sharing knowledge, bringing people together, and finding common solutions and answers. We look, of course, for answers within our industry, but also on a broader level.
And it works! In May we visited three Italian parks and they all shared their stories of dealing with recent crises and challenges – including Covid, but other problems as well. And each park had a different way of handling it. We will always look for stories, questions and answers, no matter what is going on in the world, our industry or with one of our members.
What will be some new and special features of IAAPA Expo Europe this year?
We will bring back Sustainability Day, which was first introduced in 2021 to support members in addressing this important issue. In 2022 it will take a holistic approach covering the three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental, and social sustainability.
We continue work on our opening ceremony and the What’s New video showcasing operators’ innovations will be back. We’re hoping this year’s video will carry a sense of optimism and hope as the industry can celebrate a return to normalcy after several trying years and uncertainty felt globally. The opening ceremony will remain free again to offer access and inspiration to all attendees.
IAAPA facility members can continue benefiting from a number of free Expo entry tickets to support our mission of creating connections and we want as many members present as possible.
What are some of the unique characteristics of the industry in the EMEA region?
We have a very loyal base in the European continent and also in the Middle East, while we still aim at expanding our presence there. But we must grow in Africa. Diversity remains a very big and important topic in our region. Our team is proud to recognize that and support members’ needs for that.
And similar to the Asia Pacific region, in EMEA we have to cater to dozens of languages and cultures. The IAAPA EMEA team alone speaks a collective 15 languages to ensure we’re best connected to members and non-members alike. That’s a real team achievement and something I am really proud of.
Has IAAPA been an important resource for you through the years?
It has been much more than that! It is not just a resource. I think IAAPA has defined a culture and created a global community. And it is a community that we can be proud of. We rarely see each other as competitors and we share a lot. I, personally, have gained friends through our network and I know others feel the same. I’m fortunate to see how our members have all shared and received valuable information while attending an IAAPA event, or after one, through the connections they made during the event. I will always keep striving for that and am proud to have the chance to make sure my own positive experiences are shared by others.