From March 8 – 10 in Anaheim and Hollywood, California, 196 top attractions industry professionals met to learn how attractions can increase staying power to enhance the guest experience and drive business. Attendees at the IAAPA Leadership Conference 2017 represented more than 22 countries as they participated in three days of education sessions, networking opportunities, and exclusive, guided tours.
A presentation by Bob Weis, President of Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative design and development team of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, opened the sold-out conference. Weis shared his decades of industry knowledge on how to develop and deliver extraordinary experiences that enhance guests’ emotional connection to a brand.
Attendees then participated in “Cultivating a Creative Culture,” an education session led by Mike Konzen, chairman and principal of PGAV Destinations. Throughout the event attendees heard from Mary Niven, Senior Vice President, Experience Development and Integration for Disneyland Resort, Jon Storbeck, Vice President and General Manager, Knott’s Berry Farm, Jerry Schubel, President and CEO, Aquarium of the Pacific, John Rouse, Vice President of Operations, Aquarium of the Pacific, Paulo Domingo, Hotel Manager, The Queen Mary, Philip Cunningham, General Manager, Great Wolf Lodge, Glen Connally, Senior Vice President, Universal Studios Hollywood, Scot Burklin, Senior Director Operations, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Sheldon Duncan, Vice President, Marketing Strategy and Insights, Universal Studios Hollywood as they presented on their respective facilities.
Participants visited six area attractions for exclusive tours: Aquarium of the Pacific, Disney California Adventure Park, Great Wolf Lodge, Knott’s Berry Farm, The Queen Mary, and Universal Studios Hollywood.
The following companies sponsored IAAPA Leadership Conference 2017: Amusement-rides.com; CarrierBid Communications; Extreme Engineering; FetchRev; Freeman; Goddard Group; JRA; Neuman Group; The Nassal Company; Sureshot Redemption; and Vekoma.
IAAPA Leadership Conference 2018 will be held in Tokyo/Osaka, Japan. More detailed information on IAAPA Leadership 2018 will be available in late 2017.
“This has been an incredible three days of adventure—all of the facilities laid out their welcome mats for us. It’s great to spend time with each other and learn from each other as you’re touring these attractions behind the scenes.” —Greg Hale, 2017 IAAPA Chairman of the Board and Vice President and Chief Safety Officer, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Orlando, Florida, United States
“One of the great things we get from [IAAPA] Leadership Conference is the time you have with other operators and suppliers to discuss things you can’t do anywhere else. It’s our connector between all the other IAAPA Expos to develop relationships and get great ideas we can implement through the rest of the year.” —Philip Wilson, Executive Vice President, Extreme Engineering, Athens, Texas, United States
“The conference improves every year, and all the facilities have really stepped up. It’s the totality of the experience you learn from. I really enjoyed it.” —Andreas Anderson, 2017 IAAPA First Vice Chair, and CEO and President, Liseberg Group, Gothenburg, Sweden
“The speakers have been phenomenal, and the facilities have done a great job hosting us. It couldn’t have been better.” —Jack Mendes, President, BSR Group, Daytona Beach, Florida, United States
“This conference exceeded my expectations. It allowed us to talk to each other about our leadership strategies, while at the same time going into these state-of-the-art facilities and seeing how those teams are putting it into practice. A consistent theme of the conference was the idea of incorporating the tradition of your company with cutting-edge strategies.” —Amy Hollaman, Associate Director of Events and Operations, Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
“I’ve attended every [IAAPA] Leadership Conference, and there’s always something new and unique that adds to the experience and contributes to the networking—everything is positive about this event. The nice mixture of people who attend this event make this appealing.” —Mario Mamon, Chairman and President, Enchanted Kingdom, Laguna, Philippines
“The [IAAPA] Leadership Conference is like wine—with age, it gets better. The networking at this event has been fantastic. I’ve been looking for an idea to develop back home; this week, I met a woman in a line of business I hadn’t even considered, and I think that’s the way I’m going to go. That’s why you come to these events—to get to know people, become more productive, and improve your business. With time, this conference is going to more than pay for itself.” —Manuel Morales Jr., President, Bowlera, Caguas, Puerto Rico
“This has been exciting and educational. I’m trying to open a theme park in Nigeria. Listening to the speakers was like a confirmation to what I have in mind. I’m happy I came, because this conference has opened my eyes to what the whole theme-park business is all about.” —Silvester Ibeh, Playworld Adventures, Lagos, Nigeria
“The main reason we came here is we’re looking for ideas. Coming here has really opened up our minds—not only through the talks, but the practical experience from the tours. Every leader in any theme park should participate in this event.” —Stella Khumalo, uShaka Marine World, Durban, South Africa