IAAPA President and CEO Paul Noland sat with IPM’s Martin Palicki during the 2015 Asian Attractions Expo to talk about the show, recent IAAPA successes and the future of the association.
Why did IAAPA bring AAE to Hong Kong?
It’s where our buyers and exhibitors like to come. The industry has had great success here and it’s home to several great members. The [convention] facility here is top-notch, the destination is easy to get to, and we have several facilities nearby for members to experience. Hong Kong represents the whole package.
What has been your impression on the show floor this week?
Our exhibitors are having a great week. We had record setting numbers in Beijing last year, but the qualitative reports here have been extremely positive. The quantity of buyers is good, but the quality of buyers is even better.
Parks and park products seem to be highlighted at this show. Are you focusing on other segments in Asia? What about the Asian casino market?
That is not necessarily purposeful. We have cultural attractions come to us for many things and we provide education and other benefits to our non-park members. A lot of our education tracks are very broad and applicable to all our members.
We have casinos come to us seeking help with theming and other aspects of their business. It is the same type of value-add we provide to our museum, zoo and aquarium members.
How is the education program planned?
We have an education subcommittee in Asia. They survey members to see what they would like to see at the show. Once we determine the needs, we reverse engineer the program to meet those needs. Education is one of the top three reasons people come to this show.
How can the industry keep Asia a sustainable market for as long as possible?
I think there are three steps that are applicable here in Asia, as well as around the world. Park operators have to: 1) provide great service; 2) continue to maintain and invest in park upkeep and new products; 3) focus on safety.
What can people expect from future AAE events?
We want to dial up our education component. We did a good job but the feedback is that attendees would like more.
We are also looking to rotate to new cities. As we’ve grown we need more space, which limits where we can go, but we want to rotate more broadly than we have. We try to find cities where our members want to go that can handle our logistical requirements. In the past we’ve been fairly conservative, but we are trying to be more aggressive in finding places where members say “I’ve always wanted to go here, but not necessarily alone. I’d go if IAAPA is there.”
What are you working on improving this year?
Our strategic plan from a few years ago identified ways in which we can diversify the experiences IAAPA offers away from the trade shows. We want to offer other services such as education and certification programs. This year we are releasing the lion’s share of those initiatives.
Also, we want to be a resource for industry info and data. Our members want data for the whole industry and seek forecasts for the future. We’ve developed an industry outlook report we published in November 2014 and working now on this year’s report. It is a free service to members.
What are you most proud of accomplishing?
I am proud of the way we have grown the three IAAPA shows along with the level of professionalism. After a show while visiting a park I always hear that a member learned about some product or service they purchased at an IAAPA event.
Additionally, behind the scenes we have been working on retooling our governance structure. The global nature of IAAPA was sort of added on to our structure, so we pulled everything back and retooled it to have IAAPA be a global organization at its core. It hasn’t been easy, and there are not a lot of truly international organizations, but I’m proud of the team for how they implemented this.
What moment this week made you think “I love my job!”
At the leadership breakfast, Jim Reid-Anderson had a video of clips of people in their parks with captions for why they are there: celebrations, remembering loved ones, escaping challenges, etc. He shows that video to staff to remind them why they come to work every day, and it resonated with me as well. Sometimes it’s not just a day in the park – it’s a lot more than that.