Blog entry by Deborah Brauser. Photos by Matt Roseboom
Last week, more than 24,000 people from more than 100 countries descended upon the Orange County Convention Center for the 2008 International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) expo. Owners and operators from theme parks, waterparks, zoos, aquariums, museums and resorts mingled with entertainment designers, consultants and suppliers.
Featuring an almost overwhelming 8.3 “miles of aisles,” the colorful expo floor was filled with 1,154 exhibits including new rides and simulators, giant bounce houses, multitudes of carnival-style games, full-sized water park features, elaborate animatronic creatures, innovative new food items (light-up cotton candy, anyone?!) and even a full section of nothing but “the newest in haunted house features.” Overall, it was chaotic, very loud, and fun – almost like being at a real amusement park! In addition, Expo participants attended educational programs, marketing seminars, talks from “living legends” from the field, and even backstage tours of some of our local attractions.
From the expo floor to the various seminars, to talks with the various owner/operators, it seems that the biggest trend for new rides is: the more interactive, the better. Instead of riders just sitting back as events unfold around them, they are literally getting swept up into the story.
David Mandt, IAPPA’s Vice President of Communications said that it’s all about providing an experience to guests. “As technology continues to evolve, that allows our industry to evolve and find more efficient and effective ways to utilize technology in attraction design. And it is all about making it both interactive and customizing the experience, to allow you to have a say in how the ride experience goes.”
He also said he thinks there will always be room for both motion simulators and actual big rides, and everything in between. “I think when people come to any of the attractions, they want an experience they can share with friends and family. And there’s nothing like a shared physical experience such as holding your friend’s hand as you scream down the hill on a roller coaster. I think that will always be a fundamental part of the industry. Yet with the technology we have now, I think we’re really seeing a morphing together of those two types of products.”
Calling this expo the “premiere international gathering of the industry,” Mandt said that Orlando has been a perfect spot for this event. “We love coming here. It’s a wonderful city for a convention like this. In not only gives us a chance to come to our expo and do our business, but to also see what’s going on in the Orlando parks, see what’s new, see what’s innovative, and see what guests are enjoying. And that always provides great inspiration and motivation to all of us in this field.”
Words can’t fully describe all of the things at the expo. Click here to visit our full IAAPA Photo Gallery.
Be sure to read the Feb./March 2009 issue of “Orlando Attractions Magazine” for more ride trends from David Mandt, as well as interviews with several of the designers who worked on some of the most popular rides at Disney, Universal, Kennedy Space Center and more.
Writer Deborah Brauser maintains her own travel tips blog at orlandotravelwriter.wordpress.com.