As an agency with a focus on crisis communications, with many clients in the amusement park, tourism, and entertainment industries, we’re always seeking opportunities to expand our industry knowledge, share our expertise and build exciting new relationships. This year, we attended the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions’ (IAAPA) Annual Attractions Expo in Orlando, Florida. Tipping Point is a long-standing IAAPA member, but this year was the first time we’ve attended the week-long education seminar and trade show, which attracts more than 42,000 attendees from across the globe.
This was a special year, with IAAPA celebrating its 100th anniversary. In true entertainer’s fashion, the expo was filled with show-stopping experiences, bright lights and, of course, endless treats and thrill rides. Here’s a taste of the cool, the weird and the next-level things we saw on the trade show floor.
What’s Cool: Virtual & Augmented Reality
Nearly every other booth of the 1,000 exhibitors (covering the 57,000 square-foot trade show floor) was showcasing VR/AR technology. While VR/AR isn’t particularly new to the industry, the variety of its use has grown exponentially: from kiosk-size augmented reality screens you can play with in hotels and family entertainment centers (FEC); to VR chairs that rotate, bounce and vibrate to create 4D experiences; and rollercoasters or waterslides that use VR goggles to enhance the intensity of the rider’s experience. While exhibitors believe this tech will soon take over the industry, many of the FEC owners and amusement park leaders I chatted with say that, as cool as VR/AR is, it’s also a very difficult product to sell—and it’s still quite expensive. This means that VR/AR will remain in the early-adoption phase for years to come.
When the poop emoji first came out, I was pretty grossed out—but also mildly amused (as I’m sure many of us were). Now, this interesting emoji seems to have leaped off our screens and onto pillows, key chains and other silly knick-knacks—and, as the expo proved, is big-business! For example, this giant inflatable was a main attraction at the expo, with a number of people stopping to taking selfies with it (#IAE18)—it even made a front-page news article, and sold for $2,000! Needless to say, consumers love quirky stuff…so we better get used to it, because the poop emoji is here to stay!
Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Consumer Products, spoke in-depth at the expo about all ways the “Happiest Place on Earth” is taking advantage of disruptive technologies in the mobile space, to satisfy consumers’ desire for digital. The park’s new Play App, for example, enables guests to play games and trivia, unlock “secret” augmented reality encounters and enjoy curated Apple Music playlists, all while waiting in line for their favorite rides and attractions. Through this mobile app, Disney makes waiting in line a more positive experience for guests, bringing its famous magic and wonder to an otherwise frustrating and boring wait. Disney also announced its new partnership with Lyft, and a unique mobile food ordering system for in-park dining—which Chapek tested out on stage by ordering 800 Mickey Mouse cupcakes for attendees.
Continuing our education in our client’s field of work, like the amusement park industry, is an important part in delivering thoughtful, strategic guidance.