Arctic Inspirations Seminar 2016 #FreezingtoDeath

Lappset Ice Hotel wolves backlit

Fabulous Finnish hospitality amid arctic scenery with a little magic sprinkled over and interesting company was the recipe for a second classy conference from Lappset held January 19th to 21st in Rovaniemi.

Lappset Arctic Inspirations Ice Hotel Dinner 1 by Reima Mukkala

An “ice breaking” dinner at the Ice Hotel with sub zero activities was a fantastic way to kick off the event. At -32°C, pretty cold even for Finns, some brave souls sampled the sauna and open air jacuzzi and even slept in the ice hotel itself.

The next day Johanna Ikäheimo, Chairman of the board, Lappset Group and Esko Lotvonen, Mayor, City of Rovaniemi provided a warm welcome to a cold, cold city!

Lappset Arctic Inspirations

Keynote: Memories: The Ultimate Reward for a Positive Experience – Ray Hole, MD Ray Hole Architects

Ray Hole Architects Snowdon 3 800

Creating memories is a transformational process” says Ray. Attractions should utilise all the senses and hit emotional triggers to connect with their audience and create an authentic experience and a lasting memory. Citing examples from KidZania London, SnowdonVisitor Centre, ZSL Lion exhibit and Dreamland Margate, with the moon landings on the way Hole sketched out how this authentic memory creation can lead to strong brand loyalty and a successful business.

Engaging all the senses is key says Ray: “I still lick buildings now. I can tell where a brick comes from just by licking it.” (An interesting claim that is just begging to be put to the test but maybe not during the arctic winter!)

Ray Hole and Nadin Ibrahim at the Ice Hotel Lappset Arctic Inspirations

Ray Hole and Nadin Ibrahim pose at the Ice Hotel

Destination, attraction and visitor experience development process in Prague – Tony Sefton CEO Vision XS & Bohumila Bennette, CEO, Survival Park

Tony Sefton and Bohumila Bennette on the naughty step at Lappset Arctic conference

Tony and Bohumila (shown above on the naughty step before their presentation) are working together on Survival Park – an attraction that captures the Zeitgeist for outdoor adventure and family play.  If all goes to plan, the first park is slated to open June 2017 in Prague with another to follow in Portugal. (“Touch wood,“ said Tony, “If Ray hasn’t licked it!”)

Tony talked briefly about his other new project – Vision Leisure Fund – which will lead investment in the UK wildlife and heritage sector – a growing business currently $3bn under-invested.

Bringing children’s tv animation to life via activity Attractions Peter Rabbit & Octonauts – Ron Allen, SVP Commercial Silvergate Media and Thomas Merrington, VP Brand and Creative, Silvergate Media

With Beatrix Potter’s 150th birthday soon upon us, Silvergate Media are making a timely hop into the attractions sector. Coupling with Lappset their first Peter Rabbit themed adventure playground will open at Willows Activity Farm this Spring.

Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground Willows Activity Farm Lappset

Thomas described the challenges in translating the book to the popular animated TV series and then into a farm park activity centre. The real life play has created an opportunity for some creative fun – Mr McGregor’s garden is a maze and his shed a super-sized soft play area to give children the impression of being a little rabbit clambering over the shelves.

Octonauts at Lappset Arctic Inspirations Seminar

Ron then took the floor to share the success of another pre school favourite – The Octonauts. Already in a successful partnership with SEA LIFE and Alton Towers, the Octonauts has potential to travel into China with 1.8bn YouTube hits clocked up for the mandarin version of the show.

Parents love the educational content says Ron: “Thanks to the Octonauts you may be surprised how many pre-schoolers know what Symbiosis is.” 

Benefits of globally known, multi branded activity attractions. Visitors and investors point of view – Georgina Povey, Live Events and Attractions Mattel

Georgina Povey Mattel at SantaPark

With the “novelty of giving and receiving items wearing off” Georgina (an expert at Christmas biscuit decoration) outlined how for millennials, “experiences bring people happiness more than possessions.”

Mattel Play! Liverpool (Heritage GB will be operators with branded play equipment from Lappset Creative) will be the first HIT multi-branded FEC in Europe.  Set to open in Albert Dock, Liverpool in Spring 2016 the play centre will feature Thomas the Tank Engine, Fireman Sam and Bob the Builder.

Mattel Play Liverpool Lappset Heritage GB Thomas and friends

Do we really need technology? Paul Kent Senior Consultant Electrosonic

“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is stuff that works,” Douglas Adams.

Cave Paintings Lascaut

Paul urged us to set our technology goals carefully: “Do you really need the tech? Tech for techs sake is not a reason to proceed.”

He also pointed out that cave paintings are meant to be viewed by firelight – the flickering of real flames animate the hunting scenes.  At the other end of the spectrum is the Integrated Environmental Media System (IEMS) at LAX with seven digital media features.


The message: to identify the appropriate technology for your experience (even if it’s not the newest flashiest stuff) and do it really well.

KWP and elfVirtual Reality VR – Kevin Williams, Director KWP Ltd

Kevin took a whistlestop look at VR in attractions from the arcade to the state-of-the-art VR Ride at EuropaPark by Mack Rides.

These are certainly interesting times for tech.

Creating Extraordinary Experiences – Katja Ikäheimo-Länkinen, Experience Director and Co-owner SantaPark

Katja CZJ

Always a star turn, Catherine Zeta-Jones lookalike Katja entertained with tales of SantaPark. Interesting to note that the luxury end of the business is flourishing – a range of new cabins being built and individual Santa experiences in great demand.

The key is authenticity – perhaps an odd concept given the subject – but Katja’s elves NEVER break character (despite the best efforts of Messrs Hole and Sefton). “It’s authentic,” says Katja, “if the customer feels that it’s real.” Often people will say, “This is Santa is the one I imagined when I was little.”

Arctic tree hotel santa park

Over 1000 would-be elves apply to Santa Park every year and basic requirements aside from a good elf voice include foreign language skills and a cast iron commitment to
character. “Why would so many people want to work for you?” asked a cheeky newcomer of Katja.  A withering stare said it all – this is the the World’s Best Christmas Experience. Apart from the lengthy qualification route – it takes 99 years to complete elf training – who wouldn’t want to be part of the magic?

Happy Elves at SantaPark

Taavi HeikkiläHow to create real snow and ice activity attractions and indoor winter climate systems – Taavi Heikkilaä – Frozen Innovations and Hannu Personen Snow Tek

The cold winter weather has provided Taavi with an easier than usual timetable for the SnowCastle of Kemi this year. Looking positively relaxed, despite what seemed to me to be an enormous amount of work to be done to finish the castle, Taavi and Hannu were relaxed about creating a working hotel out of frozen water in a matter of weeks. Taavi did say that we was thinking of taking a day off so that he wouldn’t miss out on the excitement of the usual last minute panic!

The pair can also create sub-zero experiences anywhere in the world – ice hotels, ice sauna and even ice fishing. “Snow is king in the indoor winter theme park,” says Hannu – you’ve got to “choose the right kind.”

Hands on, Brains on – Sampsa Piira, Designer, Heureka the Finnish Science Center

Based in Vantaa, near Helsinki, Heureka is one of the top 10 science centres in the world. 65% of Finnish adults have visited and most Finnish kids. With a popular outreach programme and a new extension under way in which “to do something different”, Heureka is obviously doing something right.

Sampsa delighted the audience with deadpan Finnish humour and examples of exhibits the highlights were basketball playing rats and “Sex and Space”.

Heureka Finiish Science Center Sex and Space

Sex and Space at Heureka

Apparently the rats are so popular they’re now a permanent feature and retired rats get to stay on and watch the games – I have visions of pensioned off rats in wicker chairs with blankets over their knees – will have to visit Heureka!

Olympic Park- Sports for all case in Prague – Petr Kolar, Authorized architect, ADR

The Czech Expo space at London 2012 was such a success that a further expo and an Olympic park were commissioned in Prague for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The park offered the chance to participate in winter sports and attracted 5 times the expected attendance – 400,000 people. 20,000 kids registered for winter sports clubs after visiting.
For the 2016 Olympics in Brazil there are even more ambitious plans. A centre in Rio will complement 50 sporting activities in 20 villages in Lipno.

Stefano Saporetti – Director Brand – Head of Brand Operations, Ferrari

A real treat for every Ferrari enthusiast was an unscheduled presentation from Stefano. In charge of all things non-vehicular at Ferrari, Stefano gave the conference a valuable insight into the two theme parks (Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Ferrari Land PortAventura) – 3 more (max) on the cards – and other plans for the Ferrari brand.

Selling just 7,000 cars a year to ultra high net worth individuals Ferrari do no traditional marketing and maintain supply well below demand to maintain their luxury brand equity: “We reach them with F1 but it’s an expensive marketing tool!”

However with the aim of the licencing arm to “democratise and extend the brand” there are challenges to maintain brand equity. “We go with the top players in every category,” says Stefano.

You’re the engine – philosophy in themed activity attractions – Johan Granholm, Director Lappset Creative

As host of the conference Johan ended with a summary of Lappset’s latest attractions and plans to get us all playing. With DJ/dance adapted structures for teens including a smart phone enabled mixing table through to outdoor gyms with training programmes to your phone and senior play parks in Spain.

urban survival from lappset creative

Johan finished with a bombshell: “We have a new baby – Survival – and the father is Tony Sefton!” A soap opera style cliff hanger that will ensure we tune in next year!

Dinner at SantaPark with elf basic training, biscuit decorating and an audience with the Big Man himself (Santa not Johan), as well as a briefest glimpse of the aurora rounded off a stimulating and enjoyable day.

Elf School at SantaPark

Thanks to Johan, Asko and the rest of the Lappset team for an interesting programme and a fun event. This has to be one of the most enjoyable conferences (aside from blooloopLIVE of course) that we attend. Kiitos!

Images: Lappset, Blooloop and special thanks to Reima Mukkala.

Disney’s Citizenship Performance Summary – Strengthen Communities

Disney Citizenship Performance Summary - Strengthen CommunitiesI’ve been looking at Disney’s Citizenship 2014 Performance Summary, concentrating on its commitment to “Inspire Others” through four key initiatives: Live healthier, Think creatively, Conserve Nature and Strengthen Communities.

“Citizenship isn’t just a responsibility we have as a corporation,” says the report. “It is an opportunity to connect with and inspire others.”  In this, my final blog in the series, I’ll be continuing to look at Disney’s vision, targets and performance to find out what they are promising and what they have already achieved. They certainly have the clout and the resources to make an impact. And, where Disney leads, others will surely follow.

Last time, I examined their “Conserve Nature” initiative which aims to ‘Connect kids with nature to build lifelong conservation values.’

This time, I’m examining Disney’s commitment to “Strengthen Communities”.  Their promise: We are committed to strengthening communities by providing hope, happiness, and comfort to kids and families who need it most.

Before we examine how they propose to do this, it might be useful to consider what a modern community actually is.  The word itself has powerful associations – a sense of belonging, a support network, the desire to act together for the good of all. It also engenders nostalgia for times past when everyone knew their neighbours, the pace of life was slower and we seemingly had more time for each other.

Disney Citizenship Performance Summary Strengthen CommunitiesWhile populations soar year on year, the number of people living alone is also increasing significantly. A report commissioned by the Office of National Statistics back in 2012 in the UK found a staggering 50 per cent increase since the mid 1990s in the number of people aged between 45 and 64 living alone. It seems the closer we live to one another, the further apart we become.

Last year, the charity Childline reported a surge in cases of children disclosing tendencies to self-harm and voicing suicidal thoughts. The charity’s founder, Esther Ranzen, said children were suffering from ‘an epidemic of loneliness’ blaming family breakdown and parents working longer hours.

It’s no wonder that this sense of isolation has led to a growing dependence on virtual communities. But paradoxically, there is a danger that if we invest more and more time in a virtual world, we become increasingly disconnected from the real one. And if we’re disconnected, how can we reach out to those around us who might need our support? How can we create effective communities that look outwards, not inwards?

The other issue is that many online communities are essentially clubs – they bring like-minded people together to discuss shared interests, play games the group enjoys, celebrate public figures it loves, slag off the ones it doesn’t etc. In effect, they are the opposite of a true community which is about understanding different points of view and celebrating diversity. Online, you can simply avoid issues or standpoints you don’t agree with. In a functioning real-life community you have to deal with those things head on and learn how to live together.

“Authentic community spirit is vital because it reflects the true sense of connection people have to one another,” says Richard C. Harwood, President and Founder of the Harwood Institute of Public Innovation. “It is the belief that there are issues, challenges, and opportunities that can only be met when we act together. It is a desire to know what exists beyond oneself – how others think, what they do, what they need – how we can live and act together.”

Disney Citizenship Performance Summary Strengthen CommunitiesOk, so Disney hopes to strengthen communities by improving the lot of individuals within it. But how?

Their plan of action is multi-pronged: via contributions, collaborating with non-profit organisations, in-kind gifts, and voluntary work by staff.

They claim that much of what they can do to make a difference simply can’t be done by anyone else. It’s hard to argue with some elements of this. Who else has such broad audience appeal? Stick a bunch of Disney characters in a children’s hospital and you know the kids will respond. Ironically, it is the potentially impersonal nature of Disney’s vast corporation that makes its characters personally relevant to so many. Is there a child anywhere in the world that doesn’t want a Disney wish?

Disney’s Citizenship Performance Summary - Strengthen CommunitiesDisney set itself a number of targets including three to be achieved by 2020:

  • Provide opportunities for kids and families to take 20 million actions that help people, communities, and the planet

The report provides some examples of how Disney is taking this forward:

Disney’s Friends For Change encourages young people in particular to become ‘stewards for change’ with the idea that by providing the tools and the encouragement, people can take actions that make a real difference to their own communities. With Disney’s global reach, the intention is that the initiative will quickly gather momentum around the world. According to the report, in 2014, 20,000 young people took actions for change across the United States, India, China, and Latin America.   While it’s easy to belittle this kind of initiative as a PR exercise, I don’t think putting the onus back on the public is a bad thing. Many of us want to do something but often don’t know what that something is.

Disney’s Citizenship Performance Summary - Strengthen CommunitiesResults that are perhaps easier to quantify can be seen from the online phenomenon, Club Penguin. Its “Coins For Change” programme encouraged members to work together to unlock charitable projects around the world. 2.5 million individuals took part. A great example of a healthy online community benefitting the wider world. In fact, thanks to a number of similar fund raisers, Club Penguin donated over $1.5m to a variety of projects including providing medical assistance, building safe spaces for education and play, and protecting the planet.

Their Performance Summary claims that by 2014, 12.5 million actions to Strengthen Communities had already been taken which puts them well on course to reach their target of 20 million by 2020.

  • Contribute more than 5 million hours of employee community service through the Disney VoluntEARS programme

It makes sense for a company as diverse as Disney to voluntarily dip into its vast treasure trove of skills for the benefit of the wider world.

An example of this is Disney Legal’s Pro Bono Team who volunteer their skills to help families and communities.

Disney’s Citizenship Performance Summary - Strengthen CommunitiesAccording to the report, Disney employees right across the company gave more than 506,700 hours of service through the Disney VoluntEARS programme, from helping  at non-profit organisations such as food banks to building playgrounds and mentoring children.

  • Positively impact the lives of 10 million children and families in need.

Disney reports that they are well above target, with 9.8 million already impacted to date.

‘Positively impact’ is the kind of bland, corporate phrase you hear so often it’s hard to believe it actually means anything. It clearly does to Disney, who highlight a number of ways in which they have reached out and made a difference to families in need.

In 2014, The Walt Disney Studios launched Disney Movie Moments which meant that more than 45 children’s hospitals around the United States were able to show first-run Disney to patients who might otherwise never have the chance to go to the cinema.

Disney Citizenship Performance Summary Strengthen Communities

Also that year, Disney created a special Marvel comic book in conjunction with the Child Life Council to inspire children who were facing difficulties. The books were distributed to more than 430 hospitals around the world as part of Disney’s annual Hospital Care Package programme.

Indirectly, they used their considerable clout via the Disney | ABC Television Group networks to raise awareness of campaigns such as Feeding America and Toys for Tots.

So, in summary, is Disney meeting its promise to strengthen communities? Let’s face it, if all they did was raise awareness of good causes each year via their networks and online presence such as Club Penguin, the resulting impact on families in need would still be worth celebrating.

I tend to be suspicious of the motives of large, highly profitable corporations when it comes to charitable initiatives. But, having read the report, I would argue that it is precisely Disney’s size that has enabled it to make a tangible difference in all the four areas – Live healthier, Think creatively, Conserve Nature and Strengthen Communities – both directly and indirectly.

The report, by its very nature, demands facts and figures as proof of this. And, some results are easier to measure than others.  But, in my book, if ‘Strengthening Communities’ is as much about making people happier as making a difference, it’s no less important for that.

One report leads to another …

Water Slides Wonderla Park Bangalore, India

Water Slides Wonderla Park Bangalore, India

I am always intrigued when I find a prospectus that deals with a company in our industry.  Not only do these reports offer a unique insight into a business, but they often lead me to another source as well.  This is exactly what happened when I found Wonderla Holiday Parks Prospectus for 2014.

Not only was this prospectus full of great information about Wonderla parks and the theme park industry in India, but this report introduced me to a new source: CARE (Credit Analysis and Research Limited)[1] — the source used for much of this document.

Per usual, I have taken the liberty of posting a few of the pages I personally find interesting and since I know my level of interest varies from many of our readers, a link to the full document can be found at the conclusion of this Blog.

Before I begin, a few tidbits worth noting include:

Financial Data

  • Wonderla’s Financial Year runs from April 1 through March 31 of the year reported.
  •  Exchange rates taken from the Reserve Bank of India, indicates the number of Rupees per U.S. Dollar are as follows:

FY 2009            50.95
FY 2010            45.14
FY 2011            44.65
FY 2012            51.16
FY 2013            54.39
DEC 31, 2013   61.89

  • a Lakh is a unit in the Indian numbering system that equals one hundred thousand rupees.

A summary of industry, starts on Page 6 of the document.  Here you will find a brief overview of the Indian Economy along with an overview of the Indian Amusement Park Industry Report (including, Key Players, Demand Drivers, Growth in Tourism, Barriers to Entry, Competition from Existing Players, Future Outlook and more).

Summary of Wonderla’s business begins on Page 50, as is shown here:

Summary for Wonderla Holiday Parks Prospectus for 2014 This section continues on with “Our Competitive Strengths, “Our Strategy” and financial statements.

The illustration of the funds needed to set up Wonderla Hyberdad are shown beginning on Page 79, and shown below:

Funds Needed to Set up Wonderla Hyberdad in Wonderla Financial Report 2014

Funds needed for Wonderla Hyberdad shown in Wonderla Financial Report 2014

The link to the full Prospectus can be found here:  Note:  The first page is missing.

[1] Research is based on “Report on Amusement Park Industry” issued by CARE (Credit Analysis and Research Limited, January, 2013.


‘Leisure Business Days’ conference and exhibition a great success

‘Leisure Business Days’ conference and exhibition a great successThe inaugural ‘Leisure Business Days’ conference and exhibition was held just before Christmas at the Evenementenhal in Venray, located in the east of the Netherlands. Organised by Jean-Paul Haenen, Principal of KWAN Leisure , this three-day event opened on Tuesday 8th December and ran through to Thursday 10th and brought together a range of Dutch and International speakers tackling a wide-ranging conference programme supported by an exhibition showcasing suppliers from Holland and Germany.

The first day was dedicated to KWAN Leisure’s own ‘Leisure Factory of Inspiration’ an afternoon designed to share ideas, inspire delegates and to encourage discussion of trends and concepts. Co-ordinated by Jean-Paul, speakers included head of Maximus Studios, Melany Maximus on interactive attractions and Asko Alanen, Creative Director of Lappset Creative, speaking on Interactive Play.

‘Leisure Business Days’ conference and exhibition a great successA high point for me was the evening event, a VIP gathering of sector experts with dinner and a series of presentations on the subject of Management & Financing of attractions. Marcel Gritter of Adcorporate shared his experience of financing and managing the acquisition of attractions on behalf of clients. I then had the pleasure of delivering the main address of the night (above): ‘Management of the development of attractions’ where I highlighted the importance of designing and developing for the specific market and culture in which the attraction will be located and of taking proper account of the operational requirements of the attraction in order to help to ensure that it is a sustainable commercial success.

‘Leisure Business Days’ conference and exhibition a great successThe next morning gave us an opportunity to travel south to visit the LeisureDome , located next to the FC Roda Stadium in Kerkade in the Limburg region. The LeisureDome is one of the most successful indoor mixed leisure developments in Holland and includes JT Bioscopen Multiplex Cinema, Indoor ‘Soccer Arena’, Glowgolf, LaserGame, DartelDome softplay, Bowlo bowling and a great range of F&B outlets.

Returning to Venray, the final session focussed on Leisure and Retail and featured an outstanding line up of guest speakers, including retail expert Melanie Simons of Imagic Concepts on themed retail in leisure, Asko Alanen (below) detailing Lappsett’s Kidscafé concept, designed to fit into high street or shopping mall locations, and Tanya Griffiths, of Kay Elliott Architects sharing her extensive experience of designing Leisure Attractions and developing them in a retail environment. With Jean-Paul Haenen sharing details of a fascinating study that KWAN Leisure had undertaken examining the impact of leisure on retail destinations, rounding off the day, this was a highly successful debut for Leisure Business Days.

‘Leisure Business Days’ conference and exhibition a great successIn 2016, it is planned to bring the event forward to October and to expand the exhibition, adding exhibitors from the UK, Belgium and France and also from China where KWAN have now established a bridgehead.

The British Museum of Food: From Field to Table, Mouth and Beyond

Bombas and Parr british museum of food alcoholic architecture

I recently had the chance to visit the newly-opened British Museum of Food right next to culinary centre of London, Borough Market.

BBC Radio recently ran a programme on Food Museums;  a new kind of museum feeding on our seemingly insatiable interest in food.

Featured in the piece was the British Museum of Food curated by ‘flavour-based experience design’ experts Bompas & Parr.  The blend of interactive exhibits and art go far beyond your average display cases. Bombas & Parr’s previous work includes giant jelly installations, cooking on real lava, and the Guinness Storehouse Taste Experience in Dublin.

Be the Bolus exhibition massage chair at the British Museum of Food Bompas and Parr

Upon entering the museum, the first exhibit ‘Be the Bolus’ invites guests to watch a video of the path food takes through the body, whilst being manipulated on a massage chair (somewhat roughly!) to simulate how food is digested.



Chocophonica exhibition at British Museum of Food by Bompas and ParrNext up, to my sweet tooth’s delight, is a sensory experiment testing whether different sounds affect the taste of chocolate, with all results recorded by guests and collected by the University of Oxford.

The staircase shows a collection of food-inspired art and even art-inspired food- one painting was made entirely out of edible materials. The British Menu Archive displays menus from the past 200 years and is perhaps the most traditional part of the museum experience.


The Butterfly Effect junlge hot house at British Museum of Food by Bompas and Parr

My favourite exhibit is the ‘Butterfly Effect’ a real hot house butterfly jungle, highlighting the important role Butterflies play in pollinating a vast majority of the world’s crops. There can’t be many other places in the centre of London to experience this feat.

Cocktails at Bompas and Parr's Alcoholic Architecture Breathable Gin and Tonic

Credit Ann Charlott Ommedal

I sadly didn’t have time for Alcoholic Architecture next door- Bompas & Parr’s breathable cocktail bar- where guests are given ponchos and slowly get drunk on gin and tonic vapour.  Perhaps next time!

The Museum is seeking a permanent home, but is currently open until early 2016.

Images: Kind courtesy British Museum of Food, Bombas & Parr.

Orlando Theme Parks at Christmas

Cat in the Hat Christmas Signage Universal Islands of Adventure

Festive decorations at Universal’s Island of Adventure, Seuss Landing during the Christmas Period

A few weeks ago, the industry descended upon Orlando for the largest event in the calendar, the Blooloop Party, just kidding, the IAAPA Expo where over 33,000 attendees saw what was ‘New, Now and Next’ in the business. I couldn’t fly over 4000 miles and not explore the local parks in Orlando especially now we are in the holiday season!

Christmas events are big money makers to parks, to enrich the experience for annual pass holders and increase their in-park spend with an assortment of holiday merchandise; as well as encouraging greater attendance for non-pass holders with one off events such as the Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland, or installations such as the Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian Hotel (below).

Gingerbread Display at the Grand Floridian Walt Disney World Resort

I found it interesting how the various parks approached Christmas in terms of their IP. On a visit to Universal Orlando, in Islands of Adventure Harry Potter and Seuss Landing really lend themselves to Christmas. As Christmas is celebrated in the Harry Potter books, snowmen and decorations add a new side to Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. Dr Seuss’ The Grinch, allows Seuss Land to transform with ‘The Grinchmas’ including crazy Christmas trees and decorations with not a straight line in sight. It seemed anywhere where Christmas is part of the story IP, Universal would decorate- even Jurassic Park! Whereas areas such as Marvel were not decorated. This ability to transform IP with seasonal events and maintain its authenticity is an important consideration for a park when deciding which IP to buy.

Harry Potter Wizarding World Snowman Christmas Decoration

Snowy Hedwig and snowman in Hogsmeade, Universal Islands of Adventure

Seuss Landing Grinchmas at Universal Islands of Adventure

A Curvy Christmas Seuss Landing at Universal Islands Of Adventure














At Busch Gardens Tampa, they have taken a park wide approach to their decorations ready for the Christmas Town evening events to include ‘a million twinkling lights’ and regular performances around the park. In the day, holiday music was played, including the SeaWorld Entertainments-Owned Polar Express songs. Even the Serengeti train is transformed into the Christmas Town express- where you can sing along to Christmas carols as you circle the plains. With no specific IP except for the Seaseme Street land, Christmas decorations had an African twist to them to match the themed lands.

Christmas Tree at Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens Tampa used African theming in their Christmas Decorations














As Disney bids farewell to its Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights this year to make way for new Star Wars attractions, fans are asking what will replace it at Hollywood Studios as the next big Christmas ‘pull’?

The Evolution of Waterslides in Asia

The Evolution of Waterslides

Australian Waterslides & Leisure slide complex, Saigon Water Park, Vietnam, 1997

One of the most interesting aspects of my 20 years in Asia has been watching, and working with, the evolution of waterslides from the early days to where they are today.

alan mahony waterpark asia consultantby Alan Mahony

When I first came to China in 1996 I was the General Manager of the first ever waterpark development in China, Big Hippo Water World in Guangzhou. The waterpark had the usual bodyslides, speedslide, freefall, 2 person inner tubes slides and the, then new, mat racer. The installation was all done by hand, luckily the bodyslides, inner tube slides and mat racer were on hills and all pieces could be pre-assembled and carried on bamboo poles. As for the speedslide and freefall, they were all installed by being pulled into place by ropes.

In 1997 at Saigon Water Park, again working with Australian Waterslides & Leisure, a very similar ride mix was introduced with bodyslides, inner tubes slides, mat racer and a twister slide which was 2 high speed body slides twisting around each other.

In 1999 I was the General Manger of a new waterpark development in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Working with WhiteWater West we installed some of the newer waterpark innovations that were starting to lead the industry in a new direction. Again, the usual bodyslides, speedslide, freefall, inner tubes slides, but then we had the new family ride which was run with 4-5 person 72” rafts. What we were starting to notice was that guests wanted to ride as groups. Group riding with friends gave a better experience and this was creating a change in the evolution of waterslides. There was also the first Asian installation of a SCS Tree House which has progressed and developed over the years as the Rain Fortress.

The Evolution of WaterslidesWhiteWater West, Family Raft Ride, Blue Lagoon Waterpark, Taiwan, 1999.

In the Early 2000’s I was involved with the installation and opening in Malaysia of Whitewater West’s first Boomerango in Asia, an exciting new ride that sent riders in single and double tubes down a steep drop before rocketing up a steep wall until they hit a height where gravity would send them back down the wall again, returning like a Boomerang.

In 2003 the first Tornado was installed in the USA and it wasn’t until 2007 that the first Tornado was installed and operated in China. The Tornado was a real game changer in the waterpark industry. In an industry where basically all of the fibreglass purchased and installed was part of the riders slide path, many experts claimed that the Tornado would not be a success as there was just too much fiberglass in the design that was not part of the slide path plus with the extra cost in the tridetic structure to hold this fibreglass in place. Well wasn’t that theory proven wrong!

The Evolution of WaterslidesProslide Tornado, Chimelong Water Park, China, 2007

The first Tornado installation in China was at Chimelong Water Park. After seeing the huge success of the Tornado in the USA, we added the Tornado after the original waterpark design was complete and strategically placed the ride next to the wave pool and added a viewing deck so that guests who were not brave enough to ride could experience the thrills of the ride without riding. From the viewing deck guests could watch the excitement of riders exiting the giant drop section and entering the giant funnel on 4 person clover leaf tubes, watching them and viewing there facial expressions as they oscillate high up the funnels walls. We named the ride 大喇叭 (da la ba) in Chinese which means Big Loud Speaker. The ride was and is still today is a huge success at Chimelong Water Park, with many more installations around China and the Chinese name of 大喇叭 (da la ba) sticking as it is commonly known as this all over China today.

Chimelong Water Park was a real innovator for the waterpark industry in China and the waterpark did not only have many China’s firsts, but also some world’s first waterslides, one of those being the Family Boomerango by WhiteWater West, a ride taking the Boomerango concept to a 6 person 96” raft making it a much larger structure. It also offered many challenges as it took the excitement of the oscillating family raft ride during the initial stages of the attraction and then went to a ride that required the smooth and direct ride path of the Boomerango. Chimelong Water Park also installed Asia’s first Giant Rain Fortress, a structure that had so many attractions it could be a standalone waterpark.

The Evolution of Waterslides WhiteWater Family Boomerango, Chimelong Water Park, China, 2007

The Evolution of WaterslidesWhitewater Giant Rain Fortress, Chimelong Water Park, China, 2007

In 2008 after the successful first season trading at Chimelong Water Park that saw an average of 10,000 guest per day peaking with a 35,000 capacity day, we did a major expansion, enlarging the waterpark from 170,000sqm to 250,000sqm. We added Asia’s first ever Proslide Behemoth Bowl plus made a major expansion to our Children’s pool, increasing the Children’s pool area to 10,000sqm. For the highlight of this Children’s area we worked closely with Proslide to develop and open the world’s first Children’s Tornado, which was a huge success allowing kids to ride their own miniature Tornado.

The Evolution of Waterslides Proslide Behemoth Bowl, Chimelong Water Park, China, 2008

The Evolution of Waterslides Proslide Mini Tornado, Chimelong Water Park, China, 2008

2010 saw the exciting opening of the Beijing Watercube Waterpark, exactly 2 years to the day after the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This new & innovative waterpark was designed by Forrec and our biggest challenge was installing the attractions inside the already built Watercube building. The waterpark saw the introduction of the world’s first Proslide RideHouse plus the introduction into China of translucent injection moulded technology for the WhiteWater West Aqualoop & Bodyslide. All within the indoor environment creating an underwater theme. The Evolution of WaterslidesProslide RideHouse, Beijing Watercube Waterpark, China, 2010

The Evolution of WaterslidesWhiteWater West, Bodyslide, Beijing Watercube Waterpark, China, 2010

The industry leaders have progressed over the past few years with some amazing rides and ride complexes, combining 2 and sometimes 3 leading attractions into the one ride. The current installation I’m working on in Tieling, Liaoning, China is incredible, with an amazing ride combination all from the one 20-metre tower. Being an indoor waterpark looking for great ride marketability and capacity, 6 rides start from inside the waterpark, taking riders outside the waterpark before re-entering and into the splashdown pools again inside the waterpark. The complex, designed and installed by Proslide, has the world’s first double Tornado, which takes riders into a Tornado 24 before exiting to continue riding before entering the Tornado 60. This will then be combined with special effects of rain and a thunderstorm within the ride as the guests slide through the different sections. When I first came into China back in 1996, who could have foreseen this in China today? The Evolution of WaterslidesProslide Ride Complex, Aqua Wave Waterpark, China, 2015

As positive as this evolution in Asia is, it also has its downside. I work closely with Whitewater and Proslide and personally know and understand the effort and engineering that goes into these new ride developments, not only the design but the installation and the start up by the professional installers on site. Once the ride is designed and manufactured, the installation and initial testing is where most of the hard work is. We are seeing many similar rides being produced and installed around Asia by suppliers and unfortunately there is more to these rides then just copying and producing something that you see. The amount of work that is required in the initial design and engineering to installation on site and the setting of water volumes in starter boxes and reverse injectors requires expertise and knowledge. Unfortunately, we are seeing similar rides, attractions and even wave pools popping up around Asia that are, at times, poorly designed, manufactured and installed. I see many installations where the rides do not work and are unsafe. This, combined with poor operations, ongoing management plus poor understanding of the attraction dynamics by the owners and operators, is seeing these attractions being opened to guests and unnecessary accidents happening, which is only leading to bad PR around the region. It is an issue that urgently needs to be addressed by the industry.

The Evolution of WaterslidesWatching the evolution of waterslides within Asia has been an amazing experience and will continue to be so. I have worked with many industry leaders and I would like to introduce a real unsung hero. As I have stated, the ride installers have had a difficult job in traveling into Asia to install some of these new attractions within what can be called a very difficult working environment at times. David Vikner worked on the very first ever waterslide installation for WhiteWater West and then he continued to be a pioneer, working on the first installations all around Asia. I was lucky enough to work with Dave at Chimelong Water Park and Beijing Watercube Waterpark. His knowledge of the industry was second to none and without his dedication to these initial installations in Asia the waterpark industry would not be where it is today.

Very sadly, Dave suddenly passed away last month, and I personally want to state what a pleasure it was to be able to not only work with but to also become close friends with Dave. He will be truly missed and for anyone who had the pleasure of working with Dave, I would like to finish with one comment, “Good Morning”.

Expanding your understanding of the approach to your business

Expanding your understanding of the approach to your business In a recent case from the Court of Appeals of Georgia, Six Flags Over Georgia II L.P. v. Martin, No. A15A0828, 2015 WL 7356309 (Ga. Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2015), the Court was faced with a question of whether a business was liable for the serious injuries inflicted to a business invitee at a nearby bus stop that the patron used to access the park.

The bus stop was not located on, adjacent to, or touching the business premises but was located across the street, at an intersection of two public streets. While the court said that the bus stop does not meet the Supreme Court of Georgia’s general definition of an approach to a business, it went on to say that under certain circumstances a non-contiguous property can be deemed an approach because the landowner extended the approach to his premises by some positive action on his part, such as constructing a sidewalk, ramp, or other direct approach.” Six Flags Over Georgia II L.P. v. Martin, No. A15A0828, 2015 WL 7356309, at *3 (Ga. Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2015) (citing the case of Motel Props., Inc., 263 Ga. at 486(3), 436 S.E.2d 196.)  And, this exception is based on the fact that “the owner or occupier of land, for his own particular benefit, (court’s emphasis) has affirmatively exerted control over a public way or another’s property.”

The court looked at several different things in this case to determine if the park exerted control over the bus stop. First, Six Flags via its web site invited its customers to use the buses that arrived at the stop. The park constructed barricades and erected signs directing customers to the bus stop. Six Flags security staff and off-duty police employed by the park aided in the directing traffic and pedestrians through the public ways leading to the park. Finally, a park representative in a deposition confirmed that the bus stop was solely for the benefit of Six Flags. The court stated that the patrol of both Cobb County and MARTA police of the bus stop in no way precludes a jury from finding that the park exercised control over the property for its own benefit.

The court acknowledged a previous Georgia decision that “a landowner has a duty to invitees to exercise ordinary care to keep its premises safe …, the landowner is not an insurer of an invitee’s safety.” (citing to Agnes Scott College v. Clark, 273 Ga.App. 619, 621(1), 616 S.E.2d 468 (2005). Generally, an intervening criminal act by a third party “insulates a landowner from liability unless such criminal act was reasonably foreseeable,” (citing again to the Agnes case). In this case, there was overwhelming evidence that Six Flags was well aware of the dangerous conditions in and around its theme park, so the attack was reasonably foreseeable.

So, as an owner or operator of an amusement facility, family entertainment centre or entertainment attraction, it may be prudent of you to seriously review your relationship with, use of and publicity concerning a nearby bus, tram, rail  or train stop, even if it’s located across the street. The stop, in certain situations, could be deemed an approach to your business for premises liability purposes and you may be responsible for injuries that occur at the stop.

5 Key Ideas for your Next Big Attraction Investment

kids at 3d cinema

Today smart theme park and attractions operators are using narrow selection criteria when deciding on the next investment in their venue.

by Joseph Joy, Director, Strategic Accounts, Triotech joseph joy triotech

We are just a few days away from IAAPA, the biggest event in the global attractions industry bringing together over 1000 exhibitors from 40 countries and close to 30,000 visitors.

It’s a time to reconnect with colleagues, share and learn best practices and evaluate new attractions amongst the abundance of choices.

A big reason to visit for many attendees is re-investment in their venue. Gone are the days when an amusement park was a collection of arcade games, a Ferris wheel, some coasters and themed carnival rides. Smart operators know that guests are expecting more from out of home entertainment. The following five criteria are key in their decisions.

1. Indoor Attractions – As operators continue to expand their programing with seasonal events they seek attractions that guest will enjoy no matter what the weather is like. An indoor attraction can always be in operation, delivering a better ROI than a ride that needs good weather.

Girl with Cast of Iron Reef

2. Experiences for the Whole Family – Families are a park’s most profitable guests. Having a programming mix that brings cross-generational families together to create shared memories is a powerful draw to tap this customer segment. This is especially important for regional parks seeking to drive repeat visitation from a local market.

3. Ride Re-Marketability – Simulators, 4D cinemas and Dark Rides fit within the above two criteria, but the real juice is the ability to support seasonal program overlays like Halloween and Christmas or a complete refresh after five years without a large capital expenditure. Think of the investment as a media-based platform that will provide flexibility and marketing opportunities over a long period of time. This translates to an excellent return on assets.

4. Social Gaming – Interactivity with social gaming is a powerful component to creating amazing experiences amongst family and friends. That, coupled with the competitive desire of improving your score, drives repeat rides and return visitations to your driving in rain at legoland Case in point is the video game companies now licensing their IP to tap into location-based experiences.

5. Level of Investment – With the evolution of technology and the continual robustness of hardware, interactive attractions are requiring a lower level of investment. You can now incorporate a signature digital dark ride at less than half the cost of a big coaster and it will have broader appeal to your guests, over more visits to your venues and over a longer time.

Following these five criteria will help you shortlist the best possible options for new attractions for today’s consumers. Smart operators know that commercial success is based on what your guests want now and what will appeal to them in the years to come.

So what are you planning to add to your venue next year? Which company is on your “must see” list at IAAPA this year? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Interactive Dark Rides – The Next Really BIG Console

The video game industry is moving their content to a much bigger console – interactive digital dark rides in amusement parks.

children shooting guns in a dark ride by triotech

This trend is the intersection between video game companies expanding their brands’ reach while at the same time, amusement park operators are developing dark ride attractions that feature social gaming as core to the guest experience.

by Joseph Joy, Director, Strategic Accounts, Triotech joseph joy triotech

The initial successful results of Ubisoft’s 3D dark ride “Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time” for at Futuroscope in France is credited with driving attendance up by 20%. This has propelled recent announcements from Nintendo and Electronic Arts. Ubisoft meanwhile has announced plans for a complete “next generation” theme park based on their rich stable of successful franchises to open in Malaysia in 2020.

The development of amusement park attractions is part of a bigger media strategy for video game companies. They are also leveraging their game IP into movies and television. Four years ago Ubisoft created a motion pictures division, which resulted in co-producing the “Rabbid Invasion” television show with Nickelodeon, which is now in its second season in France. In 2016, they will release “Assassin’s Creed: The Movie” based on that successful video game property.

Interactive digital dark rides used to be the exclusive domain of Disney and Universal with rides branded with “Spiderman”, “Toy Story” and “Transformers”. Now regional parks like Six Flags, Cedar Fair and Parques Reunidos are embracing dark rides since technology has made the attractions financially viable.

There are three main drivers underlying this trend. Firstly, the attractions are indoors and thus not weather dependent. Secondly, digital content can be switched out seasonally. A case in point is Wonder Mountain’s Guardian at Canada’s Wonderland where Triotech supplied two distinct contents for the same ride. This essentially gives the park two attractions in one single ride. Thirdly, these experiences appeal to whole family experiences. A dark ride based on a video game IP ticks off each one of these boxes except perhaps the wide family appeal which obviously differs for each IP.

A successful dark ride is all about balancing the familiar story, the immersive ride and challenge/reward game play loops. Like any IP, park operators are looking for stories and characters that are familiar to their guests. The “Mario” franchised was launched in 1981 assassins creed character by ubisoftand has sold over 500 million copies. When Universal Studio opens Nintendo-themed rides and character appearances it will appeal to several generation of players and park goers.

Not all video games have this type of reach to support a theme park visitation strategy. It’s no coincidence that Cedar Fair’s “Mass Effect”-themed attraction is going in at California’s Great Adventure in the heart of Silicon Valley. Observers have commented that this particular IP has a narrower “gamer-focused” target market but can provide a good fit with the park’s client base.

As video game companies continue to execute their bigger media strategy you will see more application of their IP in attractions where it aligns with park operators’ business strategy of driving new visitors, especially families, providing experiences that boost repeat visits and extend stay for improved “in park” spend.