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Waterparks: Turkish Delight at Polin’s Annual Dealer Conference, Antalya, Turkey

Polin waterpark dealer conference 2012 in Antalya Turkey

Turkey is a fascinating and vibrant market in these times of gloomy gPolin's King Cobra waterslide at Maxx Royal resport waterpark, Antalya, Turkeylobal recession, with a fast growing, stable economy, a high proportion of the labour force being young and well educated and a thriving tourist industry.  [See “Sohret Pakis, Polin, Discusses the Future of the Attractions Industry in Turkey”]

Polin has enjoyed considerable success in recent years, notably with their game-changing themed King Cobra waterslide.  

The Turkish waterpark and waterslide manufacturer has a new 30,000 sq meter manufacturing facility under construction which is due to come online in 2014.

A day of presentations included the following:

  • Baris Pakis (Polin) welcomed delegates
  • Basar Pakis (Polin) spoke about Polin’s vision
  • Kubilay Alpdogan (Polin) highlighted key industry trends
  • Sohret Pakis (Polin)set out Polin’s very successful marketing strategy
  • Fred Bouvard (Splashworld) discussed best practice for waterpark investment – “no financial people are gentle sharks!”
  • Roger Currie (Aqua Leisure International) spoke about kIce Age waterpark from Poliney issues of waterpark development
  • Bruce McFarland (American Wave Machines) talked about AWM’s surf systems
  • Manfried Meier (Kraftwerk Living Technologies) introduced waterpark cinema, Waterplexx 5D

Perhaps most interesting was the insight into key trends from Polin’s point of view:

  • Signature slides, most notably the King Cobra, of which there will be 20 installed by the end of 2013, three of which will have alternative themes (see below).
  • Theming:
  • Glassy/translucent slides are popular, eg the Tai Po Aquatic Center (right) and Carnival cruise liners.
  • Effects and technology integration, eg multimedia projections planned for Cartoon Network AMAZONE
  • High capacity family raft rides
  • Interactivity, eg splash battle and multilevel play structures
  • Lower carbon emmission manufacturing

At the end of the conference program various awards were presented to Polin’s dealers and partners. 

Most touching was the award presented to Enver Pakis (below), founder of Polin, by his three sons. 

Despite international success Polin is at its core a family business and the conference had the feeling of a huge extended family reunion with a warm welcome to new members.

Polin founder Enver Pakis receives award from sons, Baris, Basir and Bilge at waterpark conference

An elegant gala dinner in the evening featured live entertainment, including traditional drumming from the Polin team, and very energetic dancing which went on well into the night. 

Gural premier waterpark resort with aerial view of Polin waterslides

The next day delegates were able to visit Antalya Aquarium as well as two resort waterparks: Cobra Kingdom Waterpark at the Maxx Royal Hotel (below) and the Gural Premier Tekirova Waterpark Resort (above).  The first glimpse of a gorgeous King Cobra close up did not disappoint.   

So with a thriving economy and a booming attractions market, Turkey is one to watch.  Polin’s warm hospitality made for a fascinating and memorable trip … and they can really dance too!

Polin's King Cobra waterslide at Maxx Royal waterpark, Antalya, Turkey

IAAPA’s 12th Annual Charity Golf Day: Helping Give Kids The World.

iaapa gktw mark simmons colorvision international golf

It was the first of a number GKTW fundraising events to take place during the  IAAPA Attractions Expo 2012, including the 6th Annual IAAPA 5K/1K Fun Run and Walk, Footprints from the Heart and the 3rd Annual IAAPA Motorcycle Ride. The activities raised over $80,000 for the central Florida based charity.

And so to Hawks landing Golf Club at Orlando’s Marriott hotel, where at 7am on the 9th November, a rag-tag collection of 143 attractions industry people assembled.  A smattering of the golfers play picsolve jordan hurley formula one iaapa gktwregularly (identifiable by the checked trousers, Tam o’ Shanters and wildly camp shirts) and the remainder at best dabble, for many this being their only such outing of the year. 

I set off on the morning’s play in our little Banana Splits style buggy with my standard misguided optimism, which reason and experience told me would soon be quickly  deflated, my game unravelling as I directed shot after miserable shot into the picturesque ponds , lakes and shrubberies surrounding the course. 

Each hole was sponsored.  At one we were greeted by team Picsolve, the image/photo company, who proceeded to ply us with cigars and margaritas, “forcing” drink after drink on us.  This diversion was probably connected to the subsequent deterioration of our game.

The team immediately ahead of us comprised Amazing Picture’s  Mark Simmons and Henry Tyson (my teammates from a previous year, see: Well Above Par: at IAAPA’s Charity Golf Event), Universal’s  Kathy Griffiths and a childhood al cross pgav destinations iaapa gktw golf charity theme parksfriend of Mark’s, who like his three teammates  was depressingly good.  Others teeing up included PGAV Destination’s Al Cross, Kurt Mack-Even (Mack Rides) and Markus Mack-Even (IMG Theme Park Attractions), Steve Drake, Tara Morandi and Tom Burnet of virtual queuing company Lo-Q, Barry Gertz and Michael Turner of water filtration and circulation company Neptune Benson, Miika Seppala of Särkänniemi Adventure Park, Franceen Gonzales of Great Wolf Resorts, Edward Pawley of Adventure World Warsaw, Terry Monkton of 3D/4D attraction company egret iaapa gktw golf chairty theme parksSimworx and John Davies of ticketing and access company Omniticket.

Sponsors of the event included Neptune Benson, Vekoma Rides Manufacturing, Herschend Family Entertaunment, theme park and attractions designer Jack Rouse Associates, Triotech and waterpark specialist Whitewater west.  The afternoon’s hangovers were sponsored by Picsolve.

The tournament was won by the foursome of Six Flags’ Walt Bowser, John Andrews of Baynum Painting, and Bill Wright and Chas Kuhn, both of Ride Entertainment.  The longest men’s drive was won by Jordan Hurley, of Formula One Driver, and the women’s by Picsolve’s Jessica McNaulo.

“I’m so pleased we continue to be a great international tournament—we have players from many, many countries, who enjoy this day as the opening of IAAPA Attractions Expo,” said Bill Alter, co-chairman of the event. “Nothing could be greater than making a sizable contribution to Give Kids The World while having this much fun.”

Bill was spot on. A relaxed, cocktail fuelled  morning stroll round a golf course with good friends and colleagues.  The ideal curtain raiser.

Themed Entertainment: Mixing it with Harry Potter at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London

creature effects themed entertainment hary potter warner bros studio tour londonThankfully the real magic of  Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter lay inside its underwhelming  exterior.

leslie morisetti donna davidson themed entertainment harry potter studio tourRelated: Harry Potter at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: Could it be Magic?

I was fortunate enough to visit last week with the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA)’s European branch.  With the prestigious Thea Awards taking place just 2 days later and the TEA summit starting on the same day, it was only the most glamorous globetrotting members of the TEA community who could do both (David and Lynn Willrich), with the rest of us Muggles missing out on the magic over in LA.

The draw of the Harry Potter attraction was huge and a record number of TEA members – over 80 -attended the event.  Skilled professionals in the themed entertainment industry from across the country convened at the Hertfordshire location, eager to see the world of Potter up close and personal. Whilst Nick Farmer was sadly missed (falling off his broomstick on the way down from Leicester), Phil Hartley, Annika rob smith electrosonic harry potter warner bros themed entertainmentOetken , Bob Simpson, Alan Wilkinson, Simon Egan, Martin Barratt, Leslie Morisetti, Josh Miller, Donna Davidson, Greg Eccles, Ray Hole, Anthony Stubbs  and many more were in attendance, all eager to get a look at one of the country’s most hotly anticipated  new themed attractions. Two of the creatives behind Universal Orlando’s immensely successful Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Mark Woodbury and Thierry Coup also joined the group. 

It was a particularly busy day for Craig Hanna, CEO of the Thinkwell Group which had designed and magic is might harry potter warner bros tour themed entertainmentproduced the £100 million attraction. Not only was he hosting the TEA group but he was also welcoming the friends and family of the Thinkwell crew to the attraction.  Craig welcomed us all to the attraction and spoke immediately after the pre-show videos.  He stressed that Thinkwell had not reinterpreted  anything and that they were in fact “custodians” of the Potter world. It was, he said “a truly authentic experience”.  A real treat for us was that he had arranged for three heads of department on the films to be on hand to answer questions: John Richardson (special effects), Paul Hayes (Construction) and Nick Dudman (creature effects). Thinkwell’s creatives  were also with us, including Michael Finney (lighting and facilities) and Cynthia Blackstone, Project Manager.

The attraction, suffice to say is stunning.  With such rich source material and the skilled attention of the Thinkwellians, a truly ground -breaking attraction has been created. A full report will be published in these pages shortly. 

Although Electrosonic’s Gemma Fabian subsequently donned an invisibility cloak and disappeared immediately after the tour, many others gathered at the Watford Hilton for a traditional TEA networking/mixer event: disorganised, unstructured and immensely enjoyable.

Images: all except bottom, kind courtesy Alan Wilkinson.

Alton Towers and the Joy of Hex

This doesn’t always work; it can be raining, mercilessly cold and of course if it’s too empty then you’re walking around what feels like a ghost town. But occasionally everything comes together: an ideal theme park day in which there are just enough people to make the rides full, the queues are short to non-existent and the weather is welcoming.

So it was at Alton Towers this weekend.  Cold but sunny.  Not too many people. And no queues.  A theme park close to my heart, Alton Towers was the school trip of choice throughout my childhood. The Corkscrew and Black Hole roller coasters were then the big draw.  This time my kids raved about Hex and Nemesis as we drove home.

Alton Towers and those early rides play an important part in theme park history as it was here that the men who would subsequently create Merlin Entertainments, the world’s biggest leisure operator after Disney, cut their teeth in the industry.  In 1990 Nick Varney, Merlin’s CEO, fresh from a stint marketing cleaning products, arrived as Marketing Director to work with Operations Director Martin BarrattMark Fisher, now Merlin’s Chief Development Officer had just left college, was working in maintenance and became Events Coordinator and in 1995 Glenn Earlam, now Merlin’s Managing Director of the Midway Operating Group, would arrive as Alton Tower’s new Marketing Director.  Throughout, renowned roller coaster designer John Wardley worked his magic behind the scenes, helping create some of the park’s great attractions.

Looking at what the park has become, a huge operation, one of the world’s great theme parks with numerous themed rides and attractions with a slick merchandising operation, great staff and a hugely impressive social media campaign, it is poignant to reflect on where it all began.  And a special joy this weekend to read the ride times on the information board : Air 0 mins, Oblivion 0 mins, Nemesis 0 mins.

Six Flags’ Strategy: News in every park, every year

Related:  The Major New Theme Park Rides for 2011 / Thrilling Coasters, Family Rides, New Shows and Attractions Coming to Six Flags Parks Across North America in 2012  / "And the bigger one is called a Giant Leonopterix" : Theme Park Designers on the Disney / Avatar News  / Blooloop News and Facts

Capital Spending: 9% of revenue:

  • Asset Maintenance 25%superman roller coaster at six flags theme park
  • In-Park 15%
  • New rides and attractions 60%

Of this "Innovation Capex" :

“We will continue investing in our future

  • Innovation centered on guests
  • Combination of coasters, events, shows, and rides
  • No “catch-up” spending required
  • 5-year plan in place"

“We are bringing new attractions to every Six Flags park every year,” said Jim Reid-Anderson, Chairman, President and CEO when announcing plans for 2012. “This season’s guest satisfaction scores are the highest in our history, and we want to continue that momentum by offering a combination of family-friendly fare and thrill rides for guests of all ages to enjoy.”

 Highlights of the 2012 line up are set out below: 

six flags new rides and roller coasters table

Image and video:

Kind courtesy Six Flags

SUPERMAN Ultimate Flight, will debut at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Spring 2012 as the tallest inversion west of the Mississippi and the park’s first DC-themed attraction. 

Themed Entertainment: TEA gets BeWitched at BeWILDerwood

boy reading book at bewilderwood theme park in norfolk ukRelatedThemed Design: When Less is More  /  Smaller Company, Better Life – Nick Farmer’s Business OdysseyTotal ticketing booked at BeWILDerwood with Open FrontiersUK Theme Parks Going Green

We were first treated to a guide of the park by CEO and owner Tom Blofeld (below, second from right). Tweed jacketed and charming, Tom is an Englishman straight from central casting and is as unique as his park. Whilst not a Theme Park in the traditional sense – "no machines" says Tom  – BeWILDerwood is nonetheless highly themed.

themed entertainment association (TEA)  members at bewilderwood theme park in norfolk ukBased in a wooded swamp, visitors are presented with a variety of wooden swings, zip wires, bridges and climbing frames which are dotted around the site, but these, whilst of impressive and worthy construction are not what makes the park tick. The USP is in The Boggles.

Blofeld has written a number of children’s books which depict a fantastic world of talking hippos, handbag clutching crocodiles and swamp dwelling pixie-like creatures ("Boggles") which are set within the confines of the park. These literary creations are the key to the park’s success. With the help of leading themed designer Nick Farmer of Farmer Attractions Development, they have been integrated into the theme park experience in an ingenious way and the Boggles appear to be living throughout the park. There are houses in the trees, cooking pots and walkways between the little villages and trees sport foot-high half open doors.

Though the wood seems alive with this community of magical creatures we never actually see them, they are "unseen characters". Whilst this is an ancient dramatic device (Greek tragedies relied heavily upon events taking place off stage , think also of Romeo and Juliet’s Rosaline and Frasier’s sister-in-law Maris) this is surely unique in the theme park business. The impression created by these unseen characters is so persuasive it is easy to imagine that the introduction of animatronic characters, however neatly done, might serve to shatter the delicate illusion.

BeWILDerwood was opened in 2007 by Tom with help of his old school friend Simon Egan, neither of whom had any previous experience in the attractions industry yet it has proved an idiosyncratic and popular attraction, succeeding both because of and despite its location. The site is swampland, part of the network of marsh and woodland making up the Norfolk Broads and makes an ideal location for the magical story-lead experience. On the other hand, no focus group or feasibility study would have supported the notion of a theme park in such a sparsely populated region of the country. Bart Dohmen (left) reckoned the nearest motorway to the park was in The Netherlands.

Squarely aimed at younger children and families, The park’s visitors are A to Bs, there is very little litter and , interestingly, 70% find the theme park through word of mouth as opposed to 30% via the park’s more traditional marketing efforts. This is the reverse of most theme parks and implies that the middle class mums of Norfolk have a secret they like to share.

We then heard from Bart from BRC Imagination Arts and Thinkwell Design’s Michael Finney (left), who explained why a number of their projects had been successfully nominated for the THEA Awards (the TEA’s annual awards for themed entertainment projects- BeWILDerwood is a notable past award winner). Bart gave an overview of Hollandarama and The Heineken Experience – “It was about the customer not the brand” – and Michael talked us through (oxymoronic) Ski Dubai and the more recent Grand Opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Phil Hartley (PHA Ltd.) discussed Alton Tower’s Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator Experience, the video for which, outside of the elevator ride and in 2D, looked like the LSD trips once described so vividly by John Lennon. It struck me that in this industry any one project demands the talents of manynick farmer and phil hartley of the themed entertainment assiciation (tea) at bewilderwood theme park in norfolk uk different people and companies and that this sense of collaboration is what lies at the heart of the TEA.

Phil and David Willrich from leading audiovisual specialist DJ Willrich Ltd. then detailed the process involved in getting European and Middle Eastern projects considered by the THEA awards committee and ways to maximise the chances of impressing the judges.  A good video is vital as not all the entrants actually receive a visit from a member of the judging panel.

Finally, with the tea celebrating an important milestone, we were given handfuls of 20th anniversary TEA badges (soon to be kicking up a storm on eBay) and delighted in a couple of sultry models ( N. Farmer & P. Hartley) showcasing the new TEA branded designer jackets.

Thanks go to our generous hosts, Tom and Simon at BeWILDerwood and to the indefatigable Phil Hartley and David and Lynn Willrich for their hard work in organising the event.