Friday, March 27, 2009

April FUNWORLD: F&B and More

I've gotten to meet some cool people during my time at FUNWORLD, and last month I added another to the list: Nolan Bushnell, founder of a little thing you might have heard of called Atari. Or another little thing you may have heard of called Chuck E. Cheese's.

His latest thing you probably haven't heard of—yet. It's called uWink, a technology that combines the lessons learned from Atari and Chuck to create a new kind of dining environment where guests order their entire meal via touch-screen menus at the table, then play video games while they wait for their food.

You can read all about it in the new April issue of FUNWORLD (click here to check out our new digital edition), where I interview Bushnell and F&B folks from Disney and Hershey to get their perspectives on where touch-screen restaurant menus are going in the attractions industry.

Also in the issue:

• A look at what makes Silver Dollar City's F&B so successful.
• How attractions can make partnerships with nonprofits work.
• What FECs can do with e-marketing.

And be sure to check out the Customer Service Report on p. 42 to find out what in the world "leadershipology" means.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stand Out from the Crowd

As attractions facilities and suppliers struggle to find ways to thrive in a difficult economy, cutting costs, programs, and projects are most definitely a reality. But tough times can also present opportunities to reevaluate your business, add value, and beat the competition.

During IAAPA’s next webinar on Friday, April 10 at 2 p.m. EDT, Dr. Roch Parayre, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and senior partner of Decision Strategies International, will tackle this topic during a presentation on “Blue Ocean Strategy,” which shows how companies can differentiate themselves while simultaneously cutting costs by reinventing their business models. Using “Cirque du Soleil” and other case studies, Parayre will help attendees understand how this methodology applies to the attractions industry.

Parayre answered a few questions about the webinar and what attendees can expect from the discussion.

FUNWORLD: What will be the main focus of your webinar?
Dr. Roch Parayre: The main focus will be on the topic of “Blue Ocean Strategy” which argues that instead of trying to have offerings out there that compete head on with competitors, you should try to reinvent your value offering to become so distinctive that you make the competition irrelevant. The webinar will present tools on how can go about reinventing your value offering away from competition.

FW: For potential attendees who are not familiar with “Blue Ocean Strategy” and how it can relate to their companies, could you give a brief description and example that illustrates what it is?
RP: “Blue Ocean Strategy” is as much about what you are not going to do as what you are going to do. Rather than having a plain vanilla offering, where you perform many things equally well, “Blue Ocean” thinking would suggest cutting some of the things that everyone pursues and are less distinctive to your customers, and focusing instead on fewer dimensions where you can really shine. In launching the Wii, for example, Nintendo moved away from the high-graphics trend that everyone had been competing on, taking the savings from using a lower graphics platform and focusing its resources instead on sophisticated sensor technology—thereby fundamentally changing the gaming experience.

FW: How does your message relate to small parks and family owned businesses?
RP: The core to the “Blue Ocean” story is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost, which is new thinking because generally people go for one or the other. Particularly for smaller operators who may be more cost-constrained than their larger counterparts, “Blue Ocean” asks what can you let go of that is a me-too offering in order to focus on the few things you can absolutely shine at?

FW: In a difficult economy, what considerations should be made when applying “Blue Ocean Strategy?”
RP: You know that everybody is going to be cutting costs and shedding high-cost or less profitable activities. But many organizations will tend to cut so deep that they cut into muscle and bone, and as a result end up in a weak competitive position when the economy rebounds. Ironically, that presents opportunities to organizations with a strategic perspective to position themselves for the economic rebound, by picking up cheap resources and skills to bolster their chosen pathways of excellence.

FW: What can attendees expect to take away from this session and apply to their businesses?
RP: One, a better understanding of the value dimensions that customers really care about. Two, a set of tools to apply with their teams back home around how to reinvent themselves away from the competition. And three, it will force them to broaden the definition of “what business are we really in?” They will walk away with a new frame or mental model around that question.

For more information about Dr. Parayre, visit, and for more details on upcoming IAAPA webinars and other educational updates, click here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More from March FUNWORLD: 'Russia's Grizzly Coast' at the Minnesota Zoo

For our March cover story, I had the pleasure of interviewing officials from the Minnesota Zoo about their new exhibit, “Russia’s Grizzly Coast.” After explaining how much planning, design, and construction work went into the project, Lee Ehmke, director and CEO of the Minnesota Zoo Foundation, stressed that the zoo’s marketing team was largely responsible for getting guests fired up and in-the-know about the exhibit months before it actually debuted.

Here is my extended Q&A with Bill von Bank (left), director of sales and marketing at the Minnesota Zoo. His insight into promoting large exhibits and informing the surrounding community is beneficial to attractions any size of offering.

FUNWORLD: When devising your marketing plan for “Russia’s Grizzly Coast,” how early did you begin and what were the primary messages you wanted to send consumers?
Bill von Bank: Construction alone on "Russia’s Grizzly Coast" took nearly two years to complete, which gave us a unique opportunity to engage the public in status updates on our web site via photos, construction time-lapse, and blog entries. Within one year of opening, 3-D animation of the exhibit was created and posted on our site as well as YouTube. Also, a year out, we began posting video updates with Zoo Director Lee Ehmke doing a walk & talk around the exhibit.

“Russia’s Grizzly Coast” is Minnesota Zoo’s largest exhibit initiative since the zoo’s opening in 1978, and we wanted to convey to the consumer how big and cool this exhibit would be. We wanted to create buzz prior to and post-opening of the exhibit; increase attendance and household memberships; and sustain year-long momentum and enthusiasm for the zoo.

FW: What was the most attention-grabbing aspect of the exhibit?
BVB: The construction process, the rare and beautiful animals, the landscaping, and the authenticity of a Russian built cabin all made for great press. And the arrival of the grizzly bears from Alaska was eagerly awaited.

FW: How did you distribute responsibility among staffers and communicate with other zoo staff to succeed?
BVB: Our PR manager meets weekly with the animal management team, so there was constant information sharing. We held weekly conference calls with our advertising agency on project status for the campaign. And internally, we developed an ad hoc steering committee for a global perspective on the entire project.

FW: What marketing or publicity efforts in the campaign are you most proud of?
BVB: We created some fun non-traditional approaches to spreading the word about “Russia’s Grizzly Coast,” such as a premier storefront window at the Minneapolis Macy’s department store as well as elevator advertising within the Macy’s store. We partnered with a local wine shop and developed some specially labeled wine featuring two of our signature animals from "Russia’s Grizzly Coast"—grizzly bears and sea otters. A portion of all wine sales was donated to the Minnesota Zoo Foundation. News of the exhibit hitting Times Square in New York was a significant highlight.

FW: What advice would you give other zoos tasked with promoting a large, upcoming exhibit?
BVB: Plan, plan, plan!
  • Document the process with still imagery and video.
  • Conduct hard-hat media tours for the press.
  • Go online with your press room. That allows for immediate updates.
We also posted our advertising campaign on the press site. We never wanted to be out of focus with the media.

(The photo below shows the "Russia's Grizzly Coast" promotion on elevators in Macy's department store in Minneapolis, Minnesota—click all photos to enlarge)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Middle East Safety Conference: Perspective

Recently I conducted an e-mail interview with Michael Mehlhorn, technical services director for
Universal Studios Dubailand, about IAAPA’s 2nd Annual Middle East Safety Conference, which will take place later this week. Michael attended last year’s program and will lead a session at this year's conference.

Read below for excerpts from our e-mail interview:

Heidi Aulakh: Tell me a little about yourself and your role at Universal Studios Dubailand.
Michael Mehlhorn: I have been working in the amusement industry for the past 25 years. My career began as an amusement ride technician where I recognized the important role maintenance plays in protecting patron safety. Throughout my career I have and continue to serve as an advocate for amusement ride safety. I further support this passion for safety by participating in standards development with ASTM International Committee F24 and my affiliation with the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials (NAARSO), promoting safety through communications. I am currently employed to support Universal Studios Dubailand as the technical services director. In this role, I am responsible for supporting design and construction of the park, along with developing and implementing a maintenance program that delivers safety, reliability, and quality.

HA: You attended IAAPA's first Middle East Safety Conference last year and are leading a session this year. Why do you feel this program is important for the industry in the Middle East?
MM: Yes, I was fortunate to attend the first Middle East Safety Conference last year. In meeting and interacting with other attendees, I was impressed with the level of interest and desire to improve the overall safety consciousness and practice within the region. The participants were sincerely interested in learning more about industry standards and practices for amusement ride safety. The program is important for the industry in the Middle East to help educate and build a knowledge base in the region.

HA: What can attendees expect to learn from your session? From attending the program in general?
MM: During my session at this year’s conference I will be offering the attendees a systematic approach to developing a maintenance program. The material presented is intended to offer a guide to formulating and implementing maintenance, especially as it relates to employee and patron safety.
In addition to the advertised sessions for this year’s conference, one of the most valuable benefits of attending will be the opportunity to meet, discuss, and begin to develop a network of colleagues in the region who share an interest in safety.

HA: In your opinion, what is biggest safety issue in the Middle East?
MM: I would have to say the rapid growth within the industry outpacing education, training, and experience. It is important to recognize the benefits of promoting a proactive approach to safety. That is the benefit of IAAPA putting together conferences like this that provide a forum for industry stakeholders to gather and share their knowledge base. This is especially beneficial for new entrants in the industry to learn and share with those who may not have the benefit of that experience.

I am encouraged by the early interest and reception to sharing experience. I am optimistic that the region’s owners, operators, manufacturers, corporations, and jurisdictional authorities will work together and embrace a proactive approach to safety.

Friday, March 20, 2009

IAAPA Responds to Alltel TV Commercial

Have you seen the Alltel TV commercial with the roller coaster yet? Watch it below, then read on:

On Tuesday, IAAPA President/CEO Charlie Bray sent a letter to Verizon Communications, parent company of Alltel, asking the commercial be removed from broadcast. Here’s part of Charlie’s letter:

Our specific concern has to do with the way the Alltel commercial implies that looking for lost articles underneath amusement park rides is a good idea. That is not the case. Unfortunately, there have been a few tragic instances where individuals have been seriously or even fatally injured while trying to retrieve lost articles from well-marked restricted areas under rides. … It’s critical for the general public to understand they should never enter a restricted area around or under a ride for any reason. … We are concerned guests (particularly young guests or teenagers) might try to retrieve lost articles in restricted areas after seeing the spot.

We wanted IAAPA members to know the association’s stand on this commercial, and also remind you to be perpetually vigilant when it comes to filming projects on the grounds of your facilities.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Space Allocation 2009: Wrapping Up

Perhaps last year wasn't the best Space Allocation Meeting for me to see for the first time—what with placing so many booths so fast, and being all done only a couple hours into the second day. After two long days in the bowels of Caesars Palace, i get the feeling this year's meeting was more difficult than usual, with the never-before-seen hall. The typical Space meeting is probably somewhere in the middle.

To use a sports term, the committee really had to grind it out this year, never able to get in a solid rhythm but maintaining a dogged pace that got the job done. “I think it went very well," Jack Mendes told me a few minutes ago. "It was a lot more challenging this year with the new configuration and new hall. We had to work harder at it. There was more starting and stopping. In previous years we would get going for a good stretch and then run into an issue where we’d stop; here we’d go maybe two booths and then stop. There was a lot more stutter-stepping than what we normally see. But it worked out pretty well and we’re pleased with how the floor laid out. The flow should be good.”

“Given the challenges of the hall, it went very well," agreed Monte Lunde of Technifex, who theming and hi-tech exhibitors. "All in all I think people will be happy with their spaces, and it should be a good show.”

“There haven’t been that many calls complaining,” added JRA's Keith James with a chuckle.

The meeting is now officially OVER. We're packing up, tearing down, and getting the heck out of here. As everyone leaves Vegas, IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009 has 558 booths on the floor accounting for 266,300 square feet of space.

Thanks to all who followed along these past two days; we had another banner day of traffic at In the Queue again today. If you have any questions about your booth or would like to move to a new location, contact the IAAPA Exhibit Sales Team next week.

Space Allocation 2009: Day 2—Afternoon Session

3:07 p.m.: DONE!!! With initial assignments, anyway. The members will hang around for about 30 minutes to wait for booth moves.

I'll be back soon with some final comments/stats.

2:54 p.m.:
During the break, four booths were put into the outdoor space, which is maybe the best of its kind we've had a show—it's DIRECTLY in front of the LVCC, between the doors and the monorail. You won't be able to walk in those doors without seeing the outdoor exhibits—it'll be impossible. Pete Barto tells me this might be the first time we've ever placed booths in the outdoor space during Allocation.

Discussion is still going strong as the First-Time Exhibitor Pavilion is assigned. About to assign No. 535, AeroTower America.

2:49 p.m.:
We're into first-timers now. Twenty to go …

2:33 p.m.:
The committee's back for the home stretch. I spoke to Jerry Aldrich of Amusement Industry Consulting, who works with rides and safety exhibitors. He told me: “I think we’re doing great for the amount of stuff we’ve covered. The electronic systems make it go so much faster. If an exhibitor doesn’t get a spot they want, they can almost instantaneously reposition.”

2:19 p.m.:
OK, I'm almost at the end of my second Space, and I just heard a new term: "Oreo Cookie." What the heck is an Oreo cookie? Pete Barto says it's a no-no: When there are two big booths on either side of just one little booth. Either the two big booths need to border each other, or more smaller booths need to go in between the two big ones so the small one doesn't get overwhelmed.

We're taking what I expect to be the last break of the day. Just placed No. 516, North Pole Productions. We hit first-time exhibitors in six booths, and there are only 30 remaining, overall.

2:06 p.m.:
We just crossed a quarter million square feet assigned. Current total: 253,100.

2 p.m.:
Deana Martin, a member of the exhibit sales team, started with 12 piles of contract folders on a big table near me. She just started on the last one.

1:57 p.m.:
No. 500!!! A+ Career Apparel was just placed. Seeing light at the end of the tunnel (Is it the sun? It will be nice to see daylight and breathe outside air again …).

1:45 p.m.:
The words "we're almost done" were just uttered within my range of hearing, but I will not share who, for fear of putting the jinx on them. We're on No. 481, Philadelphia Insurance Companies, so there are about 60 companies left to place, all rather small. So, here's hoping …

1:38 p.m.:
I hesitate to say anything to jinx the momentum we have going right now, but Ray Zammit's prediction from earlier this morning is coming to pass. Pace is up right now. Just placed: No. 476, Garner Holt Productions.

1:12 p.m.:
Michael Turner from Gateway Ticketing Systems, in charge of ticketing and point-of-sale system companies, said IAAPA's first trip to the Las Vegas Convention Center is definitely playing a role in the speed of this process. With no frame of reference to fall back on, there's a lot of waiting and watching among exhibiting companies—and, therefore, a lot of changes.

Turner told me: “The middle group we placed were the most difficult, because you had to worry about how to place them and get them in the right position. It was difficult this morning. Everybody I placed didn’t put down booth number requests—they had no idea. So, that was the work. You had to go back and say, ‘OK, where do you want to be, relative to where you were last year?’”

The committee just placed CLM Entertainment, No. 442.

12:50 p.m.:
The committee's back from lunch and getting back down to business. People are still hopeful for speed to pick up with the smaller booths. I talked to Michael Turner from Gateway Ticketing Systems during the break and will share his comments momentarily.

Space Allocation 2009: Day 2—Morning Session

12 p.m.: The committee is breaking for lunch. They just placed Funovation, No. 432. Just to put things in perspective, by this time last year we had already wrapped, and the committee had placed more than 570 booths. When they get back from lunch this year there will be well more than 100 waiting for them. It's really been a mental workout; they're even working on redrawing more portions of the floor during the break right now. As Pete Barto just exclaimed: "It's all starting to work out now. You just have to wait for the floor plan to talk to you!"

11:35 a.m.:
Five minutes, 20 minutes … meh. Should be a short session now leading up to lunch. Still working on some parts of the floor, but they're rejoining to start slotting some smaller booths that will drop in quickly.

11:16 a.m.:
Five-minute break time. A couple more booth changes are going to require some discussion.

10:45 a.m.:
The committee just placed booth No. 400, Quick-Tag. About 150 to go.

10:30 a.m.:
That was quick. Back at it again, starting with—what else?—a booth change.

10:25 a.m.:
Committee's taking a break. When they get back, they'll be pushing close to No. 400.

10:10 a.m.:
OK, OK, pace is picking up. The committee just placed No. 382, amaZulu.

9:56 a.m.:
During the break I had a great chat with Ray Zammit of Nancy Sales Co., whose overseeing the plush booths during Space. Here's the bulk of our conversation:

Jeremy Schoolfield: How do you think the meeting's going so far?
Ray Zammit: We had a phenomenal day yesterday. We got everyone [in plush] that had at least six years of seniority placed in a fairly common section. We took a really hard look to make sure we listened to the comments. Obviously everybody has a unique situation—they’re all very interested in their own piece of the pie and want to make sure they’re not next to competitors. It’s a real dance, but at the same time it looks good. I love the way the floor’s shaping right now.

JS: It seems the pace is still rather slow this morning.
RZ: I’m surprised—typically the second day is a little easier because you get the exhibitors that have less seniority and, generally, smaller booths. It’s usually a matter of filling in, but the configuration of this hall is unique—it’s long and narrow, and two levels—and that creates some challenges. It’ll definitely smooth out. They’re still working on changes from some of the bigger guys who are jockeying for space on the floor, and once we make a few adjustments it’ll start picking up. It’s not a matter of just finding a space that’s available—there are a lot of rules that have to be taken into account, with height restrictions or blocking other neighbors.

JS: It seems the committee is doing all it can to accommodate requests.
RZ: The nice thing about Space Allocation is we all have a tremendous amount of experience attending shows, and we’ve known each other for a long time. This is a volunteer assignment, and we really want what’s best for the show. We want the show to go on for a long time, and we want people to have a good experience when they come. We want it to look as good as it can.

9:37 a.m.:
The committee's back in session. More adjustments to the floor plan during the break, as the committee and the IAAPA exhibit team adapts on the fly to make best possible use of both halls.

9:15 a.m.:
The committee's taking a short break. They just placed No. 366, Max-R. The pace is very jumpy. They'll get on a roll and place several booths in no time, then get hung up on one for several minutes. It all depends on the requests and how they mesh with the current assigned space.

9:08 a.m.:
Pace is quite slow this morning. The committee's on No. 360, Great American Recreation. It seems like every discussion about a booth move or floor plan adjustment is taking a good little while. There are multiple conversations going on all over the room as people work the issues.

8:38 a.m.:
Even though there weren't that many booth moves waiting this morning, the committee needed almost a half hour to handle them. With the floor starting to fill in, the hall's regulations, and keeping in mind things like keeping competitors away from one another, it's become immediately more challenging to accommodate every specific request on Day 2. The committee is working each situation thoroughly—with much discussion back and forth—but sometimes there's just no right answer to be had.

They've finished with the booth moves now and are beginning the regularly scheduled programming.

8:10 a.m.:
We're back! The committee is dealing with some booth moves first that came in overnight, and then it's on to No. 343, Play Mart Benelux.

One correction from yesterday: There are FIFTEEN committee members, not 13. That's why I was an English major—counting isn't my thing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Space Allocation 2009: Day 1—Afternoon Session

5:13 p.m.: Jack Mendes just called a halt to today's session after No. 342, Berk Paper & Supply. So, we're done for today, folks. Thanks to all those who followed along—we had a record-breaking day for In the Queue, so I'm glad you apparently found this valuable.

We'll all be back tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. PST again. Until then, sleep well!

5:08 p.m.:
The committee continues to move right along. They're about to hit No. 340, Prime Karts. As hoped, the afternoon has been easier than the morning. Not flying or anything, but good, deliberate pace. There haven't been that many holdups the past few hours. About an hour to go, now, in today's session, and the committee has placed a little more than 203,000 square feet.

4:25 p.m.:
Point of clarification: Earlier when I said "halfway point," that was for the entire set of contracts. The committee just placed Nobel Roman's, No. 317, which is the halfway point of all the booths to actually be placed here at Space (remember, about 70 25-plus-year exhibitors were already on the floor when we started).

So, however you look at it, things are moving along pretty well.

3:40 p.m.:
The committee's back, and it just placed the aforementioned Redemption Plus. With that assignment, we've officially reached the halfway point. Hooray! The floor now has more than 171,000 square feet spoken for.

3:24 p.m.:
The committee is taking a 10-minute break. The pace has been up over the past hour. When they rejoin, members will place No. 279, Redemption Plus.

3:06 p.m.:
I wanted to follow up on what Jim Seay said a couple hours ago, about how the floor was starting to shake out.

Earlier today, I listened in as Pete Barto explained to a committee member the overall "theory" of placing booths at this year's Expo. Obviously Vegas will be different from last year's Orlando show because Expo will be split between two halls. In addition, one of the halls is on the second floor of the convention center, directly above the other. As anyone who's visited our show knows, exhibitors bring some MONSTROUS exhibits to the Expo, including rides that weigh, you know, a lot. That means those companies must go on the first floor, because their exhibits exceed the weight limit for the second-floor hall.

With that in mind, companies we know will have lighter exhibits—inflatables, coin-op games, the theme and hi-tech pavilion, first-time exhibitor pavilion, etc.—are slated for upstairs.

So, that was the gameplan coming into Space, and the committee is working off that layout to shape the rest of the exhibit halls.

2:42 p.m.:
The committee just placed Stinson Band Organ Co., No. 252, the company I mentioned in my post yesterday. Still moving very well. Nice to be past the 250-exhibitor plateau. We're very close to being halfway through.

2:20 p.m.:
Committee's back in session.

2:06 p.m.:
The committee's taking a short break. This afternoon session is clicking along very well, overall. The next booth to be assigned will be International Laser Tag Association, No. 241. I can attest to the level of conversation about every single booth that the committee is really working through each situation carefully.

1:40 p.m.:
Here's a look at the Space Allocation room. We're in the Emperors Ballroom at Caesars (they must have known I was coming), which is great because it's a nice big space. As you can see, there's a ton of equipment brought in to make this whole operation happen.

1:17 p.m.: Here's some comments from a few committee members regarding the morning session of Day 1:

Jack Mendes: “It’s a lot more complicated because the hall is long and narrow, and there’s two floors. But I think we’re moving forward nicely. It will [get easier] at certain times, and then all of a sudden you’ll get to a big booth placement that you have to create, and that’ll slow things down.”

Jim Seay: “When you take into consideration the unique conditions this trade show floor has, I think we’ve done amazingly well in placing people close to what everyone’s been looking for. It’s clear the direction things are going. The hi-tech people have established a bulkhead on the second floor, and the people who have been exhibiting a long time have coalesced on the first floor. You can see it coming together—those will be the main areas, and everything will branch out from there.”

Jeroen Nijpels: “We solved some quite challenging things so far which looked, on paper, as being problematic. I hope the people we solved them for are as happy as we are.”

12:40 p.m.:
The committee is back from lunch. They're dealing with some booth moves that came in over the break, then will be back to assigning new booths. I talked to a few members between sessions and will post comments shortly.

Space Allocation 2009: Day 1—Morning Session, Part 2

11:54 a.m.: The committee is breaking for lunch now. Should be back around 12:30 p.m. Spectrum Sports International, No. 174, was the last booth placed during the morning session. I'll back in a little while with comments from some committee members.

11:44 a.m.:
One thing that continually impresses me throughout this whole process is the amount of knowledge and experience that comes into play during the Space meeting. Any time a snag occurs, people attack the problem and put their heads together to solve it. Most of the time they're speaking a trade-show language I have no hope of understanding, but they understand it, so that's the important thing. Redrawing the floor plan on the fly, adapting to multiple requests … it's like they can see the floor, already built, in their heads and can move the pieces around like a 3-D model. And then eight months from now, we'll take all this work and turn it into an amusement park under the LVCC roof.

11:23 a.m.:
Placements are flowing well right now, overall. I asked my colleague Pete Barto, head of the IAAPA Exhibit Sales Team, about it and he said "the floor is starting to take shape." I'll have more on this at the lunch break when I talk to committee members. Right now we're on Intercard, No. 166.

10:57 a.m.:
We're on No. 143, Designs in Motion, and I'm told we've now rounded the quarter pole, with more than 25 percent of contracts assigned. Right now there are more than 94,000 square feet of booths placed on the floor. Still lots of chatter in the room, as everyone's working hard on the phones, on the big board, and between one another to make sure every detail is ironed out.

10:34 a.m.:
Back up now. That was quick. Here's hoping for a good run leading up to the 12:30 p.m. lunch break.

10:32 a.m.:
And … we're on a little hold again. Welcome to Space Allocation 2009, everybody. It's definitely an adventure.

10:30 a.m.:
OK, they're back in action. Just placed No. 128, National Pizza Products.

10:27 a.m.:
Hit another holdup as we get caught up on the redrawn floor plan and resending those confirmation e-mails.

Some exhibitors this morning may have received their confirmation e-mails with an incorrect link to the current interactive floor plan. The team resent the e-mail, so be sure to use the most recent one if you want to check out your spot. Or, you can click here.

10:08 a.m.:
Here's how the Space Allocation Meeting works: There are 13 members on the committee, and each is responsible for a particular segment of the M&S community; Chairman Jack Mendes handles games, Premier Rides' Jim Seay and Intamin's Vittorio Fabbri oversee ride manufacturers, Arihant's Rajen Shah watches over water rides, etc. As each company comes up for placement, the according committee rep speaks up on the exhibitor's behalf and ensures the booth ends up in the best possible spot, related to the company's stated preferences. These guys are on their phones all day long, touching base with their groups and working through options. I've never been in a National Football League draft "war room," but I imagine it's kinda like this.

9:48 a.m.:
First, had to start a new post because the last one wouldn't let me update for some reason, sorry 'bout that. The break actually took about 20 minutes because the committee redrew a chunk of the floor plan on the fly to accommodate several requests. You can view the updated floor plan here.

Live TV, baby—ain't nothin' like it.

9:30 a.m.:
The committee's taking a 10-minute break. After an hour, they've assigned about 30 booths. When they come back, next up is Seniority No. 110, SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment.

Space Allocation 2009: Day 1—Morning Session

9 a.m.: Committee Chairman Jack Mendes (Bob's Space Racers) runs the show during Space Allocation. He sits at the "head" of the U-shaped table setup in here, sitting in front of a 50-inch flat-screen monitor with the floor plan laid out on it.

When he addressed the committee this morning to open the meeting, Mendes told the other 12 members today was going to be a lot different from the previous two years, when IAAPA Attractions Expo was held in our familiar stomping grounds of Orlando. This is Expo's first trip to the Las Vegas Convention Center, so Mendes said they're going to intentionally take things slower this year to get used to the new convention center.

We just saw that message come into play, not 10 minutes into the meeting. The committee spent a good five minutes poring over one booth, making doubly sure the company's preferences and the logistical requirements of the hall meshed as well as possible.

It's gonna be a much more methodical pace this year, folks. I think these first few hours could go really slow, as the committee gets its bearings; each new booth placed will probably teach the members something about the hall they didn't know before, and thus will make it easier to place booths as they move along.

8:43 a.m.:
So, here's how this works: IAAPA received 555 contracts for booths wanting placement during Space Allocation. Every company is ranked by seniority—the longer you've exhibited with us, the earlier you get placed on the floor. Any exhibitor with more than 25 years' exhibit seniority gets placed ahead of time, so there were actually more than 70 companies on the floor plan when we all woke up this morning. The committee began work this morning at No. 78, Kay Park Recreation Corp.

8:35 a.m.:
We're under way!

8:23 a.m.:
OK, all the general stuff is over. Meeting is set to start at 8:30 a.m. They're taking a brief break, then we're all set.

7:55 a.m.:
Good morning, all. Space Allocation Committee members are gathering and finding their spots. The meeting starts officially at 8 a.m. (Pacific Time, remember), but it'll be 20 minutes or so before booths start going in so they can go over some general housekeeping issues.

Keep refreshing this page; I'll update this post throughout the morning session.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Space: Going Where Only This Blogger Has Gone Before …

Today I'm winging my way across the United States from D.C. to Las Vegas for the 2009 Space Allocation Meeting. We go LIVE from Caesars Palace tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, and I'll be there for every minute over the course of a two-day IAAPA Attractions Expolooza.

This will be my second consecutive year going on this little adventure my IAAPA colleagues and I refer to simply as "Space." It's tempting to go back and read my posts from last year, but I'm resisting; no reruns here. Any similarities you may find between this year's coverage and last year will be simply because the same brain is trying to process all that goes on over the course of a hectic 36 hours.

I'm hopeful my brain has a bit better perspective on the proceedings this time around, since I certainly can't be considered a newbie after a trial by fire in 2008. But there are plenty of things to keep everyone in the room busy this year, most notably, of course, a new hall in a new city (Vegas, baby!). To get yourself prepared, be sure to check out IAAPA's home page for links to all the information you'll need relative to this year's meeting. And, don't forget: If for some reason you can't get to the blog as much as you want tomorrow, you can also follow IAAPA's new twitter feed on Wednesday, provided by my colleague Julie Parsons.

So, is everyone ready to go at this again? For some that may be wondering what all the fuss is about, I'll leave you with this little story, related to me by another colleague, Pete Barto, who heads up the exhibit sales team:

Last week, he had a visitor to our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia: Don Stinson, president of Stinson Band Organ Co. in Ohio. Stinson and his wife drove through a snowstorm and took a major detour on his way to Hagerstown, Maryland, so he could hand-deliver his signed booth contract and ensure he'd be eligible for Space. Pete told me later it was "perhaps the best story of a contract I've ever heard."

That's how important this process is, and that's why we're covering it on In the Queue. See you tomorrow!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Meetings Mean Business

Business travel has been getting beat up a lot lately here in the U.S. It is almost daily I hear about a member of Congress proposing travel restrictions on firms that receive stimulus or bailout money, or I see a pundit bashing firms for going on corporate retreats when their stocks are in the dumps. While I think everyone understands the need to cut down on costs when money is tight, it seems business travel has gotten an especially bad reputation for being frivolous and unnecessary lately.

To combat these misconceptions, the U.S. Travel Association (formerly known as the Travel Industry Association, or TIA) has created a campaign called Meetings Mean Business. U.S. Travel is encouraging members of the travel and tourism industries—and those who support them—to talk to their friends, the media, and lawmakers about the benefits of travel.

Some facts: Did you know business travel creates 2.4 million jobs in the U.S.? Business travel accounts for $240 billion in spending and $39 billion in tax revenue at the federal, state, and local levels. Unfortunately, nearly 200,000 travel-related jobs were lost in 2008, and the U.S. departments of Labor and Commerce predict another 247,000 will be lost in 2009. Meetings Mean Business aims to protect the millions of American jobs that depend on business meetings and events.

The campaign is starting to get attention: this week, President Obama expressed support for business travel after a meeting with 12 prominent CEOs representing the travel industry (including Jim Atchison of Busch Entertainment, Tom Williams of Universal Parks and Resorts, and Jay Rasulo of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts). Additionally, the campaign's message has been picked up by major media outlets such as Fortune Magazine, the Orlando Sentinal, and the Economist.

If you're interested in participating in the campaign, the Meetings Mean Business Action Center has information on the economic benefits of travel, pre-written letters to Congress, sample letters to the editor, talking points, and more. I hope IAAPA members will check out the site and make use of its resources.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Introducing … IAAPA – Large Parks and Theme Parks

We've made it! This will be the final post to the "Membership Minute" series on In the Queue, and it seems fitting we're finishing up with what most people think of when they think of the attractions industry: Large Parks and Theme Parks.

The purpose of this series (read the other entries here) was to make sure both new and renewing members had specific details about IAAPA's membership benefits and provide ideas about how you can put those benefits to use. I hope you've found my posts helpful, and that you will take me up on my offer to suggest ways IAAPA can better support you and your businesses. Please e-mail me at I look forward to hearing from you!

So without further delay, here are some of the "key" benefits of specific interest to the Large Park and Theme Park community:

Did you know that if you had an issue at your facility and needed help with the press, IAAPA’s staff provides you with FREE crisis communications support? That alone is worth the price of admission (or membership!). Just call the IAAPA offices (+1 703/836-4800) and we will put you in touch with all the right people.

Need a New Product? Need to Find Someone in the Industry?
All manufacturer and supplier members of IAAPA are listed in the Industry Buyers' Guide. This resource is open to members and nonmembers alike to search for products and services you may want to add to your facility. In addition, all members have access to search the Online Membership Directory. Here, you can search for facilities by geographic location, facility type, and more. Once you enter your search criteria, the online tool searches our membership database and provides you with full contact information for you to reach out to other operators who may be able to offer their expertise.

News Flash
News Flash is a daily e-mail service that provides you with all the headlines from the global attractions industry. It's a quick, easy way to follow trends in the industry, including openings, closures, successes, struggles, and other situations. News Flash is a powerful tool, but you have to read it, AND use it. If you’re currently a member and don’t receive News Flash, sign up:

Government Relations
Our team is constantly monitoring issues that affect the attractions industry. Your membership dues guarantee you have two dedicated full-time IAAPA staffers in Washington, D.C., working to protect your business interests. Your IAAPA GR team has worked tirelessly on the recent phthalate ban and provided our members with updates and education throughout the entire process (be sure to keep checking In the Queue for current info). And we’re not just limited to federal issues; we have worked on a variety of state legislative initiatives as well. As a member, if you EVER need any support regarding a government relations issue, all you have to do is ask! Go ahead, it’s easy:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

No Freedom of Choice Under New Legislation

The much-anticipated Employee Free Choice Act was introduced in both chambers of Congress yesterday afternoon. The House version of the bill, H.R. 1409,was introduced with 223 co-sponsors, or more than half the members of the House. The Senate version, S. 560, had 40 original co-sponsors. (The Library of Congress has not yet published the text of the Senate version, but I will update the links when they do.)

The deceptively-named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would strip a worker of his or her right to a secret ballot when choosing whether or not to join a labor union. Instead, if a union organizer collected 50 percent plus one employee’s signature, a union could organize and subject employers and employees to federally-mediated arbitration with the union to decide pay rates, hours, benefits, and other labor matters.

Unfortunately, the card check system often leads to misleading information, coercion and intimidation from union organizers and coworkers who support unionization. Recently, organizers for the Service Employees International Union in Oregon and Minnesota were accused of telling workers that a signature on an authorization card was only to get more information. Young or inexperienced workers could be particularly exposed to these misrepresentations and pressures.

The EFCA is expected to pass the House without much challenge. The fact that the bill already has a majority of House members as cosponsors pretty much guarantees its passage.

The real battle will be in the Senate, where a super-majority of 60 votes is needed to cut off debate and vote on the underlying bill. Due to the way the Senate works, there are two votes needed to pass a bill: the first is to cut off debate (or cloture) and needs 60 votes to pass. The second vote is on the bill itself, and only needs a simple majority. With an issue this controversial, some senators might "play politics" and vote for cloture but against the bill. That way they can appear to vote against the bill, while in practicality voting for it. IAAPA members need to apply pressure to their Senators and remind them it is not enough to support cloture and oppose the underlying bill: In order to support our industry, senators must vote against both cloture and the bill itself.

IAAPA members should have already received an e-mail alert about the Employee Free Choice Act with a link to our Grassroots Action Center where they can contact their elected officials. If you have not already done so, it is important to contact your senators well in advance of any vote on the bill. In the next few days, we will be reaching out to members in key states with additional information, and giving them the tools for even more effective advocacy. The fate of this legislation will come down to a few select senators and we need to be sure they know the stance of our industry.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Learning the Law

Major changes have taken place with two important HR laws: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). On Friday, March 20, at 2 p.m. EST, Theresa Gallion, an attorney with Fisher & Phillips LLP in Tampa, Florida, will host a webinar on these changes and how they can affect your business. In the meantime, FUNWORLD editors caught up with Gallion to briefly discuss what webinar attendees can expect from this session.

FUNWORLD: What will be the main focus of your webinar?
Theresa Gallion:
The focus of this Webinar will be changes of two federal employment laws: the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Americans with Disabilities Act applies to every American employer with at least 15 employees. Therefore, I believe that the vast majority of entities in the attractions industry will be interested in these developments. The federal FMLA has more expansive coverage and applies only to larger businesses with at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius. The federal FMLA guarantees covered employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical or familial needs.

FW: Some of our members have small operations or are operated by nonprofits or local governments. Are there differences in how these HR laws affect them?
The fact that an entity is not for profit is not meaningful in terms of coverage by either the ADA or the FMLA. Governmental entities, however, do have some different rights and obligations. My experience has been that governmental entities usually have their co-extensive rules and regulations, so there is not likely to be any significant difference.

FW: In a difficult economic year, how can refining HR strategies help with the bottom line?
This is, indeed, a very down year economically. It is vital they participate in the webinar to get a sense of how the regulations will impact them, what steps they can take to manage those costs and expenses, and how they can protect the bottom line while at the same time complying with the law. For smaller businesses, one easy step they can take is to ensure they never have 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. This ensures that the federal FMLA never applies.

FW: What can attendees expect to take away from this session and apply to their operations?
This is designed as an interactive session. Each person will have access to the PowerPoint. At the conclusion, I will be providing free materials, which provide a step-by-step method to comply with these laws and to implement the regulations should they apply.

For more information about IAAPA webinars and other educational opportunities, click here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

GR Roundup: CPSC Public Meeting, Update on Phthalates, and More!

The fallout from the CPSIA continues:

First, there is a public meeting this Thursday (March 12) from 1-5 p.m. at CPSC headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. The event is open to the public, but you must register online in advance. The meeting topic is Section 108 of the CPSIA, which is the section that addresses phthalates. If you're planning to go shoot me an e-mail and let me know.

Additionally, the CPSC is seeking public comments on its draft guidance on which children's products are subject to Section 108 of the CPSIA. If you remember, the Act itself has some ambiguity regarding what constitutes a children's product and CPSC is attempting to clarify what falls under the phthalates ban. You can read the draft guidance in the above link. Comments are due March 25 and should be e-mailed to the CPSC or e-mailed to IAAPA for inclusion.

Finally, the IAAPA Games Committee recently presented me with a list of questions regarding the CPSIA compliance. The answers can be found on our web site and will (hopefully) help you craft your businesses' compliance strategy. Thanks to the committee for coming up with such good, broad-based questions.

If you haven't done so already, please let us know how you're adjusting to these new laws. The more concrete information we have, the easier it is for us to have serious discussions with regulators.

Ice Cream for Breakfast? Sure

IAAPA staffers took a moment to acknowledge our support of Give Kids The World this morning in true GKTW form: Having fun!

To help the charity celebrate its own version of Founder's Day (March 7, the charity's anniversary), IAAPA, along with several of GKTW's other supporters, had ice cream for breakfast this morning at our office. Why ice cream? Because at GKTW, it's all about the Wish children; the Village's Ice Cream Palace opens at 7:30 every morning so if they want ice cream for breakfast, they get it:

I know I've said this in previous posts, but if you haven't visited the Village, you really should try and get there. It's an amazing place that is guaranteed to put a tear in your eye and a smile on your face—probably at the same time.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Introducing … IAAPA – Hotels, Resorts, and Casinos

The purpose of these "Membership Minutes" is to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting when you join or renew your IAAPA membership—and why it’s even more essential to stay connected to the industry as we all head into what will be a challenging economic year. This week's post focuses on what IAAPA provides to Hotels, Resorts, and Casinos.

In the past several years, IAAPA has seen more hotels, resorts, and casinos coming to our events and joining the ranks of membership. Now, it’s important to note this doesn’t mean IAAPA is going to add hotel room furniture and casino games to our trade show floor. Rather, it's an acknowledgment that these hotels, resorts, and casinos are looking to expand what they offer to their guests and are counting on IAAPA members to teach them how to do so.

And that’s really what IAAPA is all about, connecting members who run different operations, in different countries, so they can learn from each other and offer the best experience for their guests.

With that in mind, here are some of the core benefits IAAPA offers to hotels, resorts, and casinos …

Industry Buyers' Guide and Online Membership Directory
All manufacturer and supplier members of IAAPA are listed in the Industry Buyers' Guide. This resource is open to members and nonmembers alike to search for products and services you may want to add to your attraction. In addition, all members have access to search the Online Membership Directory. Here, you can search for facilities by geographic location, facility type, and more. Once you enter your search criteria, the online tool searches our membership database and provides you with full contact information for you to reach out to other operators who may be able to offer their expertise.

News Flash
News Flash is a daily e-mail service that provides you with all the headlines from the global attractions industry. You can follow the trends in the industry including openings, closures, successes, struggles, and other situations. News Flash is an incredibly powerful tool, but you have to read it, AND use it. If you’re currently a member and don’t receive News Flash, sign up:

Legislative Issues
These days, most hotels, resorts, and casinos offer some sort of water attraction, whether it be a pool, waterslide, or a full-blown waterpark within their facility. That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of the all the water safety issues and specifically, the Virginia Graeme Baker Act. Your membership dues guarantee you have two dedicated full-time IAAPA staffers in Washington, D.C., working to protect your business interests. And we’re not just limited to federal issues; we have worked on a variety of state legislative initiatives as well. As a member, if you EVER need any support regarding a government relations issue, all you have to do is ask! Go ahead, it’s easy:

Our monthly magazine covers a lot of ground with feature stories on a variety of issues facing the attractions industry including hotels, resorts, and casinos. Here are just a couple recent articles that were cross-posted to our blog, highlighting our coverage of this market. If you want more, check out the magazine's new digital edition.

And of course, I am always open to suggestions of additional benefits. What else do you need from IAAPA? Let me know what you think and if there is anything else we can do to help support you. My e-mail address is and I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Asian Attractions Expo 2009 City Preview: Seoul, South Korea

IAAPA is once again gearing up for its conference and expo in Asia, this year at the COEX Convention and Exhibition Centre in intriguing and influential Seoul.

First things first, you may have some questions about your travel plans. Do I need a visa? What is the currency exchange rate? And so on. Check out our Seoul FAQ for the answers to your travel questions.

Now, on to the good stuff! With a population of more than 10 million, the capital of South Korea is one of the world’s largest cities and has so much to offer as the country’s economic, political, and cultural center. The city is located on the basin of the Han River in the northwestern part of the country and lies about 50 km south of the North Korean border.

Seoul City: Video Intro

Without a doubt, Asian Attractions Expo 2009 and the nearly 150 exhibitors and full schedule of education programs that make up the conference and expo are the premier sight to see in Seoul during June! But, before and after the show, there is a lot to do in this vibrant metropolitan city. What else should make your itinerary?

Industry Attractions

According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers and TEA/ERA, two of the 10 most popular amusement parks in Asia and three of the world’s top 20 waterparks are in South Korea. Make sure to visit some of these leading parks and attractions:



Don’t miss the chance to treat yourself to some of the most flavorful and intoxicating foods the world has to offer. From traditional kimchi (spicy, fermented vegetables), bulgogi (marinated beef) and galbi (beef or pork short ribs), to more adventurous dishes, you won’t want to miss the dining pleasures of Korea.


For more on Seoul, visit Seoul City Tourism.