Thursday, May 27, 2010

Media Previews New Rides and Attractions at U.S. Parks

Thanks to all IAAPA members who sent information on their new attractions for 2010 to our press office!

Last week, AP travel editor Beth Harpaz published a summer preview story based on IAAPA’s annual “What’s New” at U.S. parks and attractions press release. You can read the story at; we've had calls from other reporters, as well, based on the release.

The IAAPA Communications Team also recently distributed a “What’s New” at U.S. waterparks press release. We will keep you updated on the progress of both publicity campaigns.

Keep an eye out for future opportunities like this to help us promote all the exciting new things you're doing. Later this summer we will collect information for a “What’s New” for Halloween release and a release previewing holiday events.

If you have any questions or would already like to start sending us some updates for later this year, please e-mail

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Write This Down! More Tips for Green Meetings and Operations

In the June issue of FUNWORLD, Matt Lawrence, general manager at Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, Michigan, told us how his location is implementing the company’s "Project Great Wolf," which has earned them a Green Seal certification at all its locations. In an excerpt from our conversation, Lawrence expanded on the area of meetings and corporate services, and Great Wolf’s focus on sustainability. Hopefully these pointers will be applicable at your own facility. Remember to check the June issue for many more tips!

Have you found that making your operations environmentally conscious has drawn more guests?
Yes! Having green standards in place has been a draw for our leisure and meeting guests. Some people are only interested in staying or booking a meeting if they know a facility is environmentally friendly.

How do you implement green practices into planning your meetings and corporate events?
There is no question that today’s meeting planners are looking for ways to be environmentally friendly while holding a memorable meeting or event. Turning an ordinary meeting into a green meeting is a lot easier than some would think. Here are some simple ways to conduct greener meetings—and general operations—and also cut costs.
  • Provide attendees with pitchers of tap water instead of bottled water.
  • Instead of print-outs, use e-mail to correspond and track information electronically. This not only saves trees, but also cuts costs for paper, ink cartridges, and postage.
  • Find alternatives to disposable items. For example, we use dry erase boards, scrap paper, and table linens.
  • Use programmable on/off timers or sensors in meeting rooms. If there isn’t any movement in the room motion sensors can signal the lights to turn off.
  • We have co-mingled recycling bins in our conference center, all public areas, guest rooms, and employee areas.
  • Our lighting uses only energy-efficient bulbs.
  • We work directly with the Father Fred Foundation in Traverse City to donate unused food whenever possible. The food is temperature controlled so we can ensure the food we are donating is safe.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Employ Young People? Check Out These Resources!

Summer is quickly approaching. Young people will soon be out of school and reporting to their summer jobs at amusement parks and attractions across the United States. Or in some cases, they’ve already been working for a few weeks now. All of this makes now an excellent time to remind U.S. IAAPA members of the resources the federal government provides for businesses that employ workers under the age of 18.

Once again, IAAPA has partnered with the Department of Labor to get the word out about Youth Rules, an online database of federal and state labor laws. IAAPA members can visit Youth Rules and search by state to find out what sort of jobs young people can do, learn about mandatory work breaks, and get compliance assistance. Teens can look up what hours they are allowed to work, if they need to get a work permit (which they should do before schools close for the summer), and read some helpful tips on workplace safety.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), teens face a high risk of being injured on the job. A 10-year study, which concluded in 2007, found younger workers were twice as likely as their older counterparts to be treated in hospital emergency departments for work-related injuries.

To reduce this risk, NIOSH recently introduced Youth at Work: Talking Safety which can help teens identify workplace health and safety hazards, and take measures to reduce risk for injury. This curriculum is meant to be used in a classroom or other group training settings, and has been customized to address state-specific rules and regulations. The curriculum includes slides and talking points for the presenter, handouts, and completion certificates for the students, and interactive material such as an online video that can be emailed to employees to watch before they begin training.

The exciting atmosphere and family-friendly environment makes the attractions industry a great place for teens to work, and teens can make great employees. By reviewing resources such as Youth Rules and Youth at Work: Talking Safety, you can ensure everyone has a safe and successful summer.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Go Extreme or Go Home: Entertainment Design Group on ABC’s ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’

One can usually spot the scenic work of Entertainment Design Group (EDG, on attractions such as “Terminator Salvation—The Ride” (left) at Six Flags Magic Mountain and “Bizarro” (bottom of post) at Six Flags New England and Six Flags Great Adventure. So when ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”—the home redesign show for families in need—approached EDG to make over a 6-year-old’s room, it was a perfect match. EDG, located in Atlanta, is only 85 miles from the newly built home, located in Pine Mountain Valley, Georgia.

The episode airs this Sunday, May 16, at 8 p.m. EDT on ABC. And before any secrets or final designs were let out of the bag, Gary Seputis, on-site production manager for the project, gave us a glimpse into the work behind the camera and what to expect when taking part in such a challenge.

How did you get involved with “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and how did you feel about participating?
We were contacted by Alexandra Lacey, one of the show’s design producers who had gotten our name from a company that participated in a previous episode. Most of us had seen the show before and we jumped at the opportunity to be involved.

I’ve seen a lot of episodes, and in many cases they’re doing basic design. But as things have gotten more extreme over the years, they’ve begun to do really off-the-wall projects—things that have to be custom built and designed. People probably don’t think of a scenic company as something for a home, but the show decided to tap into our resources.

What initial guidelines were you given at the project's outset?
Well the time frame was a little scary. They called us about four weeks before the installation and we started from scratch at that point. Alexandra threw some ideas out and over the weeks, those ideas changed completely; it was a very fluid process. Once she had met the child whose room we were designing, the design started to change a bit.

And all materials and services that appear on the show are 100 percent donated—down to each screw and every piece of drywall. All of our products, transportation, and time spent on design and construction time was donated. So, as other vendors for the episode either fell through or others were confirmed, we had to change the concept for the room. Alexandra came up with other ideas and there were a lot of phone conversations. We didn’t really get a final design until 48 hours before installation. We were still massaging the ideas up until that point.

The team (right): Team members working on the project included Gary Seputis; carpenters Shannon Lewallen and Tim Lewallen; Steven Guy; Ben Locke; and Ken Cain, who designed and drew renderings.

What moments did you most enjoy from the experience?
The whole process! It was really neat to be involved in such a huge undertaking—it’s absolutely crazy how large of a production this really is. What you don’t see on television is how many people are actually involved.

When we arrived to install, we were at the back of a line of 25 trucks. There was a queue headed up to the house and about 100 personal vehicles parked up and down the road of all the companies donating their goods and services. On top of that, there were 250 to 350 volunteers who parked at an off-site facility and were brought in on school buses. They were all there to paint, clean floors, and help install equipment. It was almost like an ant hill got kicked over and people were just flowing out.

When we arrived, the yard was nothing but clay and mud and workers were creating and paving the driveway. Then when we drove out that night, they had finished the driveway and everything was completely landscaped, all during that 12-hour work day.

Did EDG get to take part in the installation?
The frame and rough end of the house were built by other companies, but after designing our components, we took them on site and installed them ourselves. And we took special considerations because Jacob—whose room we were working on—is in a wheelchair. Everything needed to be made accessible to him and at a specific height.

From a public relations standpoint, how did you promote your involvement in the show?
Other than the one press release, we aren’t able to really promote our involvement until the episode airs. We couldn’t give out too much information, but we will be receiving credit on the show itself, which includes our name in the credits as well as on the web site of the show. We’ll also be able to put the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” logo and links to the episode on our EDG web site.

It just seems that people have a real connection with this show. So when people see that we’re involved and have donated our time and talents, that will help install trust in our company.

What advice do you have for other IAAPA members with similar television opportunities or redesign projects?
If anyone can afford to take it on, it’s a great opportunity, if just for the charity and community support aspects of it.

But it does take a huge amount of support and effort. Make sure you get a good idea of what the timeline and expectations are before you get involved. And understand there will be some changes. It was an exciting project for us, but we did not expect the timeline and expectations to keep changing like they did. Just roll with it and make it happen!

Check back next week for part two of our interview with Seputis, where he delves into the theming and installation details of the final room design, and what EDG learned as a company!

All photos courtesy Entertainment Design Group.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

IAAPA Webinar: Training New Supervisors

On Tuesday, May 18, 1 p.m. EDT, attractions human resources experts Matt Eckert of Holiday World, Matt Heller of Universal Orlando, and Shaun McKeogh of Farah Leisure will share insight about the challenges new supervisors face and what their managers need to know about preparing them for a new role. McKeogh gave In the Queue a glimpse into what webinar participants will learn.

What are the key issues for this webinar?
The key issues highlighted in the webinar include highlighting the range of challenges faced by new supervisors, peer pressure, strategies to step up to the challenges, and practical advice and support to turn challenges into opportunities.

Please share an example of a challenge that new supervisors face?
New supervisors face the daunting task of having to rise above the pressure of having to fit in with colleagues and friends who they once worked alongside but now manage. The challenges faced by the new supervisor in this situation include fear of rejection from their friends, the pressure to favor friends in decision making, a reluctance to reprimand or remind colleagues, and rejection from friends. New supervisors have often been the popular person in friendship groups and now must make decisions or deliver instructions that may make them unpopular. It takes a strong, confident, and mature person to be able to deal with these challenges all at once.

What challenges do their current managers face in training them?
Current managers face challenges in training new supervisors if no rapport is built across the generation divide. Empathy for the new supervisors’ challenges and an awareness of the language that is best going to communicate to the generation of the new supervisor will make training and mentoring most effective.

What is the most appropriate audience for this session?
The best audiences for this webinar are colleagues considering a move to management, people who have recently moved into a new supervisors positions, and managers charged with training and mentoring new supervisors.

What takeaways can participants expect from this session?
An awareness of the issues faced by new supervisors and practical advice and support in addressing common new supervisor challenges.

To register or learn more on IAAPA’s e-learning programs, click here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Navigating the new FTC Advertising Guidelines

Late last year, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published revised guidelines for advertisers on how to keep endorsements and testimonial ads in compliance with the FTC Act. The guidelines address endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of important connections between advertisers and endorsers. The last time these guidelines were updated was in 1980—four years before Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was even born—so regulators felt updates were needed to incorporate social media and other new marketing platforms.

Last month, the IAAPA Government Relations Committee met with FTC officials to discuss the guidelines and their applicability to the attractions industry. Randy Davis, IAAPA senior vice president of government relations and safety, summarized the discussion, including the questions raised and answers given in a letter. The FTC replied to IAAPA’s letter, confirming the summary was correct, so members can now use the points raised in the letter to help craft their policies.

Here is a summary of the letter:

Media Days

In this situation, the traditional media, as well as “new media” (e.g., bloggers, social media users) is invited to a facility to participate in a special event specifically for the media. For example, a park is opening a new ride and invites reporters and bloggers to preview it and talk to the manufacturer and park executives. Invited guests do not pay for admission.

In our discussion, the FTC indicated this would be considered a news event and therefore the facility operator would not be required to inform attendees that they needed to disclose that they received free access.

Opening Day

Some IAAPA facilities host events on opening day for the traditional media, bloggers, and users of social media. The FTC understands how an “Opening Day” can be newsworthy, especially for facilities that may not have a new ride or attraction that year.

If your facility hosts an “Opening Day” and lets bloggers and users of social media simply have a day in the facility, they should include a statement similar to the following in their write-up: “I was invited to tour [X Facility].” This would be sufficient to indicate they did not pay admission, and would comply with the guidelines.

Monitoring Efforts

We raised the issue of the how extensive our members’ monitoring efforts need to be. According to the FTC, there is a test of reasonableness based on the cost of the monitoring versus the risk of consumer injury. Facilities need to have a monitoring process in place. This should include such things as monitoring the blogs or postings of individuals who they know to be influential, but they do not need to check everything blogged or posted by everyone.

If the facility checks a blog once and finds it complies with the guides, the facility does not have to recheck that blog. If monitoring reveals that the guides have not been followed, a facility does not have to contact the author, but they should consider steps such as not inviting them back.


Another hot topic for facilities is visits by celebrities. In the meeting, we raised the example of a celebrity contacting a theme park and asking to visit. The theme park in this example provides free admission to the celebrity. The FTC told us the issue in these situations is whether or not the celebrity is part of the park’s marketing campaign.

If a facility’s policy is to provide complementary admission to celebrities who are not spokespersons, there is no need for the celebrities to note that they were provided entry free of charge if they later discuss their visit in a blog or a tweet. If the park asked celebrities for a picture and distributed it to local media and social sites, there is still no requirement that free admission be disclosed. However, if the celebrities were part of an overall public relations strategy (i.e., if he or she was contracted as a “spokesperson”), they would need to make the relationship clear.

IAAPA members should familiarized themselves with the regulations and our letter, and make sure their internal policies are in compliance with the new regulations. As with all policies, members may want to check with an attorney with questions specific to their facilities. For general questions, please feel free to contact us.