Friday, March 28, 2008

May FUNWORLD Preview: IAAPA Middle East Safety Conference

In the May issue of FUNWORLD, look for coverage of IAAPA's first Middle East Safety Conference. As a preview, here are some thoughts on the event from John Henderson, IAAPA's vice president of education, training, and development.

On Feb. 24 I traveled to Dubai, UAE, with my colleagues Ana Elisa Benavent, V.P. of membership and marketing, and Randy Davis, V.P. of government relations, to host the first IAAPA Middle East Safety Conference. The day after we arrived in Dubai we were able to tour the area and saw the vast construction that is forming the new skyline for a city that was once flat desert land. That afternoon we viewed Wild Wadi Water Park and witnessed people enjoying themselves in the cool water—not a bad idea when you are in the heat of the desert!

The focal point of our visit, of course, was the Safety Conference that began with a welcome reception and dinner. We were pleased to have 92 people registered for the conference who represented 14 countries and 46 different companies.

The conference began the next day with a lineup of industry safety experts:

• Darrell Metzger, CEO Ruwaad Destinations and IAAPA First Vice Chair
• Randy Davis, Vice President of Government Relations, IAAPA
• Geoff Robson, Amusement Device Inspection Procedures Scheme
• Steve Blum, Sr. Vice President of Safety, Universal Parks Resorts and Resorts
• Peter Doyle, Sr. Vice President of Marine and Waterpark Atlantis Dubai, UAE
• Jim Seay, President, Premier Rides Inc.

Each of these speakers provided great information that was discussed during breaks and networking time to determine how it impacts what they are currently doing in the attractions industry.

Here are just a few key concepts I came away with:

• IAAPA provided a venue that allowed people from diverse backgrounds working in the same region to come together for the first time to discuss issues critical in the industry
• Safety standards are critical to the success of any operation and the participants were exposed to ASTM, EN, and TUV standards. The important issue stressed by all presenters was that no matter which you adopt it is fundamental that you study and implement safety standards for your success and the success of the industry.
• Dubai, the rest of the UAE, and the surrounding countries are eager to build a destination that people from around the world see as a safe destination for family fun.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

More from April’s FUNWORLD: What Coaster Enthusiasts Are Looking Forward to This Year

For April’s issue of FUNWORLD, I talked with Mark Cole and John Gerard, president and PR director, respectively, of American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) to gauge their thoughts on the upcoming season. It was great to hear from people with a real passion for parks and deep knowledge of what’s going on in the world of coasters. I took tons of tips away from our conversation—mostly, what rides I want to try out this year! Below is the full version of my interview with Mark and John, a portion of which appeared in April’s FUNWORLD.

Coaster season is coming and Mark Cole and John Gerard are experts on riding them, visiting between 15 and 20 parks a year and traveling as far as Japan and Scandinavia in search of a good loop. In anticipation of the season, we picked their brains for the coasters they can’t wait to ride.

FUNWORLD: Which coasters are you most looking forward to this year?
John Gerard
: Knoebels’ “Flying Turns” is the most highly anticipated new ride of the season and I know they won’t fail to deliver. I'd have to say this is the most highly anticipated new ride of the coming season. Also, the “Ravine Flyer II” at Waldameer in Pennsylvania has been in the making for many years and is finally coming to fruition.
Mark Cole: I’m looking forward to the [Zamperla] MotoCoasters at Knott’s Berry Farm and Darien Lake. It’s truly a new concept. (See Knott's Berry Farm's Pony Express car at right.)
JG: “Evel Knievel” at Six Flags St. Louis looks to be a great woodie from Great Coasters International. For the non-wooden coasters, I’m really excited about “Behemoth” at Canada’s Wonderland (click on rendering at left to enlarge)—it’s a big, tall, fast one. And then there’s Hard Rock – a whole new park! They’ve got great theming and five new coasters, too!
MC: The ones I’m most anticipating include the “Steel Hawg” at Indiana Beach and definitely “Shivering Timbers” at Michigan’s Adventure, since I’ve never been to the park.

FW: What’s in the works for American Coaster Enthusiasts?
ACE has just unveiled an updated web site ( with better graphics, easier navigation and more information. And this year we have our Spring Conference in May at Michigan’s Adventure and Indiana Beach, Coaster Con XXXI in June at Six Flags Over Georgia and Wild Adventures, and our Preservation Conference in August at Lake Compounce, Six Flags New England, and Quassy Amusemen Park.
MC: We’re always trying to find ways to give our membership more value. We’re planning a trip to Spain for summer 2009.

FW: This could be hard to answer, but do you have a favorite coaster?
: If I could ride “Phoenix” at Knoebels every day of my life, I would be a happy man! It has everything I find fun in one coaster—speed, airtime, and a double-up/double-down hill—and it was my first coaster experience as an ACE member. The “Jack Rabbit” at Clementon Park has since been demolished, but it was my first major coaster ride as a child. Also, the “Big Dipper” at Blackpool Pleasure Beach is another fun coaster.
JG: My current No. 1 is “The Voyage” at Holiday World [in Santa Claus, Indiana]. It’s full of action and speed and doesn’t stop until it gets back to the station! That was the first coaster in which I was actually out of breath by the time it was over. However, my all-time favorite is the Mission Beach “Giant Dipper.” The first time I visited California, as a 12-year-old, it had just closed the month before. In the intervening years I looked upon that twisting first drop and would think, "If only …" Thanks to the Save the Coaster Committee, that coaster was saved and I got to experience that great first drop (and the rest of the coaster, as well!). Now that I live in San Diego, I can ride it any time I want. I especially like being able to ride it in the wintertime when almost all other coasters are closed for the season.

FW: What excites you about roller coasters?
: For me, it’s the fun factor. If I can get on, feel comfortable, and just enjoy the ride, that makes a “favorite coaster.” Air time, floating, or being pushed into my seat by gravity is always fun.
JG: If you asked 1,000 people that question, you’d get 1,000 different answers; that’s what’s great about coasters. I personally like a fast coaster with height changes, negative G’s, directional changes, and no “dead spots” in between.
MC: Loops are fine but to me, you don't need lots to make a good coaster.

FW: What’s the furthest you’ve traveled or most effort you’ve put into riding a coaster?
: The furthest I've been is Japan with the ACE/ECC trip that took place in September 2005. Those 12 days were some of the best of my life! The longest trip I've taken was in 1996; I traveled alone by car, starting at Waldameer and ending up two weeks later at what was then called Visionland.
MC: I went with the European Coaster Club to Scandinavia in 1995 and 2003, and with ACE to ride coasters in Canada and Mexico City. The one I will have the hardest time getting to—but still want to try—is Upper Clements Park in Nova Scotia.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

April FUNWORLD Arrives

The April issue of FUNWORLD should be arriving in your mailboxes shortly (if it hasn't already). You won't be able to miss it, what with Elvis Presley's face adorning the cover.

This month is our special food issue, highlighted by my cover story on the small changes Graceland's Joe King made to his food and beverage operation—on the recommendation of IAAPA's F&B committee—that made some serious dollars. For example: King upped his sales by 22 percent at Graceland's ice cream parlor just by moving the location of his waffle cone machine. The April issue is chock-full of little tips like that; stuff operators can do with very little investment but can make big bottom-line differences.

Also of interest:

• We interviewed Paul Steelman, one of the top casino designers in the business, to gauge his thoughts on the future of casino/resort destinations as related to entertainment, theming, and more.
• Tips for FECs on how to write solid press releases and hold effective press events.
• A Q&A with Andreas Veilstrup Andersen, IAAPA's new executive director of European operations, who discusses the association's goals for Europe.

Also, we post additional information on the blog from every issue of FUNWORLD, so look for that material later this week.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

2008 Space Allocation: Final Thoughts

The committee just adjourned, just before 11:30 a.m. PDT. Here are the final numbers:

651 total booths placed (90 more than last year); 573 placed during the meeting
362,800 net square feet assigned, an increase of about 28,000 over last year
73 percent of the indoor floor space is assigned

What do those numbers mean? Things happened fast in the past day or so. I spoke with Keith James of Jack Rouse Associates during the break and asked him how his meeting went, as this is his first with this committee.

“I had no idea, until now, just how fast it goes,” Keith said. “It’s a fascinating experience."

Keith was in charge of themed entertainment/design/hi-tech exhibitors along with longtime Space Allocation Committee member Monty Lunde of Technifex. Keith said he focused on the exhibitors in his group that were coming up in the assignment process to anticipate any possible issues, while Monty ran point getting the booths assigned.

“I had no idea how interactive it was. As you speak, it gets done right away,” Keith said. “It looks to me like everybody did really well on getting close to what they wanted.”

Jack Mendes of Bob's Space Racers, who chairs the committee, said he was very pleased with how the meeting went. “It went great. Everything worked very smoothly,” he said. “We had great participants, and everybody did a great job.”

From my perspective, I echo sentiments from both Jack and Keith. I had been briefed ahead of time at how fast this meeting moves, but there's nothing like the real thing. There are about 30 people in this room counting the committee members and support staff, and everyone had to work together like a well-oiled machine to get this thing done. I noticed especially that if any one of those 30 people had a problem or a question, all they had to do was call out and the whole process came to a screeching halt until everything was resolved.

I also was impressed with how well the committee members know their stuff. It really was like a war room in here at times (not that I've ever actually been in a war room, mind you, but I've heard stories). I'd look around the room and one guy would be on a cell phone, another's on a hard line calling Europe, another's checking with the Exhibit Sales Team to iron out details … the meeting was highly organized but inside that organization was some intense down-to-the-wire work.

People are bailing out of here quick, so looks like I have to wrap this up. Thanks to everyone who followed along with us the past 30 hours or so. For our new visitors (and there were, literally, hundreds of you), please bookmark In the Queue and check back regularly. There are a lot of IAAPA staffers working on this forum, so if you read regularly you'll stay up to date on all the various aspects of the association and its members. Also, we're always looking for contributions from readers and members, so if you have an idea for a post, please e-mail me at

So, that's it for now. Hopefully you have a bit better sense of the work this committee does to map out one of the industry's biggest trade show.

I know I do.

2008 Space Allocation: Day 2

10:44 a.m.
And … we're done! I'm going to talk with a couple committee members and post again in a few minutes. But Space Allocation for 2008 is a wrap. The committee's going to take a 15-minute break to see if any changes come through, so if you're still following along there's still time to make a change.

10:40 a.m.
Second-to-last booth to be assigned, and there was still a discussion to make sure they're in the right place. Working the solution right to the end …

10:34 a.m.
Ten to go …

10:30 a.m.
Less than 20 to go …

10:11 a.m.
The committee is now dealing with this year's crop first-time exhibitors. Expo 2008 will be the third year IAAPA's offered the First Time Exhibitor Pavilion, which has been a great success in its first two iterations by highlighting the new people on the floor, gathering them into one place, and providing extra exposure they might not have otherwise.

This year's pavilion will be larger than 2007's, but it remains a prime location that has limited space. Last year's pavilion sold out in August, so it will be interesting to see how much space is left in there at the end of this meeting. There are approximately 40 first-time exhibitors to be assigned today, leaving about 60 slots in the pavilion once this meeting concludes (although not all first-time exhibitors make use of the pavilion, so there will probably be a few more than that).

Which it will, very soon it seems.

10:00 a.m.
The committee is now into the low 500s, so we're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is worth noting that the committee continues to diligently seek out best-booth preferences for these exhibitors. The members are still piping up when their constituencies come up, ensuring their best interests are accommodated as much as possible. The floor is filling up, of course, so there's discussion on most items as a lot of top slot choices are already gone.

9:44 a.m.
Committee's back in session. Dealing with a couple changes that came in over the break and then they'll be back to the business of assigning booths. Keep in mind, you can also follow along in real time on the Online Interactive Floor Plan.

9:28 a.m.
Things have settled down some as slots are going faster now. We're into the 480s. The committee's taking a 10-minute break.

9:10 a.m.
There's more chatter in the room right now than at any point in the entire meeting thus far. Still a couple booth changes trickling in, while the committee at large at times has to work a placement a little longer with more discussion to get exhibitors into the best possible slots.

9:05 a.m.
Looks like the committee is done with the changes and is now moving on to assigning new booths again. As a reminder, they stopped on No. 450 last night, so there are a little more than a hundred spaces to slot today. People are talking like the whole thing will be done by noon—or even earlier.

8:43 a.m.
Sounds like about 20 changes to make, in all. They're on the third one now, and this is more like what I expected. Lots of discussion/puzzle-fitting.

8:41 a.m.
Well, things are off to a good start, at least. The first two alterations took about 10 seconds each. Simple solutions were readily available. Is that a good sign for the rest of the morning? Here's hoping …

8:38 a.m.
The committee is back under way for the Day 2 session. The first order of business is handling booth moves/changes that came in overnight.

Note: Thursday Morning Session

Just an addendum to my last post: Since the committee made it through so many booths today, they're going to start a half-hour later than originally scheduled. The final booths will now start being placed at approximately 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

2008 Space Allocation: Day 1—Afternoon Session

5:45 p.m.
The committee is officially DONE for today. Final numbers are in:

528 booths assigned; 450 were placed today
330,700 net square feet occupied

The members moved fast today, assigning almost as much space in one day as they did in two last year.

The committee reconvenes at 8 a.m. Pacific Time Thursday morning, with about 100 booths still left to slot. I'm thinking it'll be over quickly, but that all depends on how many booth moves come in overnight.

I'll be back here to cover everything as it comes to a close.

Until then …

5:28 p.m.
We're into the 450s now. Moving rapidly.

5:16 p.m.
They're back at it—again. There's talk of only working for about another 20 minutes or so before calling it a (productive) day.

5:04 p.m.
The committee is taking what I'm sure will be its last break of the day. We're at about 425 assigned today as of now, with 323,400 net square feet. The total number of exhibitors on the floor now is 502, with a per-booth average of 644 square feet. Only about 125 or so to go and we're done.

4:47 p.m.
OK, we just crossed into the 400s. The committee has found a nice groove and is moving quickly, even with some pretty detailed discussion here and there.

4:37 p.m.
There was discussion flying around the past few minutes about a booth that actually had to be slightly downsized because there simply aren't enough big spaces left. I listened in as several different people in the room worked the problem. Of course the Exhibit Sales Team wants to accommodate requests for bigger booths, but it just couldn't happen. They did, however, spend about five minutes discussing various scenarios to make sure the company in question received the best possible and prominent location.

4:14 p.m.
Pace is picking up again. We're under 200 booths to go.

This would also be a good time for me to clean up some earlier misinterpretations of data. I said earlier that they're assigning more than 600 booths during this meeting, which is not correct. By the time we're done, more than 600 booths total will be assigned, but, again, it goes back to that whole pre-space allocation option for 25-year veterans.

Don't think this isn't a big year, though. In 2007 the Space Allocation Committee slotted 462 booths at this meeting. This year, the members will place approximately 560, a new record and leaving us with nearly 650 total booths assigned by this time tomorrow. Either way you look at it, IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008 is filling up fast.

4:08 p.m.
More than 360 booths assigned today and we just passed 300,000 net square feet. Another major milestone met!

3:51 p.m.
OK, we've been at this for eight hours now. I know I'm getting tired, and all I'm doing is sitting here trying to be clever. The meeting is back on now, and it's scheduled to go until 6 p.m. They took a bit of a longer break, but it seems they're back at it with renewed vigor. Pressing on …

3:34 p.m.
410 total exhibitors placed
293,000 net square feet gone

3:28 p.m.
330 booths by 3:30 p.m. Not bad. To celebrate, the committee is taking a 10-minute break.

3:10 p.m.
All right, we've entered the 300 realm. All told, there are approximately 385 booths assigned, giving us 279,000 net square feet assigned, which is 53 percent of the floor.

3:02 p.m.
Everything was moving at a good clip for awhile. The meeting hit a pause when two exhibitors asked to be put near each other. That took a few minutes' discussion to work out, but they're set and running again. Approaching No. 300.

2:40 p.m.
Good news: Jack hit a spot where he could fly through slots so fast the whole room had to start hollering "Stop! Stop!" to get him to slow down for a second. We're in the 270s now, and hopefully 300 is just around the corner.

2:34 p.m.
During the last break I talked to Jim Seay of Premier Rides, who also chairs the M&S committee, to gauge his thoughts on the meeting. This is Seay's third year on the space committee, and he said he enjoys the process: “You get a sense of what everyone wants from each element of the industry, and they all have their own issues important to them. This is a great process, because everybody’s interests are represented well.”

Overall Seay feels the process is going extremely well. Even though the meeting has slowed down a bit in spots to accommodate booth moves, he said there are much fewer this year than meetings prior. “That shows the people representing those interests are doing a good job,” he said. He also said he was proud to be a part of this process when the Vegas CVA officials came in and said "they’d never seen anything like it before.”

“At the rate we’re going, we’re going to get a lot of space booked,” Seay said. “Within a few days, people are going to take a look at the show floor and just be astounded how much space is already bought. This is going to be one of those shows where, if you hesitate to get in there’s going to be small amounts of space available. If you wait too long, you’re just not going to have any opportunity at all.”

2:25 p.m.
We've crossed the 50-percent barrier! The committee has assigned 254,500 net square feet. Also, another thing I just learned: When we're talking about this number, it's just indoor floor space, and doesn't include the exterior space. Typically the outdoor space isn't assigned at this meeting, but it's not unheard of.

2:13 p.m.
No slouches, these guys. Back at it in less than eight minutes.

2:05 p.m.
The committee is breaking for 10 minutes. According to the lineup, we're on No. 247. Remember, that doesn't include the 78 booths that were assigned prior to the meeting. We're inching ever closer to the 50-percent plateau for the entire floor; I'll let you know as soon as we hit that mark.

1:57 p.m.
Just to give you an idea of the challenges the committee's facing at this point: Right now we're in the 240s, and a couple slots ago Diane Vidoni said, with incredulity: "Their first choice is still available …" That's a pleasant surprise right now.

1:44 p.m.
Booth moves have really clogged up the system the past 20 minutes or so, with hardly any new booths being assigned. I think they're clear of those hurdles, though, and are starting to move on. They've done a handful of booths just in the past minute, and are now somewhere in the neighborhood of No. 235.

1:26 p.m.
For any Mac users out there (like me), the Online Interactive Floor Plan is probably giving you a lot of trouble, if you can even see it at all. If you'd like a look at the floor as of about 11:30 a.m. today, click here to download a pdf of the floor.

Right now the committee's working on No. 213. The pace is still sluggish, and I've heard a bit more about what's holding us back: Several exhibitors increased their booth sizes over last year, so the committee is sometimes having to redraw the floor plan on the fly to accommodate all these larger slots. Pete Barto, IAAPA's director of exhibition marketing and sales, has been sitting next to me all day serving as a translator/interpreter, and he tells me we're averaging 764 square feet per booth. "That's absurd," he tells me. And by "absurd," he means "fantastic!"

1:13 p.m.
Things are off to a slow start after lunch. There were several booth move requests awaiting committee members when they returned to the room. Also, whenever a big booth comes up, it requires a bit more discussion now as the floor continues to fill up.

1:07 p.m.
I spoke to Jack Mendes of Bob's Space Racers, the committee chair, at the break, and he's quite pleased with how the meeting is progressing. He said we're on the same pace as last year, and last year's was the best meeting he'd been a part of.

I asked Jack how he qpproaches this meeting and he called himself "the train conductor." He said he doesn't look as much at individual booths as making sure the meeting moves along at a good rate. He relies on his committee members to be looking ahead in the seniority lineup to be ready when their respective constitutents come up for placement.

"The committee's done a great job. We have a great group here," he said.

Last year, the Space Allocation Meeting wrapped after just a couple hours on the second day. Even though this year's meeting is generally at the same pace, with about 150 more booths to be assigned, Jack thinks it will take more than a couple hours tomorrow, but he's still hopeful the committee can get through all the assignments ahead of schedule.

12:50 p.m.
The committee is back from lunch and work has resumed.

Here's a look at the room from the front (standing basically in front of the big screen):

Rollin' Along

12:02 p.m.
The committee is breaking for a half-hour lunch right now.

Total booths assigned: 279
Total net square feet assigned: 213,900

11:58 a.m.
One of the issues that continually comes up when assigning booths is the "full back wall" booth design. I'm still a little foggy on this scenario, but basically a full-back-wall booth cuts down on visibility for the floor, so these types of booths have to be set back-to-back to make everything fair. This can get tricky on people's preferred spaces, as these seem to go quickly. These scenarios cause some of the most discussion in the room.

11:53 a.m.
We've hit the 200-booth plateau. The pace seems to have picked back up to more than one per minute again. There's definitely a lot more general chatter in the room now, though, as everyone works to figure out best positions and accommodate exhibitors' top choices.

11:44 a.m.
We've now assigned 186 booths today, pushing our total net square footage past the 200,000 mark. Following up on my previous post, keep in mind as the floor fills up it's going to be more difficult for the committee to fulfill first- and second-choice requests. So it's important to follow along on the Online Interactive Floor Plan and send in any requests for changes ASAP.

For the first couple hours the committee was assigning booths faster than one per minute, which I'm told is a fabulous pace. We've now dropped to about one per minute as the puzzle pieces get more complicated to fit together.

11:31 a.m.
I 'm sitting directly in front of the fax machine, and I can testify to the fact that this little machine gets immediate results. If a fax comes through, that typically means an exhibitor needs a change. The fax is picked up immediately and brought to Jack's attention. Just a few minutes ago an exhibitor decided it wanted a different spot on the floor, so there was a huddle over at the Big Board for a few minutes to figure everything out.

11:21 a.m.
Things seem to be going along fine. Everybody in the room is pleased with how fast booths are being assigned. There have been no major hangups … so far. Someone knock on some wood somewhere.

10:59 a.m.
We're now past the 150-booth mark assigned today.

10:46 a.m.
We're up and running again. This should be the last haul prior to the lunch break.

10:40 a.m.
One thing I've just been made aware of that I wasn't taking into account so far today: Prior to this meeting, any exhibitor who has been with us for 25 years or more has the option of participating in a premium space allocation prior to today. So coming into today we already had 78 booths assigned. Today we've assigned 134 booths thus far, meaning the total booths on the floor is 212. That equals approximately 161,700 net square feet, and that means nearly one-third of the floor is already GONE!

10:31 a.m.
The committee is taking another 10-minute break.

10:13 a.m.
I just overheard some rapid-fire phone conversations between Jeff Hudson of Skee Ball, who handles the games constituency, and a few exhibitors. Apparently a couple of them had some specific requests as far as placement and Jeff stayed in contact with both to make sure everyone's issues got worked out; at one point he had one exhibitor on a hard line and another on his cell phone, going between the two just double-checking everything was working out appropriately.

As an outsider looking in at this process, I plainly see the value of having industry veterans on this committee, because everyone in this room needs to have a good sense of their sections of the business. Some people want to be next to others, some people don't want to be near competitors, etc. There's a nuance to this meeting that goes well beyond slotting booths into a floor plan.

10:03 a.m.
The 100th booth was just assigned a couple minutes ago.

Also, there was a bit of a lag in the online floor plan for a few minutes, but that small issue is fixed now and everything is updating properly.With all the technology running through this room, seems to me it's normal to hit a glitch now and then.

9:55 a.m.
OK, they're back up and running now.

9:53 a.m.
Another memo for exhibitors following along: The online floor plan updates every five minutes, so if you don't see your booth yet, give it a sec.

Also, the committee is taking an impromptu break at the moment due to some sort of minor technical issue.

9:40 a.m.
For exhibitors following along, be sure to check your e-mail inboxes often (as if you don't already, I know). As booths are assigned, the sales team sends out confirmations. If you have any questions/concerns about your booth, reply ASAP so they can get you straightened out.

9:36 a.m.
From my position in the room, I'm basically looking over Jack's shoulder as he works on a 50-inch plasma screen. That's the size computer monitor I need.

9:30 a.m.
Committee members definitely have their constituents' best interests in mind. I don't know who the exhibitor was, but even though the company's first choice was available, their committee rep piped up and said, "I don't think they really want to be there." As the floor starts to take shape, the committee keeps that "big picture" in mind and does its best to put their constituents in the most advantageous positions.

9:27 a.m.
Progress report: The committee's working on the 67th exhibitor right now. Better than 10 percent of the way there …

9:25 a.m.
I spoke with a few people in the room during the break to gauge how things are going, and everyone I talked to seems pleased.

Jerry Aldrich of Amusement Industry Consulting represents small manufacturers in this process, and he said "things are moving at a pretty good clip."

I also spoke with Terry Reeves of Dippin' Dots, who along with Dan Kroeger of Gold Medal Products Co. handles food and beverage exhibitors. This is Terry's second year on the committee, and he said having one meeting under his belt makes a world of difference. "Last year I was just totally lost," he said with a chuckle. "It was one of the most intimidating things I've tried to tackle." Terry credited Dan, a committee veteran, with helping him learn how the whole process works. This year, Terry said he handles the nitty-gritty details of working with the computer interface, while Dan keeps his focus on "the big picture" of where F&B exhibitors are going.

Finally, I spoke with Judy Chambers, sales executive from the Vegas CVA (yes, your humble blogger kept busy during the break). Judy said Las Vegas has wanted IAAPA Attractions Expo in the city for some time, so she came over to take a look at how we put our show together and get a better understanding of the entire event. She was very impressed by the hi-tech setup, she said. (CORRECTION: Earlier I mentioned a rep from the CVA spoke, but had the wrong person. Chris Meyer, vice president of convention sales for the CVA, addressed the committee. Still a big deal, just a different person from who I thought it was. Sorry about that.)

9:10 a.m.
Right on the button, the committee is back at it.

9:00 a.m.
The committee is taking a 10-minute break.

8:48 a.m.
In approximately 18 minutes, the committee's already assigned about 35 booths. Some of these take, literally, 10 seconds. I'm guessing that pace will slow later in the day as more and more first choices start to disappear, but we shall see.

Just a reminder: the IAAPA Exhibit Sales Team set up an FAQ page for this meeting here, where you can find a link to watch the floor fill up in real time. Also, if you have any questions about your booth, e-mail

We're Under Way!

8:46 a.m.
Over to the side of the room, IAAPA's Diane Vidoni, director of operations for the Expo, is working with a gigantic physical map of the convention center (which you can see above—please forgive the quality, it's really dark in here). With these first 100 or so—the people who have been around for so long—she seems to know their information off the top of her head. She moves up and down the board, making suggestions along with the committee members to get exhibitors on the floor in the best possible location.

8:34 a.m.
Each committee member is handed this gigantic spreadsheet package that contains all the exhibitors' information, and Jack just said they got through the first page of that packet: "One down, a bunch to go."

8:29 a.m.
So after watching the first few assignments, here's basically how it works: Jack calls out the name of the company, with seniority based on number of years they've exhibited. Each exhibitor submitted their preferred booth spaces ahead of time, so Jack confers with the committee member(s) representing that company constituent group. Basically if that top booth is available, it goes. Whole thing takes a grand total of, oh, 30 seconds or less.

8:27 a.m.
First booth is already assigned. They get it done quickly here.

8:25 a.m.
The meeting has officially started. The committee is going to assign about 650 booths this year, which is about 150 more than last year. Gonna be a busy couple days.

2008 Space Allocation: Day 1—Morning Session

8:20 a.m.
We're getting close now, I think. The committee is introducing itself, identifying which segments of the exhibitors they're handling as part of the allocation process.

8:11 a.m.
Here's a look at the room. The gentleman from the convention authority called it a "war room," and basically took the words right off my fingertips. For those of you who follow the NCAA men's basketball national tournament, this also seems to me what that committee's room must look like on "Selection Sunday." That's Jack Mendes with his back to us, who chairs the allocation committee.

As you can see, there's a big projection screen in the front of the room that displays the floor as it fills up; groups of committee members also have their own flat-screen monitors for a closer look.

8:05 a.m.
The meeting is now under way. The head of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority just addressed the committee (a very big deal, I'm told—he doesn't come to these things for just anybody) and welcomed them to Las Vegas. He mentioned that one of the benefits of exhibiting in Las Vegas is increased appeal to international visitors.

Welcome to Las Vegas!

Today marks the beginning of the IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008 Space Allocation Meeting, held this year at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. It's the first time I've been present for one of these, which is basically the point. The IAAPA Exhibit Sales Team asked me to cover the meeting this year on the blog to provide a sense of the goings-on during what I've been told is a hectic, exciting, intense two days.

More than 600 companies submitted contracts in time for the meeting this year (that's a record, by the way), so by the time the Space Allocation Committee finishes its work Thursday afternoon, about 350,000 square feet of exhibit space will already be in place for this year's Expo in November in Orlando. As that process unfolds, I'll be posting my observations about what's happening in the room.

The reason the committee is meeting in the desert this year is to get a look at the Las Vegas Convention Center, which will host IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009. We toured the facility Tuesday evening, as you can see from the photo above—that's the committee and the exhibit sales team looking out over the South Hall, which we'll be occupying in about 18 months (doesn't sound that far away, does it?).

But that's next year, and today is all about THIS year. Today's meeting is broken up into a morning and afternoon session; business is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Pacific Time, but there's going to be some discussion of some sort before the booths start flying. Best way to follow the action is to keep refreshing this page; I'll let you know as soon as the committee starts assigning spots.

Keep in mind: This is my view of the proceedings. If you need all the official information about Space Allocation, including a live look at the show floor as it fills up, check out this page.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Back Up the Hill: Day 2 of Legislative Summit

Will Hillary be added to Obama’s ticket or vice-versa? Who will McCain pick as a vice president nominee to strengthen his Republican base? These questions of national affairs and more were discussed with excitement this morning to kick off the third and final day of the 2008 IAAPA Legislative Summit. Representing both sides of the aisle, Steve Hart and Bert Carp of Williams and Jensen discussed strategies of the presidential and congressional races and who will be losing or winning seats in the House and Senate come November. It was a fitting start to the politically-charged day, in which attractions representatives continued meeting with their district and state representatives.

I was lucky enough to tag along with IAAPA’s Stephanie Thienel, Kennywood’s Andy Quinn, Jim Seay of Premier Rides, and Len Morrisey from ASTM International, while they visited representatives from Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Our first stop was the office of Senator Benjamin Cardin, of Maryland. Danyelle Solomon, Cardin’s legislative assistant, met with us as the park representatives told her about their concerns with H2B Visas and how the Travel Promotion Act could benefit both small and large businesses in Maryland.

These two issues are what IAAPA members wanted to bring to the representative’s attention. H2B Visas are important because many of our members use them to employ foreign workers. If passed, the Travel Promotion Act will help advertise the U.S. to foreign visitors as well as welcome them and increase positive U.S. perception, at no additional cost to taxpayers.

Our second meeting brought us to the office of Senator Robert Casey Jr., from Pennsylvania. His legislative correspondent, Makese Motley (second from the left), met with us; Motley, coincidentally, held an internship at Disney’s Magic Kingdom after college and is familiar with the importance of tourism, the staffing needs of attractions, and international visitors. He was encouraging when the topic of H2B Visas came up, telling us that his office has been tracking the issue and is still coming to a consensus on their position. “We know it’s affecting small businesses,” he said. “It’s definitely on our radar screen.”

Being new to the inner workings of the legislative process, I was really impressed with how open-minded and receptive senators and their staffers are. We went into the meetings with solid information, but were also able to share personal anecdotes about how each issue affects our businesses.

Today’s Take-Away:
  • Make connections with your representatives. Write them, call them, even visit them in person! They’re interested in the issues affecting their district and your communication with them could be crucial to their stance on an issue, especially if they’re currently undecided. You may not believe it, but your voice really does make a difference.
  • Come to the table with concrete facts and realistic effects of the legislation you’re promoting. It also helps to offer a personal perspective so the representative can understand your investment in the issue.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Legislative Summit 2008: Parks on the Hill

Representatives of amusement parks and attractions from all over the United States came together today for IAAPA’s annual Legislative Summit, meeting inside the U.S. Capitol to learn about important industry issues and support legislation that benefits our business. I sat in on a few sessions today, and while I live in D.C., Capitol Hill’s daily atmosphere is foreign to me, so it was energizing seeing park operators and political representatives communicating and learning from each other.

Congressman Ric Keller (left), of Florida, started off by addressing the Markey amendment, the current state of the economy, and the Travel Promotion Act (TPA). Commenting on the latter, he commended grassroots efforts that bring attention to the struggling state of the tourism industry. He noted that effects of September 11 are still visible, as visitor numbers still dip below pre-9/11. Keller also mentioned that Congressman John Boehner of Ohio, Republican leader in the House, will be visiting Orlando next week to promote and discuss tourism awareness. Keller’s Florida district includes such attractions as SeaWorld Orlando, Walt Disney World Resort, Gatorland, and Universal Studios Orlando.

From the opposite side of the country, Congressman Sam Farr’s (left) California district includes the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Neighboring his county is the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk, which he praised as a valuable and historic landmark. He encouraged bordering cities to assist each other in visitor growth, and to profit off the multiple industries which feed into tourism, like transportation and hospitality.

Farr stressed the importance of the Travel and Tourism Caucus, explaining that caucuses communicate to political leaders the issues important to their constituents. “People aren’t aware that tourism is hurting,” he added. “We need to educate society that the attractions industry represents more point-of-light businesses than any other.”

Today’s Take-Away
If you’re reading this from home, here’s how you can mimic today’s progress on the Hill:
  • Ask your Congressional representatives to get involved with the Travel and Tourism Caucus. They might not be aware of it until you bring it to their attention. Click here to see the caucuses current members.
  • Write your representatives and prompt them to co-sponsor the Travel Promotion Act, which will put money toward airport improvement for foreign visitors, international marketing of the U.S.’s travel destinations, and increased positive perception of America abroad. The TPA needs 13 more Senate sponsors and 60 more House sponsors.
Stay tuned for another update tomorrow, when I sit in with park managers meeting with their Congressmen and women. I’ll also include a quick review of IAAPA’s stance on the Markey amendment and the state of H2B Visas.

If you have any questions about the Summit, please post them in the comments and I’ll try to address them tomorrow. Or visit

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Will you hire teenagers this summer?

According, to the U.S. Department of Labor, millions of teens seek part-time or summer jobs each year.

If so, you need to check out the Department of Labor’s online resource for teen workers: YouthRules!

IAAPA has partnered with the Department of Labor to promote YouthRules! as an easy-to-use source for information on child labor laws.

YouthRules! is a clearinghouse of information on federal and state regulations pertaining to employees under the age of 18. It is broken into sections for parents, teens, employers, and educators and addresses topics such as what kind of job a teenager can do, the hours he or she can work, and tips for preventing workplace injury.

The site also provides downloadable posters you can display in a break room or stickers to put on machinery, reminding employees they must be over 18 to operate.

As you complete your recruiting process, now is a great time to review labor laws, to make sure you’re in compliance. Do you know what jobs a 16-year-old legally can and cannot work? Does your state require a work permit for employees under 18? YouthRules! can help you answer these questions and more.