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Immersive Experiences, New Pavilions & Sold-Out Trade Show: IAAPA 2023 Reflects Industry Resurgence
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Upbeat, optimistic & enriched – the Amusement Park Industry rebounded in 2023 with a post-lockdown resurgence that is translating into what promises to be one of the most exciting tradeshows and conventions this year. IAAPA Expo 2023, the premier event for the global attractions industry, will spotlight a host of exciting new features and attractions as well as an indoor exhibit space with a staggering 1,100+ exhibitors – this year's expo highlights an expanded exhibit space and sponsored programming that shines a light on major industry brands.

“The team has outdone themselves with the number and creativity of sponsorships and only-at-IAAPA Expo programming being offered this year,” said Jakob Wahl, President/CEO, IAAPA. “IAAPA Expo 2023 is going to be great. We wanted to bring new offerings to the participants this year and the team has come up, together with our partners, with many fun ideas to present to the larger attractions industry.”

2023 Industry Growth

The Amusement Parks Global Market Report (2023) estimated the Global Amusement Parks Market size to have grown from $48.26 billion in 2022,to $50.97 billion in 2023. In 2023, families returned to amusement parks in even far greater numbers than the 2022 comeback year, indicating a bright future for an essential convention. “2023 was a great year,” said Michael Shelton, Vice President/ Executive Director, IAAPA North America. “2022 was obviously a rebound year from COVID, and things have stabilized into 2023 and everything's really strong.”

IAAPA Expo 2023 will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida from November 13-17, with the educational conference starting November 13 and the trade show floor opening the next day. Considered to be the largest trade show and convention for the attractions industry, IAAPA Expo attracts a full gamut of industry professionals, including: general managers, owners, and CEOs of theme parks, amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, and water parks.

“We are excited to invite professionals from all corners of the globe to join us for IAAPA Expo 2023,” said Wahl. “We worked on many new features and innovations to further strengthen this event providing the best platform for industry professionals to connect, learn from each other, and discover the latest products and services that will enhance their attractions and operations.”

Reportedly, the trade-show floor was sold-out by early September, the first booth-space sellout since 2019. With more than 1,130 exhibitors representing 38 countries or regions and in nine pavilions – Family Entertainment; Food & Beverage; Games & Arcade; Inflatables; Operational Services; Outdoor Exhibitors; Rides & Equipment; Show Production & Design; and Water Park.

Immersive Experiences

According to Shelton, the supply-chain issues that afflicted manufacturers of rides and other equipment, causing a backorder crisis for last year and much of this one, has been alleviated. “There seems to be less and less of an issue there,” he said. “Most manufacturers are taking orders for well into 2025 at this point. The further ahead everyone places their orders the more time they have to make their plans and secure products.”

An array of new companies will liven up this year's exhibition floor with an notable emphasis on deeply experiential entertainment. “The top trends are immersive ones like gamification, Halloween horror and fright seasonal events, experiential technology and artainment,” he said. “ We have over 200 new companies exhibiting this year. There's an influx of new companies coming in all the time. You're seeing a big move toward immersive experiences. Where it's not just a standard rollercoaster anymore. Everything has a story and a new experience. It's plus-ing up every experience you're doing so everyone has a surprise around every corner.”

What are buyers looking for this year? Do they have more money to spend? “I think most buyers are looking for a unique product that's going to set them apart from other companies,” said Shelton. “They do have money to spend because there's a lot of people that see nothing but upside in our industry and I think they're looking to invest in that.

Fresh Drinks

Attendees will be interested in the new Alcohol, Beverage & Innovation Pavilion featuring a host of brands, a fully operational bar and networking space. This space, according to IAAPA “is different from the Food & Beverage Pavilion, ensuring that there's something for everyone's taste.”

“We have our new Alcohol, Beverage & Innovation pavilion, which is a growing segment in our industry,” said Shelton.

In addition, the event will host a comprehensive education program, featuring sessions led by industry experts covering topics such as guest experience, marketing and communications, safety and security, technology, and more.

“IAAPA's education team took great care to build a conference program that offers something for everyone,” said Shelton. “Session speakers truly represent our diverse membership and this year's EDUSessions include over 100 educational opportunities with all of the latest industry trends including a deep dive into artificial intelligence to how to build a better financial foundation to trending public relations topics and crisis communications.”

As the worst of the Coronavirus crisis gets further behind the industry, the need to meet in person for networking and fellowship has returned. The fact of the matter is, just as park guests cannot get the park experiences at home, professionals who make that experience happen cannot merely meet remotely.

“You can't replace in-person interaction and deal-making,” said Shelton. “I don't think it will ever be replaced by Zoom or teleconferencing, not in our industry. I think the industry is still finding the new normal. That said, we know our members are more adept than ever to evolve and adapt because the demand for their products and services remains high. “Most parks had a great year,” he said. “There's no reason for any caution. People are making travel and experiences a priority.”

As the largest international trade association for permanently located attractions, IAAPA unifies the attractions community, connects people to learn and grow together, and strives to promote the highest professional standards for excellence and safety around the world. Founded in 1918, IAAPA represents leading industry attractions and supplier companies, consultants, and individual members from more than 100 countries. Members include professionals from amusement parks, theme parks, attractions, water parks, resorts, family entertainment centers, zoos, aquariums, science centers, museums, cruise lines, manufacturers, and suppliers.
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