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IAAPA Expo Asia 2022 | virtual conference

After having to cancel the in-person event in Hong Kong due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) hosted the IAAPA Expo Asia 2022 virtually on 21st and 22nd June 2022.

It was the APAC region’s first on IAAPA’s new online platform, Connect+. This allows attendees and speakers to engage across the wider Expo network.

The event brought together industry professionals through APAC and beyond. This was through discussions and roundtables focused on reshaping and reimagining the attractions industry in Asia. Attendees were welcomed by June KoExecutive Director, Asia Pacific Operations, IAAPA to the event.

IAAPA Expo Asia 2022

One session included speakers Sonaal ChopraGroup Chief Executive Officer at The Entertainment and Education Group (TEEG), Ken WhitingChair of IAAPA and President of Whitings Food Concessions Inc., and Anna DanauDirector for Strategic Engagement for International Ride Training LLC.

embed rolled out to 50 TEEG locations

TEEG has over 320 FEC attractions in 7 countries. It sees over 10 million guests annually with a large share of the market. In fact, according to Chopra, 1 in 50 Australians would have attended or gone to a party at a TEEG TimeZone attraction in 2021.

When attractions around the world closed, Chopra’s team pivoted to look into big data at all their attractions. They then looked at how they could use this information for growth. “We focused on our digital strategy. We analyzed our guests, we spent time undertaking their behaviour, their play patterns” said Chopra.

Recovering from the pandemic

“We launched our mobile app which is part of our CRM strategy too. We really feel this is the gold standard of engagement with our guests and a good e-commerce tool.

The keynote touched on the industry labor shortage, with Whiting noting how hard it is to attract talent at the moment in the US. According to Chopra, this isn’t the case across the APAC region where they have had a solid come back to work. Both agreed it was important to support employee’s mental health back in the workplace.

After several years recovery from the pandemic, the industry as a whole is nearly back to 2019 visitation levels according to stats from Leisure Development Partners (LDP), especially the US and Europe. The exception are countries like Vietnam or New Zealand who endured longer and stricter lockdowns, with visitors slightly more reserved according to Chopra.

In the Middle East

Yael CoifmanFounding partner at LDP spoke specifically on trends affecting the Middle East region, where LDP have worked extensively.

“During the pandemic there were drops of 60-80% in international tourism 2019-2021 for the Gulf countries. They had to refocus on domestic tourism” says Coifman. “In every continent in the world, spend on domestic tourism increased. This changes how we need to develop new attractions”.

Impact of pandemic on tourism by LDP at IAAPA Expo Asia 2022

“There is frustrated demand, which has led to the highest per capita spend ever, and shows the importance of retail and F&B outlets in your attraction” said Coifman.

This dependence on domestic tourism was echoed in Zishan Amir, Co-Founder and Managing Director, ZRG Adventures and Consulting’s session in his experience in Singapore. “We had to attract the domestic market. Now, attractions have a database of local guests to market future pop up events. The key is to hold on to this strategy- engage the locals as much as the tourists” said Amir.

Education in China

In his panel at IAAPA Expo Asia 2022, Chris Yoshii, Vice President, AECOM Asia Co Ltd. spoke about major trends affecting the Chinese market.

According to Yoshii, 73% of families with children ages 0-5 years old have been to more than 3 types of attractions in the last 3 years. “We’ve seen the rising spend in the family market. Particularly in southern China’ said Yoshii. “The average spend was $50-70 per person per day for them, a substantial amount of money.”

“Edutainment is big in China- they want to take kids to enjoy themselves and learn something” said Yoshii.

family VR by Spree Interactive
Interactive play by SPREE Interactive

Older children families are spending even more (over $70 a day per person), are particularly into technology and interactive games.

Gen Z (ages 13-27) are all about creating content, videos and instagrammable moments. On the other end of the scale, Korea and Japan’s fast growing elderly population of over 65 years olds are interested in wellness and restorative attractions.

Hong Kong Disneyland and the pandemic

In a keynote presentation at IAAPA Expo Asia 2022 sponsored by Vekoma, Tim SypkoSenior Vice President of Operations, and Michael E. Moriaty, Managing Director from Hong Kong Disneyland Resort spoke about measures the park took in the pandemic as well as its latest inclusivity initiatives.

The park has over 6000 staff, from 36 countries. Guests to the park are 1/3 from Hong Kong, 1/3 from Mainland China and 1/3 International from all over the world. With such diverse cultures it is important to make everyone feel welcome at the parks.

hong kong disneyland reopening

Disney recently added the 5th Disney Key – Inclusion. This is a set of initiatives that inform and guide staff that runs throughout the Disney company. This includes relaxing the ‘Disney Look’ to now allow tattoos, non-gendered uniforms, piercings and beards as well as the creation of the Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion Committee making changes at Hong Kong Disneyland.

“It’s the right thing to do. But also it is important that we are relevant to the widest possible audience” said Moriaty.

The power of IP

A session with Linda Dong, President of China Leisure, looked at the power of IP in the Chinese market. Dong’s company partners with brands and IP to create experiences of all sizes across Mainland China, including the newly opened Nickelodeon Playtime in Shenzen with Paramount.

“Its about finding what is suited for an IP and what is not” said Dong. “Lots of IPs want to do smaller scale pop-ups or mall anchors. This is because you can open a lot more in a smaller amount of time” said Dong.

hello kitty egyptian pop-up store
Hello Kitty Egyptian pop up store design

Working with a brand brings a ready-made fan group, but the key according to Dong is in the marketing. “Branded IP products stand out. You may not be the largest square meter footage, but you can have the largest traffic on TikTok or Redbook. We have some people driving 4 hours to get to Nick Playtime” said Dong.

IAAPA Expo Asia 2022 attendees then heard from Allan Mahoney, Managing Director, SEVEN and Alan KwockDirector, Park and DisneyTown Operations, Shanghai Disneyland Resort on the re-imagination of entertainment ventures.

The importance of OTAs

According to Mahoney, the pandemic didn’t change the design of the giga project in Saudi Arabia. However, i have proven difficult to get the vendors and designers together for development. Mahoney also raised the importance of online travel agencies (OTAs) in an attraction’s marketing plan. “WeChat changed the game for us. OTAs are basically doing the ticketing for us, we need to go and speak to the OTAs first before speaking to the ticketing people”.

shanghai disney

There was a session with two Young Professionals: Guilia BarberDirector for Entertainment, Project Syntropy and Ricky Field, Operations Director- Theme Parks and Experiences, Resorts World Genting. Field and Barber spoke about opportunities for younger industry professionals. They also discussed how to get more involved through the IAAPA WeChat and Slack channels.

Ron MartinSenior Vice President and Director, of Research and Development at Panasonic Hollywood Labs; Roberta Perry, President, Roberta Perry and Associates; and Eric EisenbergVice President of Hospitality, Pürlin, LLC spoke on sustainability in the attractions industry.

History and scavenging

There were also oral history sessions at IAAPA Expo Asia 2022. These came from mario mamonChairman and President of Enchanted Kingdom in the Philippines; Rachmat SutionoPresident, PT Funworld Prima, Indonesia; Tony Sze, Group Senior Counsellor, Chimelong Group; and Bernard HarrisonBernard Harrison and Friends Ltd, Singapore.

M+ LCD facade

Attendees could also meet up virtually, do a scavenger hunt and have a virtual EduTour of the M+Museum in Hong Kong.

The event ended with a message from Peter van der Schans. He is the new Executive Director and Vice President of IAAPA Expo Europe. Schans invited attendees to join IAAPA Expo Europe taking place 12-15th September 2022 in London, with registration open now. Registered attendees can

The next IAAPA Expo Asia event will be in person Singapore June 13-16 2023.

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