IAAPA 2021 Focused on Growth and Recovery From COVID Rollercoaster

December 7, 2021

Following an incredibly challenging time for the $55 billion global attractions industry, IAAPA Expo 2021, the industry’s premier event, recently reconvened for the first time since 2019. Held Nov. 15-19 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., the festive trade show and conference opened its doors to more than 28,000 global attractions industry professionals seeking to network, learn and buy.

Hosted by IAAPA, the largest international trade association for permanently located attractions, the event featured more than 870 exhibiting companies from around the world touting new rides, technology, products and services across more than 375,000 net square feet of indoor and outdoor expo space.  

During the event, IAAPA officials voiced their appreciation for being able to bring the industry together face-to-face safely and successfully.

“[Our community is] thrilled to be back together in-person,” said Hal McEvoy, president and CEO of IAAPA, whose 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.

He continued, “The attractions industry is working tirelessly to come back stronger than ever, and we’re excited to reflect and showcase that here. We have an outstanding lineup of special events, speakers and educational programming along with our amazing, diverse trade show floor. It’s going to be a fantastic week.” 

From advanced ride engineering and virtual reality experiences to ticketing and security, the five-day show was packed with new products and technologies representing 25 product categories, while the event’s robust education conference offered more than 90 educational experiences that included classroom sessions led by industry experts and behind-the-scenes tours at local Orlando attractions. 

Attendees were also able to take part in more than 50 special events aimed at member constituencies and tracks, including the International Reception, Water Park Social and Family Entertainment Centers Reception. 

Other highlights included:

  • News from Merlin Entertainments that the world’s first Peppa Pig Theme Park (opening Feb. 24, 2022, in Florida) will be designed with all children in mind as a Certified Autism Center. The company also revealed one of its attraction’s ride vehicles, designed specifically for increased accessibility for children with wheelchairs.
  • Fun Spot America’s largest investment in any ride or attraction ever at its Atlanta location, with the addition of Arie Force One. On this steel roller coaster, riders will soar over 3,400 feet of track, towering 15 stories and “flying” at speeds up to 64 miles per hour.
  • A “hair-raising,” jaw-dropping moment as the president of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! shaved his “pandemic beard” and added it to the Guinness World Records contender for Largest Ball of Human Hair, while raising more than $34,000 for Give Kids The World (GKTW) Village.
  • The sold-out GM and Owners’ Breakfast Nov. 17, featuring Richard A. Zimmerman, president and CEO of Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, and the Opening Reception Nov. 16, during which the 2021 IAAPA Brass Ring Award recipients and IAAPA Award winners, including IAAPA Hall of Fame inductees, IAAPA Service Awards and the IAAPA Young Professional of the Year, were celebrated. 
  • A “Lunch and Learn” featuring Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, and Game Changer–From Spectator to Participant: The New Paradigm of Immersive Entertainment featuring Winston Fisher, CEO of AREA15 and partner, Fisher Brothers.  

IAAPA 2021

The event was estimated to bring approximately $79.6 million in economic impact to the Orlando community, according to OCCC officials. 

“The successful turnout for IAAPA Expo 2021 is a testament to the resilience and continued growth and strength of the global attractions industry,” McEvoy said. “It’s been a phenomenal week, bringing together the innovators who are moving our industry forward and building the future of attractions.”

IAAPA Expo will return to the OCCC Nov. 14-18, 2022. According to IAAPA officials, more than 200 exhibit contracts have already been signed for next year’s show. 

Check out video highlights from the show here.


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