Every November, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions gathers the industry’s movers and shakers (pun intended) for an expo that stuffs the cavernous Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. to overflowing. Virtually all of the designers, manufacturers, visionaries, and others who develop the technology, create the shows, craft the stories, and build the coasters are there. The show floor includes full-size, operating rides. As enormous as it is, the convention center can’t contain all of the action; some of the exhibitors commandeer the parking lot.
The attractions industry is burgeoning. IAAPA estimates it generates $39.5 billion worldwide and reports that this year’s expo, which attracted 39,000 attendees, shattered records. With 1,114 companies showcasing their latest concepts, it offered a unique opportunity to see not only what’s on the way to parks in the short-term, but also a peek at emerging developments and trends that may show up a few years down the road.
I wasn’t the only one wandering the expo’s aisles to ogle the latest, greatest themed entertainment innovations. Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea, in all of his bulging biceps glory, was seen kicking the tires at a few booths. (Fortunately, he wasn’t kicking them too hard.) The Hulkster was on a mission to incorporate theme park-style pizzazz into Hogan’s Beach Shops, which sell wrestling memorabilia and beach accessories at locations in Orlando and Clearwater Beach, Fla.
“In today’s environment, they can’t just be retail stores,” explains the legendary wrestler. “They need to be attractions—themed experiences.” Bollea isn’t sure exactly what he is looking for, but, among other things, he hopes to create opportunities for his fans to relive moments from his storied career. Once he finds a winning formula, he plans to expand into markets in the USA and other countries.
There were no Hulkamania attractions being pitched at this year’s IAAPA Expo (although Bollea may have planted the seeds for future developments), but there were a host of exciting things on display. The following are some of the trends and cool concepts that…