Skip to main content

24, 000 People from a Record 100 Countries Participate in IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008


World’s Largest Amusement Park and Attractions Conference and Trade Show Moves to Las Vegas in 2009

Preliminary estimates indicate 24, 000 people from a record 100 nations participated in IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008, the world’s largest conference and trade show for the $24 billion amusement park and attractions industry. Produced by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), the Expo took place at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando Nov. 17 through Nov. 21, with the theme “Success in Every Direction.”

Conference and trade show participants represented amusement and theme parks, family entertainment centers, waterparks, zoos, aquariums, museums, casinos, resorts, developers, themed entertainment designers, consultants, manufacturers, and suppliers.

“Considering the state of the world economy and the fact that this was our second consecutive year in Orlando, we are pleasantly surprised with the attendance at this year’s Expo, ” said IAAPA President and Chief Executive Officer Charles Bray. “26, 500 people participated in last year’s show in Orlando, which was one of our best events in the past 10 years. To be down less than 10 percent during these tumultuous economic times is amazing.”

More than 13, 000 buyers representing more than 5, 000 companies participated in the Expo.  While some buyer categories experienced a decline in attendance, the number of buyers increased from zoos, aquariums, museums, and science centers. The number of buyers from Western Europe, Middle East, and Southeast Asia also decreased; however, the number of first-time buyers increased 25 percent.

8.3 Miles of Aisles Packed with New Ideas

The vast and vibrant trade show floor featured 1, 154 exhibiting companies on 482, 550 net square feet of space, filling the North/South halls of the OCCC. Exhibitors showcased everything from new thrill rides, roller coasters, and inflatable attractions to theatrical equipment, souvenirs, high-tech control systems, candy, snow machines, and the world debut of the arcade version of the popular “Guitar Hero” video game.

Some buyers were interested in products and services for 2009, while many others laid the foundation for plans well into 2010 and beyond.

Kevin Rohwer, director of sales, from S&S Worldwide Inc. in Logan, Utah, United States, said, “It’s been a great show. We were reserved coming in with what’s happened in the U.S. economy. We’ve noticed some of the big park groups, instead of taking 12 people are taking four or five, but we’ve had good, quality meetings. People have been talking about specific needs. We’re quite enthused; it’s one of the better IAAPA (expos) I’ve been to in a long time. We came in reserved, but we’re leaving pleasantly surprised.”

Lucy Murphy, of Italian ride company Zamperla Inc., said, “The people coming into the booth are coming to talk. You’re seeing a lot of caution. The buyers are looking at all angles before making decisions, but we have made some sales. There is optimism out there. People who already have projects in the works are moving forward with those. We’ve had quite a few folks come here with new developments, looking ahead, but they’re taking small steps because of the economy.”

Murphy said Zamperla signed several deals for its new Sky Tower ride at this year’s Expo. She said the ride drew a lot of attention because it is moderately priced, with a small footprint and a lot of impact. “People are seeing that as a very good value for their parks, ” she added.

Andy Appleton, division director from Media Vision in Whitby, Ontario, Canada, said, “Traffic’s been good. Even with the recession in America, we’ve had a lot of interest. The people that are here are qualified buyers. We’ve had less flow, but more qualified leads.” Continuing, he added, “People want to survive in a time like this. You can’t just sit back. They’re here to purchase.”

A number of new exhibitors were pleased with their experience.

Terry Schaeffer, owner of Chuck Wagon Old Fashioned Soda in Reading, Pennsylvania, United States, said, “The show’s been excellent. I’ve met with people I probably would never have been able to talk to in the open market; those people come to you here. I’ve gotten way more than my money’s worth at this booth; in fact, I’ve already signed up for Las Vegas next year.”  Shaeffer added, “The people I’ve seen are the people I wanted to get to; the park owners, the campground owners. It’s just been phenomenal.”

United Kingdom-based Haystack Dryers’ U.S. Operations Manager Wayne Jacks said, “(The Expo has been) absolutely fantastic, probably the best show we’ve ever done. We’ve had a buzz that’s been insane. We’ve had a group of people around us continuously. It’s been so successful; it looks like we’re going to expand our business in the States based on the show.”

"Since we’ve been here, we’ve had more sincerely interested parks stop by than we’ve had at any other trade show. With the interest of the parks – it’s exactly what we’ve been trying to achieve. This has been one of the most productive, interesting, and fun events we’ve attended, ” said Frank Crissey, vice president, Janus International (Hospitality Student Exchange).

By the Numbers: Participants Turn Out in Force for Education Programs, Social Events, and Charity Events that Raised More than $110, 000 for Give Kids The World

IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008 also featured a variety of educational sessions, behind-the-scenes tours of local attractions, marquee social events, and networking opportunities. 

Here are some of the highlights of those programs:

A record 8, 200 people participated in more than 125 educational sessions, roundtables, tours, and Institutes at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008. “Given these uncertain economic times, attractions operators craved new ideas and information about best practices to get the most out of their operations, and we believe that hunger contributed to the record turnout for the education sessions, ” said John Henderson, vice president of education for IAAPA.
32 professionals graduated from the Institute for Emerging Leaders. 

1, 500 attended the Kickoff Event sponsored by Nice-Pak Products Inc. and Gateway Ticketing Systems Inc.
More than 775 networked and shared information at the Opening Reception sponsored by OmniTicket Network, Burdette Beckmann Inc., and FUNWORLD magazine. 

A sellout crowd of 375 attended the General Managers’ and Owners’ Breakfast, which featured Nick Varney, chief executive officer of England-based Merlin Entertainments Group.  The event was sponsored by, CNL Lifestyle Company, and Smile-Expo. 

300 participants enjoyed an entertaining evening at the IAAPA Gala, complete with a beach music tribute to incoming IAAPA Chairman Darrell Metzger. The Gala was sponsored by CLM Entertainment and Kodak Event Imaging Solutions. Live and silent auctions raised $18, 000 for Give Kids The World Village (, a resort that provides families from around the world a cost-free vacation for children with life-threatening illnesses. A Saturn Sky raffle generated another $24, 000 for the Village. Give Kids The World is located in Kissimmee, Florida. 

152 attractions industry professionals raised a record $64, 000 for Give Kids The World through the Annual Charity Golf Tournament sponsored by Ripley Entertainment and supported by a number of other companies in the industry. 

153 raised more than $6, 000 for the Village by participating in the 2nd Annual 5K Fun Run and Walk, which was generously hosted by SeaWorld Orlando. 

Expo Moves to Las Vegas in 2009

Amusement park and attraction industry leaders, decision makers, and visionaries from around the world will gather Nov. 16-20, 2009, in Las Vegas to network, view the latest innovations, and plan for the future at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2009. The event will take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“As we pack up here in Orlando, planning is already well under way for next year’s Expo in Las Vegas, ” Bray said.  “Our members have talked about going to Vegas for a long time. We look forward to another successful event and to experiencing all that Vegas offers as a global entertainment destination.”

“Bringing IAAPA to Las Vegas is just a natural fit, and we are looking forward to welcoming everyone next year, ” said Chris Meyer, vice president of convention sales for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Congratulations on a great show this year, and get ready for a memorable time next year!”


IAAPA, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions is the premier trade association for the attractions industry worldwide. Founded 90 years ago, IAAPA is the largest international trade association for permanently situated amusement facilities and attractions and is dedicated to the preservation and prosperity of the amusement industry. IAAPA represents more than 4, 300 attraction, supplier, and individual members from more than 90 countries.

Contact Information
Press Office: +1 703/299-5127
David Mandt:

See also:
Innovative New Products Win Awards at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008
IAAPA Announces 2008 Big E Award Winners Who Exemplify Excellence in Attractions Industry Entertainment

More from this author

Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site.

Find out how to update