The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo got underway Tuesday in Las Vegas, NV. The Expo is being held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, South Halls. There are two floors filled with thousands of exhibitors and a large outside area where amusement rides are on display for trade show participants to see.
IAAPA is perhaps best known for amusement parks but also covers zoos, museums, aquariums, science centers, waterparks, family entertainment centers and all facilities that feature some sort of amusement component.
The Expo is more than just a trade show. Each day there are dozens of educational offerings for trade professionals to bone up on their skills, find out about the latest technology or share ideas on what makes their business a success. Special behind the scenes tours of Las Vegas properties are also available including tours of the "The Beatles Love" show by Cirque du Soliel, "La Reve", at the Wynn hotel, "Blue Man Group" tour and show, "Jubilee" tour and show and two behind the scenes tours of operations at Caesar,s Palace.
One class of note during the Expo on Tuesday was the New Technology Showcase moderated by Randy Josselyn of Disneyland Resort. During this informative session, many new technology companies were given the opportunity to present information about some of the latest applications for the industry. From cashless ticketing systems to interactive hand-held park guides, to ways to use social marketing websites to promote your business, there was an enormous amount of new information and technology presented.
Scott Snibbe of Snibbe Interactive, developer of interactive spaces at museums, science centers and entertainment centers all over the world presented his new Social Share technology where videos made in his interactive spaces could be emailed to the user and then subsequently posted on their Facebook, MySpace or You Tube accounts, giving the attraction an authentic marketing opportunity via the guest,s post on the social network site and bypass the paid and sometimes ineffective side bar ads.
Another presenter at the class was Jeff Prystajko of WDD Online. WDD Online is a website design and development company that specializes in online marketing. One of their clients is Cedar Fair, owners of Cedar Point amusement park. In a short case study, Prystajko reviewed the mobile website his company developed for Cedar Point and the information the site offers to customers on their phones. The site was made to interact with new and older technology phones.
One exciting new feature is the online mapping technology. WDD Online mapped Cedar Point,s 364 acres, taking a large map and breaking it into tiles so it could be easily viewed and navigated on guest,s cell phones. You can zoom in and out on the map, move up and down and left and right.
With GPS, you can find attractions closest to your location such as bathrooms and restaurants in the "Find Near Me" feature. A customer can type in a favorite food or attraction and they can find the closest matches and routes to their point of interest.
While on a "bird,s eye view" map the seemingly closest bathroom, food stand or attraction may seem to be a short walk away, because of obstacles and walkways, they may not in fact be the closest to the user,s current location. The mobile website can actually calculate the shortest path to the requested location, giving the customer the quickest route to their destination.
Evil Genius Designs, Inc. is another company that recognizes that cell phones are the most pervasive tools for marketing and informational use and they have developed products such as their "Get In Line" program that takes advantage of the omnipresence of cell phones.
Get In Line is a cell phone activated queue entertainment system that allows guests waiting in line to dial in to a large, community screen placed in the waiting area and use their phones as video game controllers. Evil Genius said customers can play a variety of games together while waiting, making the wait seem shorter and even rewarding guests with prizes or ‘achievements, for a game well-played using coupons and codes to redeem their prizes.
Get In Line is not just all fun and games however, they also have a serious marketing component to their technology that collects data from guests playing the games. The park or attraction can now send guests messages for specific areas of the park, alerting customers to discounts, waiting times and other useful information.
Tracy Brown, Andy Jih and Josh Jeffrey developed Evil Genius Designs while graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University. Along with other students from the university they have grown Evil Genius into a boutique company specializing in the design and implementation of themed technology solutions, interactive media solutions and experiences and extended branding through online marketing and activities.
All around the trade show, dozens of companies are developing cutting edge solutions for getting information to park and event-site guests and finding new and unique ways to market products.
Bar Z Adventures is one example of these companies. CEO Lee Little said his company has developed a unique navigation system for parks which can be used either with Bar Z,s hand held navigation units or on the guest,s personal iPhone. Little said the system "answers the questions for guests of what they should see and do, where the bathrooms are located and where attractions can be found".
The technology gives the park the ability to sell sponsorships, offer discounts and information and information is continually updated. "There are a gazillion ideas and applications for the product", said Little. Although the system is currently used for outdoor use, the company is developing indoor applications as well.
"Save Fuel, Save Energy, Save Money" is the slogan V-Blox is using to promote their mobile generator optimization system. Generators produce active energy and reactive energy, the company explains. Reactive energy is virtually wasted. The V-Blox Optimization System captures the reactive (wasted energy) and keeps it available at all times to meet the power needs. V-Blox,s Chris Yazdiya said savings in fuel costs of 30% are not unusual for the system, saving the customer tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. The process helps the generator save fuel, run more efficiently, save money or add attractions without increasing generator size.
One of the most talked about developments at the trade show is the request for proposals issued by Coney Island Development Corporation for a ten-year opportunity to develop and revitalize the amusement park area on Brooklyn,s historic Coney Island. The City of New York recently acquired the land and the total city investment in land acquisition, sewer lines, electrical lines and land improvements will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The request for proposals can be found at www.nycedc.com/rfp and completed proposals are due Dec. 18th with an award anticipated for the approximately 7 acre site in the first quarter of 2010. The park is expected to begin operations in May of 2010.
During the evaluation process the CIDC will look at the experience of the operator and their investment in money, equipment and ideas. An informational session about the RFP will be held on Thursday, Nov. 19 at the EXPO in room S224 from 9 - 10:30 am. Interested parties are encouraged to attend. According to Madelyn Wils of the New York Economic Development Corporation, over 100 RFP,s have been downloaded and interest in the projects is very high.
Further details from Thursdays, session will be forthcoming in future articles.
Rides 4-U Brought in a Giant Wheel from Butler Amusements to showcase its new LED lighting packages. Also on display was ARM's new Vertigo Swing ride - purchased by Powers Great American Midways.
Evil Genius Designs booth
Spider Climbing systems.