IAAPA | bringing the attractions industry together – blooloop

IAAPA, a diverse and dynamic community of global attractions professionals, is the largest international trade association for permanently located attractions. The association works to unify the attractions community, connecting people to learn and grow together. It also promotes the highest professional standards for excellence and safety around the world.


IAAPA was founded in 1918. It represents leading industry attractions and supplier companies, consultants, and individual members from more than 100 countries. Amusement parks, theme parks, attractions, water parks, resorts, family entertainment centres, zoos, aquariums, science centres, museums, cruise lines, manufacturers, and suppliers are all represented.

IAAPA Expos are an opportunity for members to bring their organisation, products, and services to the forefront of the global attractions industry.

In the run-up to IAAPA Expo Europe 2022 and IAAPA Expo 2022, blooloop caught up with Peter van der Schans, executive director and vice president of the IAAPA EMEA region, and Hal McEvoy, president and CEO of IAAPA.

A lifetime in attractions

Hal McEvoy

Hal McEvoy, president and CEO of IAAPA, has served on the executive team of IAAPA since he was hired in April 2017 as chief financial officer. He was named interim president and CEO in February 2018 and was then selected to be president and CEO after a comprehensive executive search concluded in October 2018.

Having begun his career in 1975 as a part-time accounting clerk at Busch Gardens Tampa, he worked his way up through the company post-graduation to become vice president of finance for Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA.

McEvoy then relocated to Orlando, Florida, in 2012, when he was promoted to corporate vice president of internal audit and compliance for SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the position he held before joining IAAPA. He brought an extensive background in corporate finance, accounting, financial controls, audit, and operations to the Association.

In April 2022, McEvoy announced he will retire from his position on 1 April 2023. IAAPA will conduct a global search for a new president and CEO.


Peter van der Schans IAAPA
Peter van der Schans

Peter van der Schans is based in the Association’s regional office in Brussels, Belgium. He has been executive director and vice president of the IAAPA Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region since April 2022.

He has over 15 years of leisure industry experience, having worked in theme parks, zoos, and theatres. Most recently, he served as general manager of Dierenrijk Zoo in Mierlo, Netherlands. Previously, in the role of manager at the Pathé Theatre in Nijmegen, Netherlands, he was instrumental in growing attendance from 180,000 to 600,000 visitors per year.

Prior to that, he was the park manager of Attractiepark Toverland, in Sevenum, Netherlands. Here he contributed to the strategic expansion of the organisation. Van der Schans completed the IAAPA Institute for Attractions Managers in 2014. He also holds a Bachelor of Business Administration, Leisure Management from Stenden university in Leeuwarden, Netherlands.

IAAPA’s vision

Describing IAAPA’s overarching vision, McEvoy says:

“Our vision is to be a diverse and dynamic association for the attractions industry: an indispensable global resource for our members, an international authority for our industry, and a world-class workplace for our employees. IAAPA will have a significant presence in every region of the world, and in every part of the growing and diversifying attractions industry. Through this, IAAPA will support the long-term sustainability of members, their partners, and communities.”

IAAPA Expo 2021 Kickoff Event
McEvoy at IAAPA Expo 2021

Its mission is to inspire, grow, and protect the global attractions industry through member connections:

“IAAPA is the premier organizer of global attractions industry events and the facilitator of marketplace connections. Through this, we enable the success and competence of our members to deliver safe and memorable experiences to guests.”

Benefits of membership

Overall, IAAPA provides a lot in terms of connecting members, affording opportunities for networking, and for sharing knowledge between members, says van der Schans.

“If you look at somewhere like Alton Towers, for example, it’s obvious they should be an IAAPA member. But then take, for example, a very high-end retail store with a little bit of theming and storytelling. There are also interesting opportunities there to broaden our network and share knowledge. They deliver good service in areas such as retail and product placement, while we are very good at storytelling.”

Finding the businesses on the periphery and drawing them into the fold will, he feels, be an enriching experience for all concerned.

Show Floor IAAPA Expo 2021
IAAPA Expo 2021

“The good thing about IAAPA is that it addresses the challenges that the industry faces, provides members with best practices, and connects people. If we know there’s a problem in a certain area and we know a certain park has a good solution to that, then we’re there to connect them.”

Being connected also means, for the smaller and more remote organisations, the realisation that they aren’t alone, and their problems aren’t unique.

“It’s also the other way around,” van der Schans adds. “We tend to see instances where big parks can be blind about certain things. They can have their eyes opened by the smaller facilities, which tend to have a unique profile in the industry and are used to fighting for their place. So, they understand how to approach things in a different way. That’s where smaller parks can bring a lot to the big parks, as well.”


The IAAPA Expos are key when it comes to this goal of connecting members and networking says McEvoy.

“Our expos in Asia, Europe, and Orlando provide one-stop shopping for the latest innovations and technology, as well as services, professional development opportunities, best practice sharing, member facility showcasing, and connections.”

IAAPA Expo 2021

This strengthens existing relationships, as well as creating new ones that will help members’ businesses to advance.

He adds:

“These gatherings also let us celebrate accomplishments in person. This includes industry recognition via our Hall of Fame, Brass Rings, Service, and Young Professional awards.”

Ready for IAAPA Expo Europe 2022

Summarising the benefits of the IAAPA Expos, van der Schans says:

“It’s hard to encapsulate the benefits in a short answer! Overall, there are three main areas: networking, education, and inspiration.

“I think we’re doing a good job in covering those at the Expos. For example, at IAAPA Expo Europe, if you look at networking, we have the receptions, the Leadership Breakfast, and, of course, the actual show floor. If you look at inspiration and education, we have many sessions with lots of great speakers and topics that are relevant now. We also have an event where we will visit Chessington World of Adventure and get an in-depth tour of the park.”

ExCel London Exterior
Credit: ExCel London

London’s selection as a venue reflects the fact that the UK is the biggest market in the EMEA region:

“We don’t have more members in any country than the UK,” he says. “EMEA is quite a big region with lots of different sub-regions. Within Europe, we have a very strong and loyal base of members, with parks, attractions, and suppliers. The Middle East, though, is an emerging market.”

The EMEA region

Within that region, he comments, a few different things can be seen:

“If you look at Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the Emirates, Qatar, those areas are very much on track in terms of attractions. But if you look at, for example, Saudi Arabia, they have just started to emerge. They will be at the same point in a few years as the Emirates, but it’s a totally different vibe and concept right now.”

IAAPA Middle East Summit
Bluewaters Island and Ain Dubai Ferris wheel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Van der Schans contends:

“Africa is one big opportunity. There are so many people on that continent, and not a lot on offer yet. Our biggest challenge will be to be one step ahead of that big boom. If you look at China, if you look at the Middle East, you can see that it will happen. It’s our job to be ready because we have a role in that. I don’t have all the answers yet, but it’s good to see what opportunities there are, and where we can support them.”

Highlighting further regions of growth, he observes:

“Eastern Europe, especially the Balkan region, is on our radar, as well. What has been going on in Poland, for example, over the last five or six years, has been huge, and I expect the same story in that region. We need to step ahead and make sure we’re leading the way.”

A packed schedule

In terms of what attendees will get out of IAAPA Expo Europe, van der Schans says:

“It depends on what you’re looking for. I feel that we have something for everyone. We have a strong programme, covering one of the biggest topics in our industry. Namely, the labour shortage, and how to attract and keep staff. Topics such as the Metaverse, data, and the digital world are also covered, as well as hospitality and F&B.

“We cover a lot of topics. That’s the beauty of our industry: I look at it as small cities where we have different departments. Everyone has their own responsibility, but in the end, it all combines into this great product we offer. We do the same, I think, with Expo Europe.”

Attendees can also discover the new IAAPA Connect+ app, which will allow them to experience IAAPA events in a new and exciting way. Users can view the program agenda, exhibiting companies, session speakers, and show floor map all from their mobile devices. The platform also introduces members to the all-new IAAPA Connect+ Marketplace. This is a year-round, virtual space for buyers and sellers to network from anywhere in the world.

WhiteWater at IAAPA 2021
WhiteWater taking part in a panel at IAAPA Expo 2021

Van der Schans comments:

“I’m excited about this. We’re holding the Expo in real life, but we’re also having a complete digital Expo where people can meet and talk to each other online. It’s a cohesive app that covers everything we do at the Expo. We take the best of both worlds. So, we have the Expo in person, but we also have a hybrid-style event where we provide some of the conferences and make the content available online for people who cannot attend.

“We try to look at the cost for everyone, but it inevitably costs money to get to an event. If you have a park with 300 employees, it’s impossible to send them all. This is a means by which we can provide knowledge and networking opportunities for members who usually don’t go to these events. There is an opportunity there to broaden our network, and to reach more people.”

Exploring the latest trends

Talking more about the trends that will be showcased at the Expo, van der Schans says:

“One of the biggest things will be digitisation. A lot of companies took the time to develop initiatives during COVID that they have now improved. Then there are digital solutions to address staff shortages. There is a nice example which, I believe, will be on the show floor. I’ve seen them in a few parks already – a robot catering within restaurants.”

The event will explore many relevant and topical issues

Staff shortage is one of the biggest, along with energy costs, the cost of living, and the cost of raw materials. We will see things that will cover those struggles. For example, we have a Lunch and Learn session, ‘Attract and Retain Staff’, with great speakers, Maya Mattar and Pia Adlivankin.”

Maya Mattar is a people-development professional, educator, and speaker. She has two decades of international experience across the Middle East and Southeast Asia and was part of the award-winning Emirates Airline service training team. Mattar has a Master’s degree in Coaching Psychology. She is passionate about helping individuals and organisations “change their doing by changing the viewing”.

Linnanmäki Taiga launch roller coaster with four inversions designed by Intamin

Meanwhile, Pia Adlivankin has been managing director and CEO of Linnanmäki Amusement Park and the Children’s Day Foundation, in Helsinki, Finland, for the past eight years. She believes that putting the focus on your staff’s well-being will make them committed to excellent customer service, driving financial success. Leadership focus should, she believes, be on creating an inclusive company culture.


The COVID pandemic, McEvoy says, highlighted how important IAAPA is to the industry.


“We brought our members together to develop the re-opening guidelines. These were used to prepare attractions for reopening safely and to educate governments on how our industry could do this. The guidelines became a living document that we could update as more information became available on COVID. And so, safety operating adjustments were made throughout.”

IAAPA added virtual components – a virtual expo, hybrid events, webinars, and podcasts – to continue connecting its members while travel restrictions were in place:

“We also did a lot of advocacy work to access financial help for our members and for our industry,” he adds. “Lengthy closures and reopening safety investments put a lot of financial pressure on our industry. The PPP, ERTC, and other financial support was necessary to keep it afloat and ready for getting back in business safely.”

The long-term impact

Commenting on the COVID bounce-back in the short and the longer term, McEvoy says:

“Many parts of the world are back in business but may still have lingering COVID restrictions. Some countries, like China, with their zero COVID policy, still have strict travel and health restrictions to protect their citizens. In North America and Europe, we see some businesses experiencing strong improvements in attendance and per capita spending. This is helping in their financial recovery.”

thorpe park resort
Guests enjoying a visit to Thorpe Park post-COVID

“However, not everyone is seeing the strong benefits of consumer pent-up demand from COVID. Plus, inflationary pressures are causing some consumers to pause and prioritise their spending.

“We have learned a lot about our businesses during COVID and have made innovations in technology to keep our guests safe. I believe that the technological advances were accelerated by COVID, and these improvements were made sooner than expected while experimenting with new ways to serve consumers. In the long run, technology seems to be advancing quickly.

“This leads to more efficient processes and safer ways of entertaining guests.”

Helping members face new challenges

McEvoy identifies the challenges facing members now and into the future, and the strategies that will help:

Labour shortages are impacting the attractions industry, in common with many other industries around the world. Businesses are having to adapt to the new needs and expectations of the workforce quickly. To be successful in hiring and retaining team members, employers need to provide a flexible work environment, and an improved work-life balance.”

staff at SEA LIFE admissions
Staff at SEA LIFE

Additionally, rapidly escalating labour costs are putting pressure on business costs:

“This translates to increased prices for consumers. Supply chain shortages are also impacting product availability and the timing of delivery. The need to plan and build strong supplier relationships that help get products delivered on time is very important. We see many attractions planning for the future to be able to deliver new products and services to consumers on a timely schedule.

“We have had positive reports from our manufacturers and suppliers about how our expos bring facilities, manufacturers, and suppliers together to discuss their future plans.”

IAAPA’s economic impact study

Concerning the current economic position and trajectory of the industry, van der Schans says:

“We are in the middle of wrapping up our economic impact study right now. We will present the results at the Expo in London. If you look at the current situation, we hear mixed signals. We see a lot of parks that are doing very well. When we started the season this year, everyone was very optimistic. Then a lot of things happened in the world that are affecting our industry as well.”

IAAPA Expo 2019
IAAPA Expo 2019

Interestingly, however:

“Parks are continuing to report good results. I don’t think many parks are having bad results now, but people are nervous, not just across our industry. The labour shortage is a very big threat. If we cannot find the people who will run our facilities, or create our coasters or rides, then we won’t have companies to run. Similarly, if we don’t find an answer to these insane energy prices, there is no company that can be sustainable for the next five, six years.”

A key opportunity

The opportunity for IAAPA members to form connections at the Expos and events, sharing best practices and taking the opportunity to learn, improve business knowledge, and nurture productive and life-long relationships is of inestimable value, reiterates McEvoy.

“We are excited to be producing IAAPA Expo Europe in London in September, APAC Trade Summit in Bangkok in October (October 17 – 18) and IAAPA Expo in Orlando in November to bring our industry together and showcase the latest innovations in products and services.”

IAAPA Expo 2022 Orlando Details

Finally, offering an insight into the wider IAAPA strategy, he adds:

“Our continued work on promoting safety standards and harmonisation is a key strategy for us. Safety is always number one. Advocating for our members and our industry allows us to educate governments on the importance of the attractions industry in providing safe and memorable entertainment experiences to our guests.”

IAAPA Expo Europe 2022 takes place from 12 – 15 September at London’s ExCeL. IAAPA Expo 2022 is scheduled for 14 – 18 November at Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center, and IAAPA Expo Asia 2023 will take place from 13 – 16 June at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. For more information on upcoming IAAPA Expos, please click here.

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