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Lunching and Learning in Paris [IAAPA Expo Europe 2019]

Now the hubbub of IAAPA Expo Europe has subsided, I wanted to look back on the key themes and learnings from the show.

What a few days we had in Paris! From client meetings to finding new exciting suppliers, to hearing what industry leaders had to say and meeting our peers for drinks… It was a Parisian whirlwind!

Over the week I spoke to a lot of people from the industry, from park operators to ride builders, and we all had one thing in common – an optimistic view for the future of our market. The feeling was buoyant and creative, balanced with a need for commercial realism.

I attended a couple of the Lunch & Learn events, one discussing the future for the French market and one exploring EMEA. Both were fascinating and showed opportunities for real development in their regions. Here’s what I took out of the seminars:

Lunch and Learn: What’s Next for the French Attractions Industry

Europacity will be worth €2.5bn of French GDP

Three speakers, Laurent Bruloy President of Looping Group, Benoit Chang CEO Europacity and Francois Fassier Director Leisure Division Compagnie des Alpes, all spoke of a dynamic and future focussed French market.

It was intriguing to see how attractions have changed hands over the last couple of years between the Looping Group and Compagnie des Alpes, clearly showing there is enough demand in the market for two operators.

Laurent Bruloy – Looping Group

Laurent Bruloy spoke at length about including the natural environment in his parks, in fact, it was one of his key trends:

  1. Willingness to connect with nature – guests looking for natural aesthetics and local environments

  2. Importance of sustainability – creating a sense of belonging over a cause for staff and guests

  3. Short breaks – exclusive accommodation that is experience-led.

Francois Fassier – Compagnie des Alpes

Francois Fassier spoke about his brand’s desire to be driven and measured on guest experience and satisfaction. The investment made into his parks has been well above the industry average to help promote this. He also shared his experience of working both with IPs (Parc Asterix) and with their own IP (Walibi). It is all about adding authentic value, his advice was not to push any IP but to look for the brand and experiential connections. He didn’t stop there, the Compagnie des Alpes flag may soon be flying in new territories as the company seeks new growth…

Benoit Chang – Europacity

Benoit Chang rounded off the session by painting a vivid picture of the new Paris development, Europacity. He explained the project as “constant renewable interactivity with no boundaries between leisure, retail, sports, art and culture”. Europacity is clearly a new generation of urban development, looking to regenerate the airport/city corridor. The development will enable visitors to connect with each other, finding meaning and community. In practical terms, the site will use 100% renewable energy, create 10,000 jobs and be responsible for €2.5bn of French GDP.

Lunch and Learn: Eye on the Middle East and Africa Attractions Industry

No-one had thought about careers in this industry yet

Bill Ernest CEO of Saudi Entertainment Ventures (SEVEN), Bianca Sammut General Manager Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Sabine Lehmann Executive Director of Attractions Africa, all gave us an insight into these exciting regions of the world.

Bill Ernest – Saudi Entertainment Ventures

SEVEN’s Bill Ernest explained the vast changes currently underway in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). He expects to see a shift in how the Saudi’s interact with leisure, how they choose to spend their time and their money. Interestingly he raised the point that they would need to develop staff for this market, as with it being a new sector no-one had thought about careers in this industry yet!

Bianca Sammut – Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

Bianca Sammut gave us an excellent grasp for the ‘Ferrari Feel’. She showed us how inclusive her park and team are. Her internal initiative #startyourengines energised and motivated her teams to deliver the best guest experience over the last year. It created a shift change for her teams, enabling them to come together as an extended family and show real team spirit.

Sabine Lehmann – Attractions Africa (AAVEA)

We were reminded by Sabine Lehmann of the sheer scale of Africa. We have a tendency to lump it together into one big market, but just giving us a glimpse of the number of cultures and languages ensured we will have a different outlook on this market in the future. Africa is a continent, not a country!

Katapult’s take on the key themes

  1. Guest experience still reigns supreme and operators are investing more time and resource into achieving outstanding results. The link between commercial results and brilliant guest experience is being realised by operators all around the world.

  2. New markets will drive new innovations. Where nothing is built, everything can be imagined. In new markets like KSA we see whole cities being made – this open brief is driving greater innovation than before, from systems to experiences, from tech to sustainability.

  3. It can be done. A sense of optimism and of working stuff out; “if we don’t know how then we’ll find out how.” There’s a real feeling that this industry is worth investment and expansion and has the people and imagination to do it.

It was great to speak to such a wide variety of people at the show. The events hosted by IAAPA, BALPPA and TEA were terrific for learning and building relationships. We’ll be at IAAPA Orlando, will you?

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