International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions

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International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions
IAAPA logo.svg
Abbreviation IAAPA
Type 501(c)(6) non-profit organization
Headquarters Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.
Coordinates Coordinates: 38°48′13″N 77°03′26″W / 38.8036808°N 77.0573128°W / 38.8036808; -77.0573128
Area served
Services Amusement Industry Association, Trade News, Funworld, Training, Online Resources, Trade Shows
Membership (2017)
Paul Noland[2]
Greg Hale
Subsidiaries IAAPA Foundation
Revenue (2016)
Expenses (2016) US$18,977,166
Staff (2016)
Volunteers (2016)
Mission To serve the membership by promoting safe operations, global development, professional growth, and commercial success of the amusement parks and attractions industry.[2]

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, simply known as IAAPA, represents nearly 5,000 amusement industry members, located in 99 countries worldwide, and operates several popular global amusement industry trade shows. Its annual IAAPA Attractions Exposition, based in Orlando, Florida, is recognized as the world's largest amusement trade show by both the number of attendees and exhibitors along with providing members insight into current amusement trends, laws, operational advise and industry methodology. The IAAPA also helps to promote both guest and ride safety guidelines standards, in conjunction with ASTM International, and assisting its members to uphold the highest amusement industry, safety and professional standards.

IAAPA represents all styles of location-based entertainment facilities including amusement parks, theme parks, family entertainment centers, arcades, museums, water parks, aquariums, science centers, zoos and resorts. IAAPA also represents industry equipment manufacturers, distributors, operators, industry suppliers and service providers.


In early 1917, after ten years of periodic attempts to join their collective voices together, amusement park and other outdoor entertainment representatives from all over the United States gathered at the Congress Hotel in Chicago, Illinois, to discuss the possibility of organizing an association for their industry in keeping with the slogan “Common Defense and Common Advancement.” From this meeting emerged the National Outdoor Showmen’s Association (NOSA). In 1918, it officially became the first national organization in the United States for all segments of the amusement park and outdoor entertainment industry.

Prior to 1918, other formalized organizations represented the outdoor amusement industry, but were essentially confined to a single segment, like fairs, circuses, or carnivals. These groups included the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE), the Carnival Managers’ Association, and the Showmen’s League of America (SLA). The SLA and IAFE are still in existence today.

The immediate task confronting NOSA was to protect the industry from unjust legislation and to promote its best interests where needed. NOSA worked hard at its designated task and succeeded in eliminating the amusement tax on outdoor amusements, as well as obtaining special consideration from the government regarding deferments from military service for amusement men because of the importance of recreation to the armed forces and civilian population. As time went on, however, it became evident the amusement park segment of the association was carrying most of the responsibility, both financially and otherwise. Eventually, the membership in NOSA gradually decreased until it consisted almost solely of amusement park owners and managers.

In January 1920, just one month prior to the annual meeting of NOSA, a special meeting was held at the Fort Pitt Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to discuss the future of the association, where it was advised that a new organization devoted more completely to protecting and advancing the best interests of America’s approximately 1,500 amusement parks be developed, and in February 1920, the new National Association of Amusement Parks (NAAP) was born.

At the 2nd Annual Convention of NAAP, three manufacturers displayed samples of new amusement devices on the convention floor, and 45 exhibits of amusement park equipment were displayed at the 3rd show, and then was born the “trade show” element of the convention. The new association and trade show met with universal enthusiasm, and grew so rapidly that it was necessary to move to larger hotels to accommodate attendees and exhibitors.

The NAAP weathered the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression with the assistance of many loyal members who advanced their personal funds to enable the organization to carry on, as the number of parks dwindled to around 400 by 1935. But a vibrant new source of members was soon to appear - Because of rapid growth of the swim industry during the 1920s, a number of leaders in that industry formed the American Association of Pools and Beaches (AAPB), but four years later, the AAPB members decided they would be better served if the group became part of the NAAP. Thus, at the 1934 annual meeting of NAAP, a new organization was formed, the National Association of Amusement Parks, Pools and Beaches, or the NAAPPB. However, in 1935, most of the NAAP Manufacturer and Distributors members decided to break away to form the American Recreational Equipment Association (AREA), an organization known today as the Amusement Industry Manufacturers and Suppliers International (AIMS).

By the end of the 1940s, many existing parks were worn down by deterioration and disrepair due to the cumulative effects of the Great Depression, World War II, and its immediate aftermath. To address this backlash, the NAAPPB adopted a Code of Ethics at its 1950 Convention to address the public's concern over the sorry state of existing park properties. But due to the post-war "Baby Boom" generation exploding in the early 1950s, and existing amusement parks rode the "boomer" wave to renewed success, by buying new rides and creating areas catered to younger guests. But the “kiddie” phenomenon was fairly short lived, however.

A major event in the future of the amusement industry occurred during this period, with the concept of "themed" amusement park developed by amusement pioneers such as Charles Wood (The Great Escape), Walter Knott (Knott’s Berry Farm), and Bill Koch (Holiday World). But in 1955, Walt Disney, and his innovative new industry paradigm, Disneyland, first showed the people in the United States, and eventually throughout the world, what a fully realized "theme park" could be like - And since then, the amusement industry has never been the same, changing in ways no one could have predicted, even to this very day.

Under Walt Disney’s meticulous care, imagination and fantasy became the most important ingredients in the amusement park effect and experience, creating something wholly different and sensational than anything before.

As noted designer James Rouse stated - “Disneyland took an area of activity, the amusement park, and lifted it to a standard so high in its performance that it really became a brand new thing.” Never one to miss an educational opportunity at a fabulous new venue, the NAAPPB hosted its 1956 "Summer Meeting" at Disneyland, and Walt Disney spoke to the attendees about the “Creation of Disneyland,” describing his use of such industry innovations as one central entry gate, beautiful landscaping, original rides and attractions, and extensive theming. The opening of Disneyland represents perhaps the most important line of demarcation in the history of the amusement industry.

Also of critical importance to the long-term future of NAAPPB was its formal decision around this time to begin evolving into a truly global organization - While rooted in the United States, the association was an international group. Prominent amusement parks in Europe, such as Tivoli Park in Denmark, Liseberg in Sweden, and Blackpool Pleasure Beach in England, participated and contributed to the fast-growing association. However, in 1961, after much discussion regarding the composition of the organization, it was decided that a concerted effort should be made to bring parks outside the United States into the association. This decision was strengthened by the sudden appearance of European rides in the American market.

At the same time, the swim club, pool, and beach members of NAAPPB decided to end their affiliation with the association. Thus, in 1962, the organization became known as the International Association of Amusement Parks (IAAP). The amusement sector witnessed another first in 1971, with the opening of the new Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, a truly state-of-the-art "destination" theme park complex many times the size of Walt's original California park, and aimed at not only entertaining their "guests" just for the afternoon, but for multi-day visits full of rides, shows, shopping, dining, and nightlife.

In 1972, responding to the emergence of other types of entertainment and amusement facilities, IAAP became what is known today as the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, or IAAPA. And through the 70's and 80's, the industry continued its rapid pace of modern-day innovation started by Walt Disney, with the first dedicated "Waterpark", Wet ‘n Wild, also opened in South Florida in 1977.

By the 1980s, there were only about 500 - 600 amusement parks left in the United States. While most of the remaining parks were still owned and operated by families or small proprietorships, the emergence of regional theme parks owned and operated by large corporations changed the nature and face of the industry and IAAPA. The first significant wave of amusement and theme parks spreading into Asia, South America, and the Middle East was also starting to have an impact. Some of the most critical issues considered by the first committee were inviting other amusement industry segments to join IAAPA to ensure its steady growth, and development of international products and services. Consequently, in 1988 the association formally invited miniature golf courses and Family Entertainment Centers to become members, in response to the rapid expansion of the amusement industry. To keep pace with an evolving industry, IAAPA introduced its current amusement publication, FUNWORLD Magazine in 1985, and purchased its first international headquarters building in Alexandria, Virginia, the following year. And reflecting the continued and increasing importance of amusement industry manufacturers and distributors, IAAPA’s 1986 Annual Convention and Trade Show IAAPA Expo in Orlando, Florida, drew over 13,500 attendees – a number nearly double the attendance from just five years earlier.

In 1990, IAAPA established the "International Council" in expand it global reach, and to give advice and direction regarding programs and services for members outside the United States. The council and its governing operations committee would prove instrumental in the successful recruitment of international members and the development of quality products and services. IAAPA also established the IAAPA Hall of Fame, with its first class of inductees, an honor reserved for amusement industry innovators and pioneers, being awarded this year.

And by 1991, the 73rd Annual Convention and Trade Show in Orlando welcomed more than 19,000 attendees, and the IAAPA Expo then became the largest amusement industry exhibition in the world, offering attendees the opportunity to view the latest trends in amusement and arcade equipment, food, beverage, park technology and entertainment.

In the mid-1990s, the association also extended membership eligibility to zoos, aquariums, and museums, to keep pace with the ever-wider application of amusement elements to different types of facilities. The 1994-95 period marked a significant expansion in IAAPA’s globalization efforts, with its co-purchase of the Asian Amusement Expo, the creation of the International Representatives program, the adoption of the International Council’s initial strategic plan, and the organization’s Summer Meeting in Hong Kong – its first in Asia.

In 1996, the association addressed two objectives from its 1994 strategic plan in a big way: establishing IAAPA as the preeminent resource on industry information, and conducting a more pro-active public relations program - And by 1997, the percentage of members from outside the United States topped one-third of total membership for the first time in IAAPA’s history, and the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando produced a second historic moment that year, as the more than 33,000 industry professionals turned out made it the highest-attended IAAPA expo ever.

In 1997, The "Spirit of Excellence" Training Awards were introduced during the ’97 trade show, joining other IAAPA industry honors like the "Service Awards", "Brass Ring Awards", and "Exhibitor Awards". Later additions include the "Souvenir of the Year Awards" in 1998, the "Big E Entertainment Awards" in 1999, the "Top FEC's Of The World Awards" in 2003, and the "Must-See Waterparks Awards" in 2005

In 2000, as a new century dawned, IAAPA worked on behalf of its members to counter the negative press that followed some high-profile amusement ride incidents, and the subsequent media frenzy surrounding amusement safety which caused the association for many years to publicizing the industry’s overall excellent safety record. The association also set up a ride incident reporting system for its United States facilities with rides, releasing the first results in 2003 through the National Safety Council, and helped facilitate ground-breaking independent scientific reviews on ride forces in 2002-03 that authoritatively demonstrated the inherent safety of rides for the general populace. Also in 2000, IAAPA opened its first full-time non-USA office, "IAAPA Europe", in Brussels, Belgium.

In 2003, the organization acquired sole ownership of the Asian Amusement Expo (AAE) by purchasing the remaining interests from the American Amusement Machine Association "AAMA" and Terrapinn. However, soon after, IAAPA was forced to cancel AAE in 2003, in light of the raging Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Asia at the time. Also in 2003, after helping to spearhead the adoption of the ASTM International amusement ride design and manufacture standard, and the European standard for amusement machinery and structures in 2004, the association maintained its focus on industry safety by establishing the new IAAPA International Standards Harmonization Group, in order to implement a standard working set of universal ride safety criteria.

In 2006, IAAPA teaming up with the Travel Industry Association of America to produce reports on "The Economic Impact of Domestic and Overseas Travelers Who Visit Amusement/Theme Parks and Other Attractions in the United States" - The results of this study demonstrated the importance of amusement, theme parks and other attractions to America’s tourism industry and its wider economy. In addition, the association opened up its membership to casinos and resorts for the first time in 2006, as many facilities in these long-established leisure sectors have begun incorporating amusement and entertainment features into their facilities. And to further promoting park safety, IAAPA made participation in its "ride incident reporting system" mandatory for all members in the USA that operated qualified ride, with facilities that fail to comply with this requirement becoming ineligible for membership. This step also afforded the association another opportunity to support Europarks ongoing efforts to implement a similar ride incident reporting system for its members. Additionally, IAAPA started working to spread the development of incident reporting systems even farther afield by presenting the idea of voluntary ride reporting to its Global Alliance partners, supplying general background materials, and encouraging them to adopt this as a goal for their organizations.

The 2007 period witnessed further progress on European ride reporting with the association’s opening of a new office in Europe, offering expanded and enhanced programs and services, and increased collaboration with Europarks on ride safety reporting. Also during 2008, IAAPA took full ownership of the Euro Attractions Show (EAS). Also in 2007, IAAPA revamped and relocated its annual senior-level training program, with the fifteenth edition of the newly renamed Institute for Executive Education taking place at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Later that year, at the IAAPA Attractions Expo, the association unveiled its new Institute for Emerging Leaders to help foster industry professionals with at least three years management experience whose skill base make them possible candidates for senior-level positions (now called the Institute for Attractions Managers).

In 2008, IAAPA held its first "Middle East Safety Conference" in Dubai, UAE in February, and then in June had its inaugural “Attractions Safety Awareness Week” to enhance governmental and public understanding of the industry’s safety practices and outstanding record.

In 2010, the IAAPA Foundation was created as a separate, nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation to fund the development of education programs and information resources for the worldwide attractions industry.

In 2011, the association began to implement its "IAAPA Certification" program, to help further elevate the professional standards of the amusement industry at large. Also this year, IAAPA’s "Institute for Executive Education", was re-launched with academic partner San Diego State University, whose resources to help the association replicate this offering elsewhere around the world. Also introduced was IAAPA's first "Latin America State of the Industry Report" and a new "European Manifesto" policy document.

In September 2016, IAAPA had announced plans to move their headquarters from Alexandria, Virginia to Orlando, Florida in 2017,[3][4] as well as extending their expo in Orlando until 2030.[5][6]

Organization structure[edit]

Founded in 1918, IAAPA is the largest international trade association for permanently located amusement facilities and attractions and is dedicated to the preservation and prosperity of the attractions industry. IAAPA represents nearly 5,000 facility, supplier, and individual members from 99 countries.

Member facilities include amusement and theme parks, water parks, attractions, family entertainment centers, zoos, aquariums, museums, science centers, and resorts.

IAAPA is a nonprofit organization. The association's global headquarters is in Alexandria, Virginia, United States. The association maintains regional offices in Brussels, Mexico City, Hong Kong, and Orlando.

Trade events[edit]

The organization currently operates the premier trade show for the global attractions industry IAAPA Attractions Expo, along with Asian Attractions Expo (AAE) and Euro Attractions Show (EAS).

At each trade show, IAAPA offers many educational, informational, operational, safety, and leadership seminars /conferences, along with "behind-the-scenes" EDUtours of IAAPA-member amusement parks, theme parks, water parks, family entertainment centers, and more.

Trade publications[edit]

IAAPA publishes a monthly trade magazine to its members, called FUNWORLD Magazine, and also helps its global membership base keep track of current and pending federal, state and locally based amusement-based laws and legislation, along with its "News Flash", a daily e-newsletter that provides industry news stories from around the world.

Trade awards[edit]

IAAPA Hall of Fame - The IAAPA Hall Of Fame was established in 1990 to celebrate outstanding achievement and contributions to the growth and development of the amusement park and attractions industry for an industry that, like few others, depends on the imaginations, talents, and vision of its dream builders, such as PT Barnum and other industry luminaries -

IAAPA Service Awards - The IAAPA Service Awards honor members who excel in performing services for the association and the industry and are dedicated to its well-being and future growth

Member services[edit]

IAAPA currently offers training for every aspect of the amusement park and attractions industry, and provides members with opportunities to educate their personnel through various workshops, on-site seminars, videotapes, manuals, webinars, and via services provided by institute programs, such as IAAPA Institute for Attractions Managers, the IAAPA Institute for Executive Education, and the IAAPA Safety Institute.

IAAPA promotes amusement park safety standards to its members and maintains a constant partnership with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) to both develop and update stringent amusement industry ride safety standards and ride maintenance requirements.

IAAPA’s advocacy department reaches out to government bodies in numerous countries to represent the industry on attraction and amusement park legislation and regulations.


  1. ^ Scheffer, Erkia. "Neutral Testimony on HB2389 (Written Only) - IAAPA" (PDF). Kansas Legislature. Retrieved April 11, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax" (PDF). International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Guidestar. December 31, 2013. Retrieved November 16, 2015. 
  3. ^ Pedicini, Sandra (September 21, 2016). "IAAPA intends to move world HQ to Orlando". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved January 31, 2017. 
  4. ^ "IAAPA announces plans to relocate headquarters to Orlando". Attractions Magazine. September 21, 2016. Retrieved January 31, 2017. 
  5. ^ Barton, Mary Ann (September 21, 2016). "International Association Moving Headquarters from Alexandria". The Patch. Retrieved January 31, 2017. 
  6. ^ Bilbao, Richard (September 21, 2016). "IAAPA to move global HQ to Orlando, extend annual expo". Orlando Business Journal. Retrieved January 31, 2017. 

External links[edit]