Arival Highlights “The Best Part of Travel”
By Dave Meeker
Nearly 1,200 attendees from all over the world made their way to the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., Oct. 28-31, for Arival—a conference event dedicated to the creators and sellers of in-destination tours, activities, attractions, events and experiences. It was quite the extravaganza.
The mix of attendees included representatives from a host of different online travel agencies (OTAs), reservation tech companies and ticketing systems, tourism marketing thought leaders, more than 60 speakers, and nearly 400 tour and attraction operators. The daily schedule included traditional workshops presented by experts in their respective fields, along with sponsored product demos by a variety of tech providers.
Each morning, though, everyone gathered to watch and listen while Arival leadership—including CEO Douglas Quinby, COO Bruce Rossard, and managing editor Jenna Blumenfeld—facilitated on-stage talks with industry executives and presentations from different companies, small and large. These daily kickoffs had high production value, akin to an Apple product launch.
One of the more entertaining, and revealing, interactions occurred when the heads of four major reservation systems—Checkfront, FareHarbor, Peek, and Rezdy—joined Quinby on stage for a roundtable discussion aimed at addressing operator concerns and questions, and the future of the industry. Some fairly heated exchanges ensued.
FareHarbor CEO Max Valverde, whose company was acquired in 2018 by Booking Holdings, parent company of OTA booking.com, was often the target. Many feel an OTA acquiring a reservation system creates conflict. It presents potential issues of sharing guest data between the two, and operators are concerned “about the pricing power OTAs have exerted in other industries,” said Peek CEO Ruzwana Bashir, likely referring to how the hotel industry has lost control of its pricing and booking channels due to the clout of OTAs.
Valverde wasn’t deterred. “Honestly, this is just fear-mongering,” he responded, and assured everyone in the room that data privacy is paramount at Booking thanks to its army of lawyers. And when addressing booking software company consolidation, he said, “When you run with the elephants, there are the fast and there are the dead,” which drew a mixed reaction from the crowd.
Pointed—yet far less contentious—conversations prevailed, which made for an incredibly productive and educational four days. The Adventure Park Insider team members who attended saw several of our supplier partners and friends, but few aerial adventure operators. Arival does focus a lot on tours—food tours, bike tours, boat tours, etc.—but the content of the event, and the networking opportunities it presents, would likely benefit many in our industry. It’s worth looking into.
IAAPA 2019: Hot Trends, Familiar Faces
By Olivia Rowan
Adventure Park Insider made the annual pilgrimage to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) expo in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 18-22, along with many players in the aerial adventure world. All came to get a first-hand look at the latest trends and new products.
There was a lot to take in, and the show halls were packed. The show itself continues to grow (26,000 buyers last year and 27,800 this year), and there was even talk of expanding the space for 2021.
In the broader amusement and attractions world that IAAPA represents, virtual reality continues to be the biggest craze, as it has been the past several years. In nearly every aisle of the gargantuan show, attendees wore the familiar VR goggles as they tried out new virtual experiences, from killing zombies to a thrilling motorcycle ride while being chased by vampires and wolves.
One surprising trend with legs: Recreational axe throwing. Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like: Guests hurl axes at targets. There were half a dozen axe-throwing booths, demoing a variety of axes and targets—everything from traditional wooden targets, with an archery-style bullseye hung at the far end of a metal cage, to a digital, laser-projected “target” on wood. The projected target can be just about anything: a creepy clown, a zombie, or even “your ex-wife,” said the company president. Always good to get out your aggressions.
In keeping with the wood-products theme, we saw some new entries for the smallest of our customers. Sandy Creek Mining, producers of the popular mining sluice products fabricated from wood, debuted a new 10 lb. bag of ore for sifting, called the “Motherlode.” Each 10-lb. bag includes a gigantic crystal that will delight kids and adults alike.
SunKid had some new entries in its Wood’n’Fun products line, including a new “wood-ball tracks” activity. Think of a giant marble run with myriad dips and tricks. To play, kids purchase a logoed wooden ball, which they can then take home as a souvenir. Guerilla marketing for the win.
We also saw continued innovation with climbing wall products. Perhaps the most eye-catching was Eldorado’s new experience, Kinex, that has ninja-like elements. Pictures and more complete descriptions of several of these products can be found in “New Products” on page 63.
The adventure park world continues to be a relatively small part of IAAPA, but it earns a lot of attention at the expo. One sign of that: both Tree-Mendous Aerial Adventures and Sandy Creek Mining received awards for excellence in booth design at this year’s show, and The Trekking Group’s Treewalk Village was honored as the best kids’ ride/attraction.
Experiential Systems Adds New Rocky Mountain Office
Experiential Systems Incorporated (ESI) opened a new office in Colorado in November 2019 to better serve clients in the Rockies and the western U.S. John Lazarus, formerly of Northeast Adventure, LLC, is heading up the office.
“I am thrilled to announce this new Rocky Mountain initiative,” said Keith Jacobs, president of ESI. “Having known John for a very long time, I am happy to welcome him into the ESI family. I know he will be a great asset, and his presence in the Rocky Mountain area will be very beneficial to our many clients in the West.”
“The chance to work with the experienced staff at ESI, and the resources they provide to clients, is an incredible opportunity at this point in my career,” said Lazarus. “Keith and I share the same dedication to quality and safety and effective programming in our industry, and I’m excited for this new challenge and the opportunity to continue doing a vocation I enjoy in a location that I love.” •
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