More than 630 members of the challenge course and adventure park industry descended upon Cleveland, Ohio for the 32nd Annual Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT) Conference, Feb. 10-13. Stories of trials and triumphs from the past year dominated conversation in the tradeshow hall and during workshops. The energy was high throughout. If the scene at the conference proved one thing, it’s that the aerial adventure industry is resilient and on track for another year of growth.
Attendance was down compared to years past, most certainly due to concerns about the omicron variant, and Covid safety guidelines—proof of Covid vaccination or negative Covid test, required face coverings—implemented by ACCT. Regardless, the tradeshow was abuzz, like schoolkids congregating in the halls after a long summer break. Everyone was excited to be with their peers once again after last year’s virtual conference.
The ACCT annual general meeting officially kicked things off Thursday afternoon. The normal pieces of business were addressed, and committee leaders gave reviews of their work from the past year via pre-recorded videos, which was a nice use of multi-media that helped keep attendees engaged. Looking ahead, the board of directors is enthused about launching the new ACCT Academy, which will be an educational tool for members.
More than 70 workshops were hosted by operators, suppliers, outside professionals, and ACCT board members covering a range of topics, from open roundtable discussions and in-depth conversations on industry standards and best practices to marketing strategies and hands-on facilitation tips.
ACCT leadership and committee members also led several sessions aimed at familiarizing attendees with the association’s programs and other efforts, including vendor and operation accreditation, certification programs, standards development, and more.
Some of the most attended sessions covered risk management and incident trends. For example, Robert Monaghan of Hibbs-Hallmark teamed up with Cameron Annas and Ruthie Rivers of Granite Insurance to present incident data from the past five years. The two insurers pooled their data, and had it analyzed by researchers at Appalachian State University. It revealed some interesting trends, especially relating to the sources of claims (passenger vehicle claims account for the most losses in dollars of any other type, for example). A copy of the data presented at this session is available here.
The tradeshow had 47 exhibiting companies. There weren’t as many elaborate booths, but the layout made it feel busy during open hours. And amid all of the networking and business on Friday night, the ACCT Olympics were held right in the middle of the tradeshow hall. The Olympics are always a well-received injection of entertainment, and this year spectators gathered at the center of the tradeshow to view the athletic antics, including the cable whip, paper airplane contest, and other creative team-building events.
At the awards banquet on Saturday night, AdventureWorks vice president Dr. Kathy Haras was named as this year’s recipient of the Critical Link Award, the highest honor presented by ACCT.
Next year’s ACCT International Conference and Expo will be held in Portland, Ore., Feb. 9-12, 2023. The host venue is the Hyatt Regency Portland at the Oregon Convention Center.