Nine miles of aisles of rocking rides, super-sized inflatables, and a preview of the future through virtual reality goggles are just some of the enticements at the 98th annual Attractions Expo.
More than 30,000 buyers and engineers from amusement parks, water parks, family entertainment centers, zoos, aquariums, science centers, museums, and resorts jammed the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo at the Orange County Convention Center, which runs through Friday.
Grown men took off their suit jackets to climb ropes courses and women kicked off their heels to dance in an inflatable disco with neon lights and surround sound. Both the north and south concourses of the convention center and an outdoor area were packed with amusement park rides and the latest technology that keeps luring visitors back to theme parks.
“What makes IAAPA unique is that competitors have a willingness to share their practices and make this industry stronger across the entire world,” said Greg Hale, a Disney engineer who created the FastPass system and was named IAAPA’s 2017 chairman of the board.
IAAPA, which promotes the $39 billion attractions industry, is relocating its headquarters from Alexandria, Virginia to Orlando next year. Their annual event, with more than 1,000 exhibitors from 100 countries — 150 of those from the Sunshine State — is expected to generate $51.3 million for the Central Florida area.
“We’re excited IAAPA chose Orlando and Orange County for their home,” said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. “The average person like me, who visits a theme park with four kids, walks away with a lifetime of memories but does not know what goes into the development of such an important fabric of our lives.”