5 Waterpark Industry Takeaways from IAAPA Expo 2021

Waterpark Industry Trends from IAAPA Expo 2021

Missed IAAPA Expo 2021? Here’s what you need to know.

After more than a year of social distancing and remote work, almost every in-person gathering—no matter how small—feels like a triumph. The first meal at a restaurant. The first day back at the office. The first networking event. While none of these “firsts” would have been considered milestones a few years ago, they’re all reasons to celebrate in 2021.

For us, face-to-face meetings are far more impactful than screen-to-screen ones. That’s part of the reason why we had a blast at IAAPA Expo 2021. While webinars offer another venue for lead nurturing and prospect education, they don’t afford many of the added benefits of in-person events, such as impromptu networking between educational sessions and getting to know passersby because they were drawn to your booth’s design.

The IAAPA Expo gathers global attractions industry professionals, buyers, and decision-makers at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, for five days of industry programming and networking opportunities. IAAPA Expo 2021 brought 878 exhibiting companies, 21,026 qualified buyers, and 28,229 total registrants to the Sunshine State. Spread out over more than 375,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibiting space, participants beheld the newest amusement park and waterpark products and services from November 15 to November 19.

In this post, we outline our takeaways from IAAPA Expo 2021, keeping a finger on the pulse of where waterparks are at—and where they’re heading in 2022.

Daryl Matzke and Eric Kaul stand at Ramaker's booth at IAAPA Expo 2021
Daryl Matzke and Eric Kaul represented Ramaker at IAAPA Expo 2021.

5 key observations from IAAPA Expo 2021


In-person trade shows are back! But the return of conferences doesn’t mean everything is back to normal. How are businesses—and the attractions industry at large—approaching major trade shows in 2021? Here are five trends the Ramaker aquatics team is monitoring.


Guests are returning to waterparks


After the pandemic temporarily shuttered local pools and waterparks in 2020, guests were eager to return to their favorite lazy rivers and waterslides in 2021. As the global attractions industry continues its recovery, many parks and suppliers are introducing new features to capitalize on their patrons’ current enthusiasm. This trend was apparent at IAAPA Expo 2021, as exhibiting parks and suppliers advertised brand new attractions and previewed forthcoming features for 2022.

You can read more about what Ramaker’s aquatics team has in the works here.


Conference attendance didn’t quite return to pre-pandemic numbers


To attend or not to attend?

Much to the chagrin of trade show fanatics, this question still looms large in the attractions industry. With the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus and regional travel restrictions in place, businesses still must navigate a variety of tricky issues to reach the convention floor. Attendance numbers from IAAPA Expo 2021 showed that not everyone is comfortable returning to in-person conferences just yet. Registration fell short of the attendance figures from IAAPA Expo 2019, the organization’s last in-person show.

New features for 2022: Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park recently announced the addition of Medusa's SlideWheel.

Buyers mean business


Here’s the good news: Lower attendance doesn’t mean that attendees aren’t motivated to buy. In fact, Ramaker’s aquatics team members perceived an increase in urgency from buyers who were eager to explore the latest waterpark technology and attractions at IAAPA Expo 2021. Higher than expected buyer confidence is good news for businesses evaluating potential ROI on their trade show efforts. Despite the many challenges of trade show marketing in 2021, many vendors are still able to reach the right people at the right time and place.


Visitor experience matters more than ever for exhibitors


Anyone who has exhibited at a major trade show will tell you that a lot of sweat and hard work goes into building your company’s booth. It makes sense. Booth appeal can help businesses convert innocent passersby into sales qualified leads. But the most important thing you can build at an event like IAAPA Expo 2021 isn’t a booth or a marketing display. It’s a meaningful relationship with another waterpark industry professional.

There’s nothing like eating hot dogs with clients and colleagues between educational sessions or getting reacquainted with project partners during a waterpark industry social. Visitor experience matters. And prioritizing visitor experience often means making a point of having fun.


Screen fatigue is real—but don’t expect virtual events to go away


Businesses and organizations like IAAPA adapted during the pandemic, offering virtual experiences and scaling up their online events to keep businesses connected with customers and leads, even when they couldn’t meet in person. While IAAPA Expo 2021 was hosted as an exclusively in-person event, don’t expect all industry trade shows to follow suit. Hybrid events, or trade shows that offer virtual attendance options, are on the rise.

Planning aquatic design projects for 2022?

Ramaker’s extensive aquatic engineering and design portfolio has established the firm as a trusted partner of waterparks across the nation. The firm’s recent waterpark engineering work includes Tsunami Surge at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Chicago, winner of a 2021 Leading Edge Award from the World Waterpark Association, and Medusa’s SlideWheel at Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park, North America’s first rotating waterslide.

For more information about Ramaker’s aquatic design capabilities, contact aquatics@ramaker.com. Stay up to date with all aquatics news from Ramaker on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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