IAAPA Expo Europe – An Interview with Jakob Wahl

Posted: 20 September 2021

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo Europe is coming to Barcelona, Spain from 27-30 September. We spoke to IAAPA’s Vice-President and Executive Director Jakob Wahl about the upcoming Expo and why it is of interest to zoos and aquariums. IAAPA is a WAZA Affiliate Member.

Can you tell us more about IAAPA Expo Europe?

IAAPA Expo Europe is the largest international conference and trade show for the leisure and attractions industry in the Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) region.

Exhibiting companies display their latest products and services, demonstrating what’s new for industry owners and operators across all lines of business. During the Expo, participants can also take part in exclusive education sessions, including behind-the-scenes EDUTours at some of the area’s attractions and presentations by some of Europe’s leading operators.

Why did you choose Barcelona, Spain, as the city for the IAAPA Europe Expo?

IAAPA is excited to bring IAAPA Expo Europe back to Barcelona. We last brought Expo to Barcelona in 2016. The city is a favorite for our exhibitors and attendees, plus Barcelona offers many unique destinations and attractions. A huge part of the IAAPA Expo Europe experience does take place beyond the conference center itself, and Barcelona offers a great deal for all our participants to experience and enjoy.

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain
You are the Vice President and Executive Director of IAAPA Europe, Middle East and Africa. Since the Expo is called IAAPA Europe, should we expect to meet only companies from these regions? Or is it an international event?

IAAPA hosts three international events annually: IAAPA Expo Asia, IAAPA Expo Europe and IAAPA Expo in the United States. We host these global events to allow greater ease for IAAPA members connect and do business with each other. In addition, we’re always excited to highlight our respected industry in vibrant cities around the world.

This is our first Expo since 2019 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we understand travel restrictions remain in place, however we have global exhibitors and attendees taking part.

My job is to primarily serve members throughout the EMEA region. We host smaller, regional events around EMEA, and while IAAPA Expo Europe is certainly our largest event – in no way is Expo limited to only industry professionals from our area.

Who normally attends and participates in this Expo?

Leisure and cultural attraction industry leaders, decision makers, owners and operators from all segments of the industry attend and participate in IAAPA Expo Europe. This includes manufacturers and suppliers, and the owners and operators of theme and amusement parks, water parks, family entertainment centers, zoos, aquariums, camping facilities, cruise lines, science centers, shopping centers, real estate developers, museums, resorts, and more. We love having WAZA members attend, as well, and we have sessions aimed at facilities with animals in their professional care.

The leisure and attractions industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. Many events have been cancelled in the past 18 months. How has the pandemic affected IAAPA as well as the Expo?

None of us expected to go through a global pandemic, and certainly we did not expect to still be dealing with it 18 months later. As I shared, IAAPA Expo Europe will be the first Expo IAAPA has hosted since 2019. We are ready and eager to fully bring the industry together again.

Even though IAAPA had to cancel many events because of the impact of COVID-19, the association did not slow down. We remained focused on serving our members and have been advocating on their behalf to local and federal governments; created Task Groups to create Reopening Guidance and Protocols to assist facilities ready to safely reopen; and have continued to work alongside members, helping to address their needs.

For the zoo and aquarium community, why is IAAPA Expo Europe relevant

The zoo and aquarium community is an important part of the global attractions industry and an engaged part of IAAPA’s membership. Zoos and aquariums are worried about many of the same issues the rest of the industry is: sustainability, staffing, per caps, repeat visitation, and planning for the future. Many of our education sessions address these issues.

We are honoured WAZA’s Director of Membership, Janet Ho, is one of our speakers this year. She will be taking part in the session, “How Zoos are Changing: Animals as Part of an Experience” and discussing how zoos are innovating and provide new experiences to engage visitors beyond passive viewing of animals. Zoom Torino is hosting this unique session. In addition, several of our talented exhibitors are entrusted by zoos and aquariums across the globe to design and build inspiring new habitats and exhibits.

How can IAAPA Expo help zoos and aquariums facilitate their missions such as conservation or conservation education?

As a global association, IAAPA is about connections. We focus on connecting members with each other, and support the sharing of ideas, best practices, key learnings, and more. IAAPA Expo Europe is an incredible time to connect – and after all we have faced during the last 18 months – reconnect.

Zoos and aquariums will see new products and services on the tradeshow floor that can aid in their efforts to reduce cost, generate less waste, and increase profit. They can also take part in education sessions and learn from fellow attendees about trends in sustainability, customer service, and connecting with today’s customer. These issues and topics affect and impact all attractions.

What other opportunities and events will there be in the future for the global zoo and aquarium community to engage with IAAPA and the IAAPA Expos?

As I shared earlier, zoos and aquariums are an important member constituency at IAAPA. The Global Zoo and Aquarium Committee works with the IAAPA team to bring important issues forward. The zoo and aquarium leaders on this committee address themes and topics important to those members with animals in their care throughout the year with IAAPA Webinars, articles in Funworld, and other ways to educate and engage. IAAPA also continues to create and provide member exclusive resources, such as the “Animals in Professional Care Toolkit” to help members work through critical issues facing facilities with animals.

IAAPA Expo, which will take place in November in Orlando, Florida, will once again host the Zoo and Aquarium Day, complete with focused education sessions and an experience at SeaWorld Orlando.

First though, we have IAAPA Expo Europe. And we look forward to welcoming zoos and aquariums from the EMEA region to Barcelona.

Is there a message you would like to share with the global zoo and aquarium community?

Thank you for providing for the animals in your care. Zoos and aquariums around the world offer the opportunity to inspire guests about animals. Such inspiration leads to education and action to protect our natural resources. IAAPA is inspired by the work you all do, and we are here to help provide support, connection, resources, and community through the entire global attractions industry. Together we are united in our goal to provide safe, memorable experiences for guests of all ages.

To learn more about the IAAPA Expo Europe, please visit the IAAPA website here

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums, dedicated to the care and conservation of animals and their habitats around the world.

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