IAAPA Expo Europe – An Interview with Peter van der Schans

Posted: 31 August 2022

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo Europe will be held in London, United Kingdom (UK) from 12-15 September, 2022. We spoke to the Executive Director and Vice President for IAAPA EMEA, Peter van Der Schans 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 the IAAPA Expo Europe 2022?

A celebration of the industry, IAAPA Expo Europe is where thousands of leisure professionals gather to learn what’s new and trending. With hundreds of exhibitors set to showcase their innovations, an education conference packed with insights on sustainability, guest experience, technology combined with Special Events and EDUTours, this year’s expo promises to be one of our best.

How will this year’s Expo Europe in the UK be different from the previous ones?

First and foremost, this is IAAPA’s first time back to the UK in more than a decade. We’re getting to celebrate our annual premier gathering in the same year as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration. This year won’t be different in the sense that we will be offering a brand-new event, but this is my first IAAPA Expo Europe as the Executive Director and Vice President for IAAPA EMEA.

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.

This year's IAAPA Expo has a zoo and aquarium panel. What are your expectations from the panel?
  • Highlight the importance of the zoo and aquarium market within the industry
  • Zoos as a real destination, capable of responding to modern standard guest expectations
  • Can zoos balance the fun and the education in their design and experience?
  • Future of zoos: connect and engage with the audience, how evolve and role of modern conservation programs
  • Role of certification – a panelist from a certification organisation will debate the pros and cons of certification. Not all zoos are certified or have different certifications
Why is the IAAPA Expo Europe relevant for the zoo and aquarium community?

Zoos and Aquariums welcome millions of visitors annually and are an essential part of the legacy and the industry. And like other members of the global attractions industry, zoo and aquarium leaders know the importance of the entire guest experience. IAAPA Expo Europe showcases exhibitors that touch every part of that experience from entrance moments to points of sale to guest extras.

Given your experience of working in a zoo, how do you think zoos and aquariums fit into your overall plan of expanding IAAPA’s membership?

WAZA and EAZA both do a great job on topics like conservation, animal welfare and sustainability. That’s really their expertise and we will never even try to go there. It’s not our strength. The topics they work with are focused on zookeepers, curators, designers and education. These are, by far, the most important topics for zoos, but there is also the operational aspect of running a zoo: F&B, routing, ticketing, merchandise, storytelling, theming and even more and more: rides, slides, events and playgrounds. Those topics are our expertise. That’s what we focus on. I think employees who are responsible for these topics should become involved with IAAPA and learn, but also teach, network, get inspired and inspire us.

IAAPA Expo
How can the IAAPA Expo help zoos and aquariums facilitate their key areas of focus such as conservation, conservation education and animal welfare?

Outside of IAAPA Expo Europe, IAAPA’s Zoos and Aquariums Committee helps develop programmes to provide services to and recruit zoo and aquarium members. At the show, we serve as the team to create moments that foster genuine connection and networking that brings together professions in that zoo and aquarium fields.

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?

While we do not have anything officially scheduled, we are looking to plan a zoo event in the Netherlands. Zoo and aquarium leaders are always encouraged to engage with IAAPA and our expo events to gain access to relevant training and to connect with others for information sharing that ultimately improves their business.

How do you think IAAPA and WAZA can collaborate more going forward?

There are things we can never do better than WAZA and there are things WAZA can never do better than IAAPA. I think we should work together and acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses. It would be great if we can work together with WAZA for example on a Zoo Day for our IAAPA Expo Europe 2023 in Vienna. And maybe IAAPA can help with education and inspiration on more operational zoo topics during the next WAZA conference.

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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