The WWA Symposium & Trade Show took place in New Orleans, Louisiana, in October, with visitors from 23 countries making the journey to the 36th edition of the annual event.
More than 1,500 waterpark owners, operators, developers, suppliers and designers were in attendance, an 8 per cent increase on the previous year. As well as American waterpark professionals, people travelled from as far as Australia, China, Southeast Asia, South America, the Middle East and Europe to be at the four-day event.
“It’s incredibly exciting to see how much the waterpark industry continues to expand on a global scale,” says Rick Root, WWA president. “With new projects in China, Turkey, the US, the UAE and beyond, we know that our show attendees came to hear from the best in the industry and uncover new ways to advance their businesses.”
The organisers also debuted an app that would help people make connections and plan their activities during the show.
“This year we launched the WWA Show app. Before, during and after the show, WWA attendees were chatting, sharing pictures, making dinner plans, beginning new friendships and generally enriching their show experience,” says Aleatha Ezra, WWA director of park member development.
As ever, the WWA conference thread covered a wide range of topics, including guest safety, operational excellence, quality customer service and employee training. Seminars were well attended and interactive, presented by a selection of respected industry speakers.
Breakout sessions focused on trending topics, such as developments in water treatment, understanding the new FSLA law, employing trackable marketing strategies, improving lifeguard vigilance, hiring, training and retaining employees and motivating people to lead.
“Continuous improvement is the name of the game,” says Evan Barnett, general manager at Typhoon Texas in Katy, Texas. “As we are faced with many challenges throughout the season, the WWA Show is the ideal place to collaborate, brainstorm and reflect with other top quality industry leaders. We always leave energised and ready to take on another season.”
There was also a keynote speech on leadership from motivational speaker and former College footballer Aaron Davis – known as “the expert on attitude” and “the enthusiastor” – who gave attendees food for thought from a non-industry perspective.
“What are your HPAs?” he asked the audience. “High-Payoff-Activities. Those things that you and your teammates should be doing each day to elevate your customers’ experience in your park.”
The trade show showcased products from 360 different companies, including a number of new exhibitors such as Surf 9, the company behind the wetsuit brand Body Glove, and Sentag, who promoted a new drowning prevention wristband.
The WWA Show recognises waterpark industry legends when it inducts people into its Hall of Fame. They can receive the honour for a variety of reasons, such as leading the way in safety, leadership or innovation and creativity.
Three people joined the WWA Hall of Fame for 2016: PR guru Tom Bergman of Bergman Communications, Roger Currie, sales director at Neuman Aqua and Steve Loose, general manager at Hyland Hills Water World in Denver, Colorado.
The WWA Board of Directors awarded a number of suppliers for their innovations over the past 12 months with its Leading Edge Award. The list of winners included ProSlide, for Cyclone Saucers at Beech Bend Park & Splash Lagoon in Bowling Green, Kentucky; Aquatic Development Group for Cowabunga Beach at Hyland Hills Water World; Murphys Waves for the development of Surf-Air; Polin Waterparks for artistic theming of waterslides, and WhiteWater West for Massiv at Schlitterbahn Galveston Island, Texas.
The industry’s best marketing campaigns were recognised with the Wave awards.
“The marketing professionals in the waterpark industry continue to dazzle us with their creativity and innovative campaigns both in print and through social media channels,” says Ezra. “We are thrilled to be able recognise the work of so many parks that are using such inspiring approaches to building relationships with waterpark customers.”
Winners included Splash Zone in Wildwood, New Jersey; Wild Wadi in Dubai, UAE; Hurricane Alley in Corpus Christi, Texas; Vana Nava in Hua Hin, Thailand; Wet ‘n’ Wild Phoenix in Arizona, and Splash Kingdoms in Hudson Oaks and Canton, both in Texas.
The 2017 WWA Symposium & Trade Show has been announced for 16 to 19 October at West Palm Beach, Florida.
“West Palm Beach delivers for our attendees on so many levels,” says Root. “The weather is beautiful, our headquarters hotel Hilton West Palm Beach is affordable, accessible and practically brand new and we have an amazing waterpark partner located nearby. What could be better for 2017?”