The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) has a new president, with Michael Mercadante, president of US-based experience design firm Main Street Design, taking up the position in November 2018.
Part of the TEA for a nearly a decade and a member of the organisation’s board since 2012, Mercadante revealed his plan to take the association to the “next level” during his term as TEA president.
“In broad strokes, it means implementing best practices that position the association to remain viable into the future, building and protecting our brand, and upholding standards of excellence for the industry,” he says.
“The TEA is maturing – in a few years, our organisation will hit the 30-year mark. Today we’re in a strong position to embark on a new phase of long-term planning.”
Mercadante succeeds David Willrich, who completed his second term as president in November after taking the position in 2016. During his time at the helm of the TEA, Willrich worked to create a “truly global” TEA, introducing new educational events such as SATE Europe.
“David worked hard to bolster the visibility and involvement of the TEA Europe and Middle East Division members and region and get more exposure for TEA in the burgeoning Asia Pacific markets,” says Mercadante. “I have no doubt he will now be a very supportive immediate past president. TEA past presidents tend to stay involved after their terms are completed, and the TEA Past Presidents Committee is a great resource.”
Over the course of 2019, the TEA has more than 100 events planned across its regional divisions, each supporting professional development, education and networking. With Willrich building a strong foundation for the events taking place in every corner of the globe, Mercadante will be keen to continue and improve upon this.
“A huge benefit of TEA membership is the access to people, places, discussions and venues we provide,” he says. “It’s just as important for established industry members as for NextGen members, with our offerings reflecting the needs of the community we serve.”
Beyond education, Mercadante is planning to increase the TEA’s presence in each of its world regions, growing them even further and expanding the association, though according to the new president, geography is not the only measure: “The industry is evolving and diversifying in terms of market sectors, types of projects, guest expectations and business culture,” says Mercadante. “My own background puts me in an ideal position to help expand the conversation within the museum and zoo communities and to grow the TEA’s presence in those communities around the world. There are many business spaces in need of what TEA members can do in terms of storytelling, placemaking and compelling experiences.”
In terms of his new position, Mercadante describes this new opportunity as his chance to “give back in a big way”.
“We will all work together to help TEA become an ever-richer resource - to help plan and shape its future – its best future – to serve the members and enrich the industry,” he explains.
As the sector thrives, what is it for the new TEA president that excites him most about themed entertainment?
“It never stands still,” he says. “We’re compelled to grow and innovate always.”