IAAPA Expo 2023 | review of attractions event in Orlando

IAAPA Expo 2023 took place from 13 – 17 November at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Organised by IAAPA, the global association for the attractions industry, this annual event is an opportunity for professionals from across different sectors of the business to network, learn, and discover new products and services.

36,173 attraction professionals were present, and 26,453 of those were qualified buyers representing 18,135 buying companies. On the trade show floor, there were 9,961 exhibitors from 1,147 companies. The event showcased the newest developments and trends in the attractions sector, set over 550,000 square feet of exhibition space.

IAAPA 2023 show floor

“I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the thousands of dedicated attractions professionals who make IAAPA Expo the thriving global community it is today,” says Jakob Wahl, president and chief executive officer for IAAPA.

“Your passion and dedication to continuously innovate and share best practices is what makes this event so special. It is wonderful to see everyone collaborate for the good of the attractions industry and bring joy and smiles to millions of guests all around the world.”

Opening ceremony

The show floor opened on Tuesday 14 November at 10 am. Ahead of this, attendees gathered for the Opening Ceremony in the Simtec Systems, Inc. sponsored IAAPA Theatre.

The ceremony featured a variety of high-energy entertainment to set the tone for the week, as well as video recaps showing notable projects.

Michael Shelton, executive director and vice president for IAAPA North America, also addressed the crowd. He encouraged them to “explore the entire nine miles of show floor aisles and the numerous education opportunities Expo offers.” He then described the Expo as a “place we can all come together and celebrate our remarkable accomplishments.

The baton was passed on from the outgoing chair of the board of directors, Jim Pattison Jr. of Ripley Entertainment, to the incoming chair, Wuthichai Luangamornlert of Siam Park Bangkok.

Education sessions at IAAPA Expo 2023

Monday 13 November

Beyond blockbuster exhibitions

IAAPA Expo 2023 began on Monday 13 November with a packed schedule of panels, presentations and discussions. Highlights included a session called Beyond the Blockbuster: Exploring New Platforms for Visitor Experiences. This featured insights from Jeffrey Wyatt, of the National Geographic Society and Bobbie Oakley from the Museum of Science in Boston, as well as Cynthia Brown of Museum EXP and Cloé St-Cyr from Moment Factory.

Beyond the Blockbuster- Exploring New Platforms for Visitor Experiences

Oakley spoke about how the Museum of Science in Boston opened a gallery on AI. She also talked about a travelling exhibition on changing landscapes, which looks at climate change through the lens of UNESCO heritage sites. She touched on the rapid pace of change in the science world and how museums need to be able to deliver new and evolving content more effectively.

St-Cry reflected on projects that Moment Factory has worked on with Boston’s Museum of Science, including Arctic Adventure. This uses digital projections to transport visitors to the Arctic, showing how it changes throughout the year. She also explored how firms like Moment Factory can support museums to develop their own experiences, simplifying complex multi-input systems for museums and enabling them to create meaningful and engaging experiences.

Wyatt then presented insights from the upcoming National Geographic’s Base Camp education centre which will feature an immersive mapping room. This mapping room was built around the flexibility to have multiple shows, projections, data overlays, sound and a reactive floor. It can serve as a venue for live explorer talks.

Exploring emerging tech

In Emerging Technologies: What’s Next in Immersive Experiences? attendees heard from Stephane Battaille of AlterfacePeter McGowan of Ozone, Todd Richins from Meow Wolf, Mel McGowan of Storyland Studios and Chris Conte from Electrosonic. Together, they presented examples of new technologies in use in the attractions world. These ranged from Super Nintendo World’s wearable tech to SeaWorld Abu Dhabi’s FacePass system.

Mel McGowan also reflected on the blurring of the lines between traditional attraction categories. He observed that things like theme parks and zoos or aquariums are no longer distinct, separate categories.

emerging tech at IAAPA Expo 2023

Battaille talked about how new technologies such as RFID and gesture tracking can allow guests to interact with attractions in new ways, looking at the blending of digital and physical worlds. Alterface and Storyland Studios are both working on the new Ubisoft Entertainment Center. They discussed how to use technology to bring the video game publisher’s IPs into the real world.

Then, talking about Electrosonic’s approach to emerging immersive tech, Conte said the firm’s role is to find technologies and make sure they are ready for prime time. He also spoke about how the Sphere in Las Vegas is a game changer in terms of the way that technology enhances the guest experience. In addition, he highlighted what he called ‘incredible’ dome tech from Cosm.

From Meow Wolf, Richins pointed out that technology needs to enhance the exploration of a space, saying:

“We don’t want you to just experience a thing and set it aside, we want to open up new ways in which you think and perceive the world around you.” He also teased a new Meow Wolf app coming soon.

Low cap experiences

In Low Cap Experiences: Small Investment, Big Reward, attendees heard from Jenefer Brown of Lionsgate, Abby Bysshe from the Franklin Institute and Brian Morrow of B Morrow Productions, as well as Melody Silverman from Hasbro and Niko Nickolaou from Gaylord Hotels. They explored past projects and gave insights on lessons that they had learned along the way.

Examples included seasonal events at the Franklin, such as Franklin Fright and Franklin Frost, as well as the upgrade of its electricity exhibit which created new narratives around older content. Morrow talked about how to reinvent older spaces with new paint, using Walibi Germany as an example. He also discussed the appeal of ‘secret’ elements to keep guests coming back for more, such as the Bürgermeister’s Hideaway secret bar at Busch Gardens.

escape blair witch
Escape Blair Witch

Brown looked at IP-based escape rooms, such as the Saw Escape and Escape Blair Witch, as well as things like Monopoly Lifesized. She said that the key is to find existing content and innovate/do something differently.

Nickolaou explored some easy ways to push guests through underutilised spaces, for instance with events like scavenger hunts. He also talked about how overlay theming can shift audiences. He explained how the rooftop bar at Gaylord National featured an overlay to drive kids and families up there, with arcade games as well as Instagram-worthy milkshakes.

Silverman touched on the value of Instagrammable moments, such as the Pokémon Go fest in New York, to add more immersion and marketability. It offers a simple opportunity for people to have a magical moment.

High performing arcades

During Anatomy of a High-performing Arcade, attendees heard from Frank Licausi of Amusement Connect, Greg Trent of Beyer and Brown, Joe Herbert from Betson Enterprises and Don MacBrayne, Decisive Consulting Management.

The panellists discussed the importance of the game mix, incorporating video amusement games, merchandisers and redemption games, as well as other attractions like XD theatres, mini-bowling, VR and more. MacBrayne advised: “You can’t be everything to everybody – focus on your target demographic.”

They also explored the trend for non-attended or low labour games and attractions, as well as nostalgic games, revitalised IP franchises like Raw Thrills’ Godzilla VR which launched at the show and connected leader boards.


We also heard from Ray Smegal of ProSlide TechnologyLori Gogel from Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari and James Anderson of FORREC at IAAPA Expo 2023. They discussed Accessibility and Inclusivity in Water Park Planning & Design.

disability stats IAAPA Expo 2023 edusession

1 in 4 Americans have a type of disability, and 1 in 20 have sensory issues. The economic impact of disability travel is $58.7 billion, the session revealed. The panellists all spoke about the importance of everyone being able to enjoy water parks. They talked about good examples of accessible design but also emphasised that there is still work to be done.

Designers should add layers of spaces so that different guests have the choice of viewing the action from outside or joining in if they want.

Guest feedback

In Closing the Loop: Managing Guest Feedback at Every Point Along the Circle, Kevin McNultyBen Story from Avius and Josh Liebman from AttractionPros gave some useful insights.

guest feedback session at IAAPA 2023

On public negative reviews, they made the point that you are not replying to just that negative review. You are replying to everyone reading that review. Visitors are heavily influenced by online reviews and social media. So, it’s important not to just repeat the same reply each time – take action and close the loop.

The panellists also talked about how strengthening relationships with guests can influence positive word-of-mouth. Therefore, optimising the feedback loop will be valuable. Every single guest who visits should have the ability to leave feedback. The more feedback you get, the more chances there are to identify failures and act on them.


In Shall We Play a Game? Using Gamification In Your Experiences, delegates heard from Meghan Gardner of Guardian Adventures, Anna Slafer from the International Spy MuseumJason Veal of Sugar Creative, Elisabeth Garson from Steel Owl and Ed Cookson of Sarner International Ltd.

Garson talked about games and experiences for museums and cultural institutions, such as escape games, AR/VR, and popups, making the point that content and experience have merged, and experience has replaced passive observation. Gardner touched on LARPs (Live Action Role-Play) and library invasions.

Sarner Assassin's Creed Valhalla Winchester

Veal and Cookson focused on the immersive 878 AD attraction in Winchester, UK. This was a collaboration between Sarner International, Hampshire Cultural Trust, Ubisoft and Sugar Creative. It brings a key moment in the city’s Anglo-Saxon history to life, through the world of the Assassin’s Creed video game.

The result was a massive uptake of target visitors, as the project included lots of experiences and historical facts/storytelling for the whole family. The team recreated 9th-century Winchester using Ubisoft’s existing asset library and research.

Tuesday 14 November

In a Sponsor Spotlight, Ben Thompson of Storyland Studios gave a roundup of current projects. This includes Storyville Gardens in Tennessee and a new studio city in Lagos called Kebulania. Jeff Damron also talked about sustainability. He said that this is a key consideration right from the start of all Storyland projects. Looking at trends, Tyler Rizzo spoke about the new giga-projects underway in Saudi Arabia. He said that projects like Neom will change what entertainment can mean.

Storyville Gardens
Storyville Gardens

Marlene Toussaint then spoke about her experience of joining the company. She explored how it is connecting people through its core values.

CAVU Designwerks also held a Sponsor Spotlight session on Tuesday afternoon. During this, president Mark Stepanian highlighted some of the firm’s latest innovations and its partnership with KUKA. He spoke about how CAVU’s core tenet is innovation, and how it has a young team that is adept at problem-solving in the field of engineering.

The guest experience is key for CAVU, he added, saying:

“We start at the beginning by asking customers: what do you want your guests to feel?” He also teased that there will be more new products revealed next year, including a unique flat ride concept.

Sustainability summit

David Rosenberg, vice president of Monterey Bay Aquarium, hosted the IAAPA Expo Sustainability Summit 2023 with speakers including Kim McIntyre of Aquarium Conservation Partnership; Jeff Fromm of Lane Terralever; IAAPA’s Jakob Wahl; Choni Fernandez, director of central services and sustainability at PortAventura World and Ken Whiting, president of Whitings Foods.

Wahl set out IAAPA’s progress on a sustainability strategy: “We can’t preach to you if we don’t clean up our own home.”

IAAPA 2023 Sustainability Panel

Fernandez has led PortAventura through its impressive journey to become the first carbon-neutral theme park, adoption of Science Based Targets and most recently achieving B-Corp status. Her advice is to aim for “slow but consistent progress with small goals” which you should then “adopt into your organisation’s DNA”.

IDEA Roundtable

The IDEA (Inclusivity Diversity Equity Accessibility) Roundtable took place in the afternoon.

Panellists include Clara Rice from Adirondack StudiosRomee Popelier of RP Rides; Pamela Landwirth from Give Kids the World; Steve Bell and Sharon Parker from Gateway Ticketing Systems, Inc.; Nicolle Figueroa Rosada from the Big Break Foundation; Genein Letford of CAFFE Strategies, LLC; Adrea Gibbs of Alriginal Productions LLC; Evan Forman of Palace EntertainmentKathryn Woodcock from Toronto Metropolitan University; Timothy Van De BiltNatalie Nielsen; Eric Hawkins, graduate student at the University of Denver; Myron Pincomb of IBCCES and Nick Taylor from Masterminds Studios.

With rounds of questions to encourage candid conversation, this was an opportunity to share and discuss current directives and ways that the industry can support inclusivity, diversity, equality and accessibility.

Dynamic Pricing

Andy Povey of Convious led an EDUSession called Demystifying Dynamic Pricing later in the afternoon.

Convious EDUSession IAAPA 2023

He began by explaining different dynamic pricing strategies, including schedule-based pricing and RTP. Dynamic pricing allows operators to adjust their prices depending on environmental factors, like seasonality and market conditions, and on strategic factors, meaning they can optimise for revenue, to maximise sales, or to ensure even visitor distribution.

Talking about why more attractions are switching to dynamic pricing, Povey explained that customers both like and expect it. It has been prevalent in the travel industry, including hotels and airlines, for some time now. He also presented a case study from Plopsaland, outlining the attraction’s success with dynamic pricing. By embracing technology, the operator was able to streamline operations, gain clear insights and data, and make future revenue predictions. The park was also able to even out its visitor distribution.

Raven Sun Creative‘s Louis Alfieri presented Benchmarking as a Superpower: 10 Principles for Perfecting Your Performance. In this session, attendees could gain insights into what to look for when benchmarking around the world. They could also learn about the creative, technological, operational, economic and audience factors to study.

Wednesday 15 November

Interactive guest experiences

On Wednesday morning at IAAPA Expo 2023, Logan Zawacki of Sally Dark RidesTodd Hougland from Ripley Entertainment Inc., Eric Bertch of Lost Island ThemeparkJeff Hornich from SeaWorld and Etienne Sainton from Alterface spoke in Interactive Guest Experiences – What is Being Offered Now, and What Can Guests Expect in the Future.

This session looked at some examples of interactive tech, from interactive walkthroughs and RFID wristbands to AR and VR. Case studies from SeaWorld’s Sesame Street Land and Lost Island were featured.


Ben Story of Avius explored How Online Surveys Should Be Used As We Head Into 2024 and… Are QR Codes Dead? He said that there is a decline in online survey completion. He also said that this method of getting guest feedback tends to result in polarised results. People will often only fill out a survey if they have had a very good or a very bad experience.

Avius edusession IAAPA 2023

Following this, Austin Lemaster of accesso presented an Introduction to eCommerce Optimization. After outlining the reasons why operators should focus on eCommerce optimisation, he set out the best ways to plan and prepare. His advice was to decide what you want to maximise (e.g. quantity of tickets sold, average transaction value), identify areas that have potential, and then decide what method to test with.

In the afternoon, there was another series of Sponsor Spotlights. In the first one, ROLLER looked at How Data-Driven Tech Drives Business Growth and Helps Deliver World-Class Experiences. This included a case study from Bounce Inc. The session also explained that today’s operators have realised how critical data is. So, they are asking questions about how to leverage data to make smarter decisions, integrate multiple systems to drive efficiency and manage rising operational costs.

The team also explained:

“The truth is, more data isn’t necessarily more valuable if you don’t know what to do with it and your systems don’t support your operational goals.”

Edu session IAAPA accesso

Next, in its Sponsor Spotlight session, accesso explored The Psychology of Queuing: From Frustration to Fulfillment. Andrew Jacobs talked about some common queue stressors. He also outlined top priorities for a better guest experience, including the perceived ‘fairness’ of the queue, the predictability of the wait time, and the level of control guests feel they have over their wait.

To improve the guest experience, he recommended that operators eliminate the guesswork by implementing things like real-time updates, curating fair, predictable and controllable queues, giving guests options, gamifying the queue, and ensuring guests’ comfort. He also introduced accesso’s Qview Automated Line Management.

In another Spotlight Session, Hasbro discussed Location-Based Entertainment: The Evolution of Branded Experiences. Matt Proulx talked about the rise of branded experience in the experience economy, exploring how emotion can be a currency. Branded experiences, like Hasbro’s Monopoly Lifesized and the Peppa Pig Theme Park, enable it to keep its brand relevant and accessible, day in, and day out.

monopoly lifesized
Monopoly Lifesize, London

For example, the Peppa Pig Theme Park in Florida unlocked cross-promotional opportunities with the official Peppa Pig social media pages. It was also used for filming content for a larger Peppa Pig brand digital campaign.

Annual Legends Panel

The IAAPA Expo Legends Panel for 2023 focused on Universal Beijing Resort: “The Untold Story of Triumph Over Trying Times; COVID, Lockdowns, Quarantines, And More”. Led by Bob Rogers, founder and chief creative officer of BRC Imagination Arts, the panel comprised Mike Hightower, retired president of Universal Creative; Sylvia Hase, president of Hasbas Entertainment; and Tom Mehrmann, president & chief operating officer, Pacific Rim of Universal Destinations and Experiences.

IAAPA 2023 Legends Panel

This was a fascinating session with many takeaways from the panel gleaned from delivering a world-class theme park during a global pandemic with no relaxation on budget or timeline. Mehrmann explained that the difficulties encountered became challenges to innovate:

“The Chinese symbol for opportunity is the same as the symbol for chaos. Every crisis is an opportunity and we kept looking for them with regular reviews.”

His advice was to “control the controllable and keep things in perspective.”

Thursday 16 November

In Emerging AI Trends in the Attractions & Theme Park Industry, attendees heard from Michael Libby of WorldbuildrDaniel Childs, real-time 3D designer at Katapult, Scott Simmons from ScareHouse, Angie Judge of Dexibit and Brad Weinstein of Newbridge.

Judge talked about how machine learning is helping with forecasting for the attractions industry. This uses AI to predict useful aspects of visitor attraction operations, such as how many visitors to expect. It is trained on historical, enriched and contextual data to make faster and more accurate predictions.

AI trends session IAAPA

Libby then explained how Worldbuildr helps to build digital twins of attractions in the metaverse, using AI to create new guest-facing content that keeps the guests engaged after their in-person visit. Meanwhile, Simmons focused on how AI can help smaller teams, for instance in marketing. Generative AI can help produce new assets with just a few clicks. He gave the example of using AI to remove face masks from promotional pictures post-pandemic. Finally, Childs spoke about how Katapult uses AI-aided 3D generation and AI texture generation.

Staff shortages

Later, Megan Fulbright of Connect&GO presented “Water” You Doing To Survive The Staffing Shortage? She gave IAAPA Expo 2023 attendees some top tips on how operators can maximise their success. This includes optimising their visitor flow, supporting their teams, engaging with guests in a smarter way, and leveraging real-time data.

She also recommended using technology that boosts efficiency. By using integrated technology, operators ensure that staff members only have to learn one system. Things like cashless technology, self-service kiosks and mobile POS will also make operations more efficient.

In the afternoon Brogent Technologies, Inc. presented a Sponsor Spotlight entitled Beyond Roller Coasters: Flying Theaters and Media-Based Attractions. Stefan Rothaug began by defining what makes a flying theatre a flying theatre. Key aspects include a dome screen, moving seats, and dangling feet. The moving seats should move with 6 degrees of freedom for a fully immersive experience.

He also talked about the flexibility of a flying theatre setup. This can cater to everything from single-rider setups to venues with 300+ guests and can be short, ride-based experiences or present longer shows. They are suitable for a range of locations including theme parks, zoos, malls, airports, midway and more.

Brogent Flying Theatre Concept art

DOF Robotics explored Brand Recognition: Audience Impacts of IP-Based Experiences in its Sponsor Spotlight. Özgür Küçükateş spoke about the trend for IP-based attractions and explained some of the benefits. For operators, brands get more visitors through the door and help to build awareness. Meanwhile, for IP holders, it is a chance to deepen the emotional bond that people have with their brands. It also opens up additional marketing possibilities.

For fans, it offers a chance to spend time in the worlds they love and with the characters they love. Examples from DOF include the Monster Jam simulator and a new Angry Birds attraction.

Finally, Gateway Ticketing Systems, Inc. presented a Sponsor Spotlight called Optimizing the Customer Journey. In this, Kori Richards looked at the latest trends and developments for optimising the guest journey and explained why achieving a smooth, efficient process positively affects RIO.

News from the IAAPA Expo 2023 trade show floor

With nine miles of aisles, there was plenty to explore on the trade show floor at IAAPA Expo 2023. Duriof the week, several companies held press conferences to announce new products or partnerships.

Tuesday 14 November

The announcements kicked off with a presentation from Zamperla. The company joined forces with Cedar Point to unveil the train for the new Top Thrill 2 coaster. The world’s tallest and fastest LSM triple-launch coaster will open at Ohio’s Cedar Point in 2024. Later in the week, Zamperla also presented its new Integrated Rides concept. This offers a combination of the firm’s roller coasters and renowned flat ride collection and creates a high-capacity immersive experience.

This was followed by an announcement by Sally Dark Rides. The firm revealed more details about the new SpongeBob’s Crazy Carnival Ride coming to Circus Circus in Las Vegas next year. It also showcased a new animatronic Mr. Krabs, created for the dark ride. In a second announcement later in the show, the team also announced that the first SpongeBob’s Crazy Carnival Ride outside the US will be coming to Land of Legends in Turkey in Dec 2024.

Blacklist Experiences made three key announcements during IAAPA Expo 2023, including new IPs that it has developed, working in partnership with Simworx. The Blacklist Experience team created the IPs in-house and collaborated with Simworx to develop the ride concepts. The team also announced its partnerships with PMS International Group PLC and Global Leisure & Entertainment (GLE) during the show. 

Simworx and Blacklist at IAAPA Expo 2023

Embed also held a press conference and happy hour on Tuesday to celebrate its top 100 FECs list and all of its customers.”It’s a privilege and an honour to work with our customers and innovate with them,” said Renee Welsh, CEO. During the show, the team showcased its new Success Squad and Embed GoTrain programmes.

On Tuesday afternoon, Vekoma and Indiana’s Holiday World unveiled the coaster vehicle for Good Gravy!, the new rollercoaster coming to the park’s Thanksgiving area next year.

North America‘s first Vekoma family boomerang coaster features a train shaped like a giant gravy boat. Riders will travel along a cranberry-coloured track, reaching a top speed of 37 miles per hour. They will also pass through an enormous cranberry jelly can and past giant kitchen utensils. This includes a 20-foot-tall whisk as well as an 18-foot-tall rolling pin.

holiday world good gravy coaster train

Another new coaster was revealed on Tuesday afternoon at IAAPA Expo 2023 by Silver Dollar City and RMC. Silver Dollar City in Missouri has showcased the ride vehicle for its new Fire in the Hole coaster. This is due to open in spring next year. Billed as the largest indoor coaster in the Midwest, it is a $30 million version of the park’s Fire in the Hole attraction from 1972. The custom-engineered ride vehicles are inspired by fire pumper wagons from the 1880s.

Elsewhere, Intamin presented details of Falcons Flight and unveiled the ride vehicle. The new ride at Six Flags Qiddiya, Saudi Arabia, will be the tallest, fastest, and longest rollercoaster in the world. It features a front car which is sculpted as a falcon’s head, with seating for two riders. The other cars can accommodate four passengers, with an open design. This increases the feeling of speed and also enhances the riders’ experience of flying over the cliff edge and across the park.

Intamin Falcon's Flight train car

Storyland Studios presented concept art for a new themed entertainment destination, Libertyland USA, coming to the Mount Rushmore area. Set for 2026, it will be the largest family entertainment and residential destination in South Dakota. During the week, the company also revealed details of its new Porto Boega project.

At the end of the day, SEVEN (Saudi Entertainment Ventures) and S&S Worldwide announced a new Transformers-themed coaster. SEVEN will be opening the new coaster at three of its 21 entertainment destinations as part of the world’s first Transformers-themed indoor entertainment centres. These are in Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. The attraction, which is the world’s first Axis coaster, will reach speeds of up to 55 km/h.

Wednesday 15 November

On Wednesday morning, members of the media were invited to find out more about Extreme Engineering‘s new Ollie-Loop attraction. Ollie-Loop is a thrilling, family-friendly ride that spins and shoots riders sky-high, inspired by skateboarding. It features abrupt jumps and circular motions, as well as unpredictable motions, all while securely holding up to six riders. The team was also showing the award-winning FLX shade system.

This was followed by a press conference held by ProSlide and SeaWorld, celebrating its partnership in creating custom play structures. The companies spoke about the success of recent installations and also revealed more locations for 2024. This includes Castaway Falls at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

In the afternoon, Triotech announced a new attraction called SuperFly at IAAPA Expo 2023. The new concept will debut at NEB’s Fun World in North Oshawa, Canada. SuperFly is part immersive simulator, part flying theatre. Visitors remain standing on the motion platform for deeper immersion and more thrills. Special effects like scents, leg ticklers, water and wind also enhance the experience. The attraction at NEB’s Fun World will feature 23 two-person platforms, giving a total ride capacity of 46 guests.

Triotech SuperFly_

Hasbro City FEC also held a press conference, sharing details of the new Hasbro City family entertainment centre in Mexico. Hasbro City features attractions like Monopoly: The Ride, a suspended roller coaster that carries the rail on top and allows the passenger to control the speed;\, as well as Power Rangers Battle, a cutting-edge “bumper cars” track that includes 360-degree turns, Zipp’s Royal Flight, and many more.

Finally, WhiteWater revealed new products and shared updates on the progress of prominent projects in each region. It also discussed the growing popularity of vertical water parks at its press conference in the afternoon. New products include the Wall Runner, a brand-new water slide experience that expands the zero-G sensation like never before, as well as Elevated AquaForms, a lifted version of WhiteWater’s cutting-edge modular aquatic play system. 

Thursday 16 November

On Thursday morning at IAAPA Expo 2023, DOF Robotics gave a company update with some key announcements. Introducing the firm’s ethos, Bakit Baydaliev, CEO and co-founder, said that, to create an addictive attraction, you must fully engage people’s emotions. He celebrated the continuing partnership with Monster Jam and also revealed a new agreement with Rovio for a single-player fast-based racing game based on the popular Angry Birds IP. This will feature a global leaderboard.

DOF also announced a new agreement with Hasbro for a first-of-its-kind Transformers attraction and shared details of its new Nautilus submarine experience. “As well as degrees of freedom, DOF also means depth of feeling and design of the future,” said Baydaliev.

This was followed by a SPREE Interactive press conference. SPREE announced a new partnership with Landmark Leisure that will see its state-of-the-art technology and immersive experiences rolled out to FECs across India as well as the Middle East. During the press conference, CEO Jonathan Nowak Delgado spoke about the success of a pilot project at a Landmark Leisure location in the United Arab Emirates. He also talked about the value of offering an attraction that enables families to play together.

Amusement Services International is the exclusive Middle Eastern and Indian distributor for SPREE Interactive. The most advanced VIVE Focus 3 VR headsets from HTC will be used in the VR arenas.

kids playing SPREE VR Playground

In the afternoon, Inowize showcased the QBIX attraction and revealed new updates to the platform. The firm also announced the latest game title for QBIX, Thieves of Glory. Thieves of Glory is designed to create an engaging group experience. In contrast to conventional shooting games, it promotes teamwork and communication. The new title is scheduled to be implemented at all existing operator locations in Q1 of 2024.

Simtec Systems celebrated the founding of its subsidiary Simtec North America, Inc. at IAAPA Expo 2023. With Simtec North America, the company is adopting the proven concept of Simtec’s subsidiary Simtec Asia for the North American market.

Simtec Systems IAAPA Expo 23

Elsewhere on the show floor, Sim Leisure Group was celebrating the opening of its new office in the US, as it continues to expand its design and build offer. 

SoftPlay was showcasing how it is assisting customers in repurposing vacant IMAX theatres to improve education and offer highly interactive, easily monetisable experiences. The successful space exploration project Planet Play at Kennedy Space Center in Orlando, Florida, marked Soft Play’s initial entry into this market sector.

Falcon’s Beyond was marking a successful year and also promoting its biggest-ever recruitment initiative for the Falcon’s Creative Group business unit. It aims to hire almost 200 new team members. This will almost double the size of the unit, to support the expansion of creative projects around the world.


Brass Ring Awards 2023

IAAPA announced the annual Brass Ring Awards during IAAPA Expo 2023.

In the category of Major Ride/Attraction Class A: Product Cost of More Than US $3 Million, Intamin took first place for its Dome Ride Theater, Hypersphere 360. This also won the Impact Award. Sally Dark Rides took second place for Uncharted: The Enigma of Penitence. In Major Ride/Attraction Class B: Product Cost of Less Than US $3 Million, Skyline Attractions LLC scooped first place with its P’Sghetti Children’s Coaster. Meanwhile, Triotech & BoldMove Nation came in second place for Smash & Reload – Champi’Folies.


For the best Family Ride/Attraction, first place went to RES GmbH, Ride Engineers Switzerland for Vertical Dark Ride. Sally Dark Rides won second place for Treasure Hunt: The Ride.

When it came to the best Water Park Ride Attraction, ProSlide Technology Inc. came in first for Saifa: Dueling PIPElineBLAST Water Coaster. Polin Waterparks came in second for Dragon Racer, in the Class A Category: Product Cost of More Than US $2 Million. In Class B: Product Cost of US $2 Million or Less, WhiteWater won first place for AquaForms with Polin Group then taking silver for Double Rift.

Saifa Booster Proslide

For Applied Technologies Class A: Product or Service Used by Consumers, Viewpoint Videos Ltd came in first with its Souvenir Video System. Meanwhile, Josef Wiegand GMBH & Co. KG came second for Rain Shield Wiegand AlpineCoaster 2.0. In Class V: Product or Service Used by Facilities, Harmony Helper took first place for Harmony Helper Concierge Services with accesso also coming second for accesso Qview.

In the category of Virtual and Augmented Reality, first place went to CSE Simulation Inc. for cycloBEAT 3.0 and second place to Red Raion for EECO Voyager. For Services, Equipment & Supplies, Easy RFID Pro came first. Sacoa Cashless System then came in second for the Sacoa Kiosk K4.

First place for Best New Product Concept Class A: Attraction went to RMC for Wild Moose Family Coaster and second place went to Sela Group S.r.l. for UFO. In Class B: Major Ride or Water Park Ride, wiegand.waterrides took first place for Xslide and Polin Waterparks came second with Triango. For Class C: Other Product/Service, the winner was Dogwood Entertainment with Modular Foam Composite and Gesture Art and Design’s MoCap Gaming Cabinet came second.

Themed Entertainment Association Awards

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) revealed this year’s Thea Awards during its International Mixer event at IAAPA Expo 2023.

The awards recognise individuals and teams who contribute in a remarkable way towards delivering unique guest experiences around the world. The recipients will also be honoured at a banquet on 16 March 2024, at the Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood, California, USA. Their achievements coincide with the Thea Awards Programme and Gala’s 30th anniversary.

Thea Award winners

The recipients of this year’s Thea Awards are:

  • The Buzz Price Award – Su Zhigangchairman and CEO of the Chimelong Group
  • The Thea Catalyst Award – Paul C. Hutton, principal and director of Regenerative Design at Cuningham
  • Peter Chernack Distinguished Service Award – David Green and Lisa Passamonte Green, Visual Terrain
  • The Thea Classic Award​ – Liseberg, Gothenburg, Sweden
Eatrenaline Europa Park

Outstanding achievements

The Thea Awards for Outstanding Achievement honorees are:

  • Indoor Marine Park – SeaWorld Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  • Attraction – Bermuda Storm, Chimelong Spaceship, Zhuhai, China
  • Attraction, Limited Budget, ​Musikkfabrikken Hunderfossen, Hunderfossen Eventyrpark, Lillehammer, Norway
  • Attraction – Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, EPCOT, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA
  • Brand Experience – Johnnie Walker Princes Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
  • Retail Experience, Limited Budget – Disney Encanto x CAMP, New York, New York, USA
  • Live Spectacular – Geneva Journey, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Visitor Experience Re-envisioned, Limited Budget – Titanic Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
  • Immersive Mall Experience – AURA: The Forest at the Edge of the Sky, Haikou International Duty-Free Shopping Complex, Haikou, China
  • Live Interactive Experience – Peaky Blinders: The Rise, Camden Stables Market, London, England, United Kingdom
  • Museum Attraction, Limited Budget – ​Deutschlandmuseum, Berlin, Germany
  • ​Live Show – Le Mime et L’Étoile, Puy De Fou, Les Epesses, France
  • ​Extended Reality Exhibit – Colored (Noire), Centre Georges, Pompidou, Paris, France
  • Experiential Dining Attraction – Eatrenalin, Europa-Park, Rust, Germany
disney epcot guardians of the galaxy cosmic rewind
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind

Special events & parties

As well as the educational sessions, EDUTours and the packed trade show floor, there were also plenty of opportunities at IAAPA Expo 2023 for attendees to socialise with peers from across the industry, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones.

During the week, Gateway Ticketing Systems held a 35th birthday celebration and Electrosonic and partners hosted a party at Aventura. Embed held its annual party at Andretti Karting while Roush and LF Studios celebrated at Paddlefish. WhiteWater threw a bash at Ole Red to thank friends and clients, and Beckhoff Automation held an open house event at its offices. Triotech also hosted a well-attended happy hour on the show floor.

Attractions tech lab IAAPA Expo

The Attractions Technology Lab took place at Oceaneering’s offices. This was a hub of innovation, where engineers, designers and creatives collaborated to showcase the latest in technology innovation. There were two immersive experiences that visitors could try out and it was a great way of seeing how technology came together for rides and attractions.


Christie provided projectors, Oceaneering provided the ride vehicles, HOLOPLOT provided the speakers, StrongMDI did the screens and there were lots of other companies there as well.  HOLOPLOT and Powersoft both had sessions during the event too, where they spoke more about their products.

Elsewhere, AOA held a party at The Whiskey while MDSX and AECOM hosted a dinner at Four Flamingos. Meanwhile, the Young Professionals group enjoyed a social event at Fun Spot. On Thursday evening, the annual IAAPA Celebrates event took place at SeaWorld Orlando. Select rides were open to attendees and food and drink were also provided, as attendees sheltered from the rain.

On select evenings, attendees could also enjoy drone displays. A cutting-edge light show sponsored by SkyElements lit up the sky above the conference centre.


Over the week, the Expo fundraising efforts collected $26,000 for the IAAPA Foundation. This will go towards industrial, experiential, and academic scholarships. The foundation’s purpose is to inspire and promote life-changing careers in the global attractions sector.

Additionally, IAAPA Expo 2023 raised money for Give Kids The World Village. The 20th Annual IAAPA International Charity Golf Tournament, the 13th Annual IAAPA Charity Motorcycle Run and the 17th Annual IAAPA Footprints from the Heart 5k Fun Run, as well as the 1 Mile Walk, were among the events that took place over the week. The sum of $160,000 was raised.


Platinum-level sponsors for IAAPA Expo 2023 included accesso, Adyen, Alluvii Pos Software, Angry Birds, Brogent Technologies, CAVU Designwerks, DOF Robotics, Gateway Ticketing Systems, Hownd, Illumix, Ligh Up Toys, McGowan Allied, Outdoor Factory, ROLLER, Sansei Technologies, Simtec Systems, Sky Elements, Squishmallows, Storibox and Storyland Studios.

Gold-level sponsors were Aramark, Capturelife, Coca-Cola, Disney, EPR Properties, Ernst & Young, JJ Snack Food Corp, Polin, Satisfi Labs, SPREE Interactive, TAIT, and Vekoma.

Silver-level sponsors included AiFi, AMPP, A&ES, Billings Productions, Chargerent, CLM Risk Management, GoPhoto, Harris Mini Golf, Hasbro, Intercard, Moss Distributing, Nassal, ProSlide, Qubica AMF, Redemption Plus, Sacoa Cashless System, ShimmerTech, State Fair Mini Donuts, THG, Triotech, Unclaimed Baggage, Visit Orlando, Water Safety Products, Whirley and WTI.

Save the date for IAAPA Expo 2024

Next year’s IAAPA Expo will be held in Orlando, Florida from 18 – 22 November 2024


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