Impressions from IAAPA Expo Europe 2021

In this issue of The Experience Economist, we are making a summary of what we have observed and learnt at IAAPA Expo Europe with relevance to storytelling. 

IAAPA Expo was an excellent opportunity to finally see old and new friends for the first time in a long while. The venue Fira Barcelona radiated with the energy of thousands of people eager to share creative ideas, look for new collaborations and “build happier worlds”. The quoted reference belongs to BoldMove, whom we joined this year as partners in BoldMove Nation. The team exhibited the Houba World and Houba City concepts and the dark ride TooMush with Smash and Reload, which were marvellously received by the public. Klaus Sommer Paulsen also presented his book “Integrated Storytelling by Design” during the daily sessions of “Meet&Greet” at the booth.

IAAPA Expo traditionally held a series of talks and presentations on various subjects – from IP management to diversity in the workplace to storytelling. The latter was often mentioned and referred to as key to creating memorable experiences and iconic attractions. And we couldn’t agree more. Themed entertainment is taking the next step in story implementation by looking at the bigger picture and reevaluating the role of storytelling. 

“What is the story we want to tell?” was a key question, making technology a medium for storytelling rather than the default starting point for guest experience design. Destinations like Liseberg in Sweden and Port Aventura in Spain presented their take on storytelling through attraction design and IP development. The trend is undoubtedly showing an increase in the value of the narrative design at the conceptual level and implementation with new technologies like artificial intelligence or mixed reality. 

The role of the guest was also a focus in one of the panel discussions. Park designers, operators and experience economists addressed the subject of the guest as a co-creator, bringing forward the role of experience design for guest involvement in story development. In that discussion, we were glad to see a parallel with the Audience Roles, part of the Integrated Storytelling methodology. The approach to bridging the guest’s narrative with the experience in a theme park or an immersive experience is what Klaus Sommer Paulsen, in detail, describes in his book “Integrated Storytelling by Design”. 

The 4-day event has left us with a positive view on the prospects of the attractions industry, with important steps taken to recover and thrive in the post-pandemic future. 

Five takeaways from IAAPA Expo Europe 2021

1. The attractions industry continues to grow and is emerging from the COVID-19 crisis with new views on guest experience beyond the gate.

2. The role of the guest as collaborator becomes more relevant for creating memorable experiences.

3. The dark rides are gaining more ground in the landscape of indoor themed attractions.

4. Cross-disciplinary collaborations build toward more dynamic themed experiences.

5. Story-first attractions result in better engagement, market potential and competitive advantage.

Article first published on October 21st, 2021
in The Experience Economist (AdventureLAB’s newsletter)

Author: Ecaterina Capatina (Access LinkedIn profile)
Concept developer and Brand Manager at AdventureLAB

Do you want to receive similar articles from us every month? Subscribe to our newsletter “The Experience Economist”.