Why Waterparks Are Surging in Popularity Across the Globe – Podcast

On the latest episode of Standards Impact, industry experts talk about how they are pushing thrills to new heights – and promoting safety in the process.
JP Ervin

Waterparks become a popular destination as summer approaches in the Northern hemisphere. From waterslides and wave pools to log flumes and inner tube rides, amusement parks provide a wide range of activities to have fun and cool off. Amusement ride safety is a key issue, as guests want to be sure that their family is safe and their visit will be a source of fun.

Internationally, waterparks represent a massive growth area for the amusement ride industry, with regions such as the Middle East and East Asia seeing a surging interest in these attractions. On the latest episode of ASTM International’s podcast Standards Impact, host David Walsh spoke to amusement ride experts Franceen Gonzales, chief experience officer of WhiteWater West Industries, and Jim Seay, owner of Premier Rides. Both members of ASTM's committee on amusement rides and devices (F24), the pair spoke about many issues, including why waterparks are proliferating across the Globe.

Read an excerpt of their conversation below or listen to the full episode here.




David Walsh: You both mentioned diversity, and that's a good word to use because, in addition to having a diversity of rides and a diversity of attractions that a lot of people may not consider when they think about this industry, there's also a diversity of markets. The tendency may be from a Western audience is to think about Six Flags and Disney, but amusement rides and attractions being big business, they've branched out far beyond the US and Europe. What can you tell us about the emerging markets for amusements and attractions, and how will standards support those markets?

Franceen Gonzales: I'll go ahead and start. I think what's exciting is that we are seeing emerging markets developing their own semblance of a niche, and it really tends to center around things that are kind of lower barrier to entry. So in a sense, if you are wanting to invest in developing an attraction or developing a park, you tend to go with things that might be a little bit easier to acquire, maybe something a little bit easier to operate, maybe not as expensive. So what I am seeing is in a lot of these emerging markets is family entertainment centers. These are generally in shopping centers, which tend to be the hub of activity in certain urban settings. But you also see small rides, you see arcade games, you see mini golf and, and that sort of thing. Those are fairly easy to build and to open.

Another area that I see in emerging markets is waterparks. Everybody loves water, especially in tropical zones, whether it's in Latin America or in Southeast Asia or even in the Mediterranean. These are all areas that are growing and growing populations. The Middle East right now is a hotbed for waterpark development. What you see is there's that universality of water and these attractions. If you've got a good plot of land and you want to be able to build something, that one's fairly easy. It's much more difficult to do a really good park that has mechanical rides, something like a Disney or Universal, but I'll say that's what's made them so strong. There's not a lot of places you can go to have that kind of an experience. So that diversity, I think is important. I think that those other emerging markets will eventually develop more and more into these more sophisticated parks. But truly right now it's all about entertainment. It's all about family and water parks are definitely a place to go to enjoy that.

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Jim Seay: I'll add onto that. I think that feedback is great. The world is a big world, but it's amazing for us. We travel a lot and we're all over the world, and it gets to be very small in a sense that there's a lot of communication between areas. What I see when I travel is that you have areas of the world that will rapidly accelerate up to this ability to build bigger attractions. The Middle East is a great example of that, where they're building parks. You could only imagine some of the technologies that are being used and the sophistication of the attractions. Countries like China are a great example. You know they had very few parks maybe two decades ago.

They've opened over 500 theme parks since then. Where you can make a big difference in the world are areas where a growing economy that's a really a developing nation and is focused on adventure attractions. And they can now have a way of having something that attracts people maybe from North America to go to those places, but also allow an experience that's a safe one. I think a huge opportunity for F24 is the way we can impact all over the world areas that are maybe getting into this industry, but need a safe pathway to follow, to make sure they're operating these attractions safely. 

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