Alberto Zamperla is President of the well-known Italian ride manufacturer Antonio Zamperla Spa which has a worldwide customer base and produces an extensive range of attractions from children’s rides to roller coasters. Here he discusses some key issues with InterPark editor Andrew Mellor
IP: How do you think the theme/amusement park industry has changed in the past 10 years or so and what has been the most significant change?
AZ: I would say all the mergers. This is the most significant and important issue and it modifies how you have to sell to parks, dealing with large corporations.
IP: What would you say are the industry’s main concerns at the present time? What are its biggest challenges?
AZ: Previously we had parks which were owned and run by people who were ‘living’ the parks with sensitivity. Now most of them have managers who have a different approach to what it used to be and who just look at the figures and capital expenditure. Before, when the owner was looking for something new, they would think “this is going to be good for my park and people will like it,” but now the people we as manufacturers and suppliers are dealing with, in the majority of cases, talk in a different language so it is a very different and difficult challenge. We now have to find a different way to communicate.
IP: Do you think the industry faces an increasingly competitive world when it comes to other forms of leisure activity for people to choose from? What is the industry’s main competition for the leisure dollar/euro?
AZ: I think one of the reasons in our parks that we have lost a lot of the teenage market is that they spend their money in different ways these days, such as on cell phones and other electronic goods. But having said that we are seeing more families coming back to the parks, which is a good thing.
IP: Where do you think parks stand in the overall leisure sector, in terms of popularity and therefore success?
AZ: In the economic crisis we are all facing at the moment we need to start with some important areas such are moral and ethical issues. There is the basic question of morals and etiquette. Then, if we focus on providing an experience for friends and relatives to enjoy together in our parks and bring something positive and personal, we can stand and last forever. So we need to emphasise the best parts of parks and the pleasant and unique experiences they provide. I believe some are a little out of focus so that’s why some have failed in the past. If we create magic moments for guests, that is the key to a park’s success, as well as the fact that other leisure activities cannot be shared in the same way with others.
IP: Do ride manufacturers face any particular challenges at the moment, perhaps with legislation for example?
AZ: One problem area is that to continually come up with new ideas for rides and attractions is very costly, but we are not protected from copiers who make things cheaper, which cuts our profits. Doing business like this is wrong.
Additionally, I think some operators have a bad attitude in the way they purchase equipment but always want it cheaper, which weakens the manufacturing companies. Parks need manufacturers who can do new things but some seem to want to kill them off with low prices! But manufacturers cannot continue to develop new attractions if customers continue to insist on extremely low prices. The weakest point in the chain is the manufacturers.
IP:  Do you think a worldwide ride safety standard for the whole industry will ever become a reality?
AZ: I hope that one can be created eventually. It is very difficult because there are a lot of different interests, but I hope one day it will happen.
IP: How important are trade associations to our industry, and in particular IAAPA? Do they deliver what they should or do you think they could do more, or should be doing some things differently?
AZ: It is very difficult for IAAPA, for example, to have different hats on to protect the interests of operators, manufacturers and the organisation itself.  Of course they began as an organisation for operators, followed by the suppliers, but they need both to survive so they must make sure that both sectors are looked after and the different interests are taken into account and protected.
Also they are looking to spread their wings and attract membership from other sectors, such as casinos, but I feel this will dilute their effectiveness and strength in the core areas.
IP: What effects do you think the current global economic climate will have on the parks industry?
AZ: It is good for people to travel and to see new countries and cultures, so it will be a shame if they are not able to do so because of the poor economic climate.
IP: How do you see Zamperla developing in the future?
AZ: More new rides, to be a global company and get ideas from all over the world. I also see us growing stronger in the operation of parks.
Not a lot of people know this but I am very good at … making people laugh and history

The best thing my parents taught me was … to respect other people and tell the truth

The most interesting place I’ve ever been too is … Venice

If I could pass any law I’d … make people have respect and morals

If I could be anyone else for 24 hours I’d be … Julius Caesar

I always laugh at … Jokes

My favourite musician/band is … The Beatles

To really chill out I … do nothing!

I really dislike … people who don’t tell you the truth

If I could, I would … stop any children from suffering