More than 160 family entertainment centre (FEC) professionals gathered recently in Laguna Beach, California, to network and learn from one another. At the end of it, many took away tips and strategies to apply to their own businesses.

The attendees were there as delegates at the IAAPA FEC Summit 2018. The event organised by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions took place at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa from January 28 to 30. Billed as the industry’s leading conference for FEC owners and operators, it attracted ovr 160 participants from 32 US states and eight countries.

“This year’s event provided another great year of collaboration, engagement, and camaraderie,” reports Leslie Hutcheson, senior manager of constituency programs and services at IAAPA. “The continued success of our annual summits reflects the sustained growth and expansion of family entertainment centres around the globe.”

Keynote speaker Annika Chase, vice-president of marketing strategy for Disneyland Resort, shared Disneyland’s approach to attracting consumers with the Disney brand through strategic storytelling that engages consumers before, during and after their visit. Attendees also heard from keynote speaker Bruce Cameron, owner of Front Line Marketing. He guided delegates through his company’s employee engagement process, so that they could create an action plan for their facilities to increase productivity without having a negative impact on expense.

Additional breakout sessions covered topics including human resources, risk management, sales, finance, and technology in food & beverage operations. A networking event was held at the Boomers! FEC in Irvine, California. Post-event facility tours included visits to other local facilities including Mulligan’s Round One, Big Air Trampoline Park and Dave and Buster’s.
“I think the most important reason to be here was to grow,” commented Tyler Neill of Laguna Hills’ own Big Air Trampoline Parks. “Networking is important and you certainly do some of that, but I was able to learn new ideas and grow.”

“I think we always need to learn,” said Evelyn Villame of La Boite Aux Enfants, who had come over from Paris. “We never know enough. The IAAPA FEC Summit taught us we should be asking ‘What can I do for you?’ It’s all based on relationships, not transactions.”

“Really for us from Latin America, it’s interesting to see FECs in [North] America,” said Cesar Largo, executive director of Mundo Cartoon Network, which operates in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. “The information can be applied right into our industry at home. We take all this useful information back to our companies and learn from the best practices. It’s very important.”

Plans are already underway for the IAAPA FEC Summit 2019, which will take place in Austin, Texas, from January 27 to 29. In the meantime, the FEC-focused Amusement Expo, which also includes a comprehensive education programme, takes place in Las Vegas this coming February 27 to March 1.