InterPark exclusive: Bob Rippy interview
Bob Rippy, who took over from Chip Cleary as chairman of IAAPA during the annual IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando in November, talks to InterPark editor Andrew Mellor about various aspects of the business, including his goals during his term of office, the association itself and some of the current challenges facing the industry.
Bob Rippy became involved in the amusement park industry in 1984 when he invested in a small waterslide as a non-operating partner. In 1987 a jungle golf course was added to the venture, while three years later in 1990 his partners decided to "get out" and Rippy started a seven year expansion that built the Jungle Rapids park in Wilmington, North Carolina, he owns and operates today.
He attended his first IAAPA Attractions Expo in 1990, joining the FEC committee in early 2000, and has served on the Board of Directors and many other committees over the years. Since first joining, he feels the membership has become more international and diversified and was inspired by the Chairs who have served before him to take on the challenge of the IAAPA chairman’s role.
InterPark: What will be your personal goals and aims during your term of office?
Bob Rippy: I want to keep moving the association forward by focusing on establishing our new regional office in the Asia-Pacific region; the IAAPA Strategic Plan, which is updated each year by the Strategic Planning Committee and approved by the board; growing membership; and providing additional products and services for our members that are not directly associated with one of our trade shows. From education programmes to industry data, there are a number of ways we can enhance the services we offer members on a year-round basis.
IP: How well do you feel IAAPA caters to its many different operator sectors?
BR: IAAPA has evolved as the attractions industry has evolved. At one time, the association’s membership was made up primarily of amusement and theme parks, many of which were family owned. Many of those parks have been acquired by large companies and that dynamic requires evolving the benefits we offer our members. Additionally, attractions themselves are evolving. Zoos are adding rides. FECs and resorts are adding waterpark attractions. Waterparks and theme parks are adding zip lines and ropes courses. These changes have created opportunities for IAAPA to change and provide services for a greater variety of attractions. Certainly, different types of members get different benefits from their involvement with the association. Ultimately though, all members are looking for ways to expand their business and IAAPA is here to support them.
IP: How important are the EAS and IAAPA Asia shows to the group’s future plans?
BR: The conferences and trade shows in Europe and Asia are very important components of our long-term plans. Both shows are growing and evolving as we refine the best ways to serve members around the world. We’ve recently added safety conferences at both events and will continue to further develop the education programmes for the shows. We will keep recruiting new exhibitors to ensure the expos are THE place to see new products in both regions. The regional shows also allow us to take advantage of the unique learning experiences provided by the attractions in the areas where the shows are located.
IP: Looking to the future, then, how do you see IAAPA developing?
BR: For many years IAAPA has been an ‘international’ association. Today, the 4,000 member companies in the association are located in 90 different countries around the globe. Our challenge now is to transition the organisation from simply having members from multiple countries into one with a real global perspective and operations. We started this process three years ago when we reorganised the operations in Europe. Last year, we opened the office in Latin America and this fall we opened the office in Asia.
IP: What do you believe the future has in store for the attractions industry as a whole?
BR: I wish my crystal ball worked well enough to forecast the future, but unfortunately that’s not the case. I believe people will always need quality entertainment. Technology has changed consumers’ expectations and entertainment, but no TV, movie or computer screen can replace the feeling you get from enjoying a shared, physical entertainment experience with your family and friends. Providing those experiences is what our industry is all about. We just have to keep developing new ways to wow people and help them forget about the hassles of their day-to-day world. I can’t think of any other challenge I’d rather have.