AALARA president Tony gives Park World readers an insight into the Australian attractions industry.
Tony Lines has acted as president of the Australian Amusement, Leisure and Recreation Association (AALARA) since spring 2011 and served on the board since 1998. In his ‘day job’ as human resources manager for Village Roadshow Theme Parks he works with leading Gold Coast attractions including Warner Bros Movie World, Wet ’n’ Wild Water World, Australian Outback Spectacular, Paradise Country and Warner Roadshow Movie World Studios. In his 19-year career with Village Roadshow, he has also served on the Tourism Training Queensland Executive and several IAAPA committees.
What sorts of attractions does AALARA represent?
AALARA continues to go from strength to strength. In 2011, the association doubled its membership; primarily through new start-up businesses across the transportable amusement, indoor play, laser tag, maze, go karting and small tourist attraction sectors. The association has always represented the major theme parks, waterparks, aquariums, zoos, indoor play and family entertainment centres, transportable ride operators, zoos and museums. Our membership is quiet diverse and the association work closely with each sector on safety, best practices, marketing and promotion. AALARA is a conduit of information to members on human resources,industrial relations, legislative changes and actively lobbies all level of government so that the Australian attractions industry’s voice is heard.
How widely spread out are the various attractions around the country?
With the growth in population of Australia there are major attractions across each capital city. The Gold Coast (in Queensland) is probably still the biggest concentration of major theme parks. We are also seeing growth in investment within regional areas due to the booming mining industry, particularly across Queensland and Western Australia. The Village Roadshow group is about to start work in Wet‘n’Wild in Sydney. AALARA’s members employ over 80,000 staff across Australia. We are an important industry in terms of tourism and employment both in major capital cities and the regional areas.
How is the economy affecting your members right now?
Australia’s economy is sitting better than other developed country thanks to mining, however I think everyone is finding it a little bit tougher than before the global financial crisis. We are optimistic the worst is behind us. The strength of the Aussie dollar is having a two-way impact on our industry. It acts as a good incentive for Australians to go and visit overseas, because it is cheap to travel, but then it’s expensive for overseas tourists to come to us. The positive that the strong dollar is having on the industry is that Australian operators can buy rides from overseas, because obviously then you get a good exchange rate.
I think everyone is trying to rethink their marketing strategies, and understand that the visitor profile has changed in terms of the number of overseas guests versus Australian; we are relying more on the local market these days. So perhaps parks might want to add some special deals or incentives to encourage more people from the local market.
The underlying confidence in the market is there. Even in tough times people want to have fun. We are certainly in the right business to do that and we will continue to drive marketing campaigns to deliver that message. It may not be the best economic time to operate in, but it’s not negative either.
What are some of the other ongoing issues?</strong>
There is a lot of uncertainty about the adoption of the national safety harmonisation legislation. AALARA has been actively lobbying Safe Work Australia to ensure our industry can operate within the new legislation. Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory have adopted the legislation, Tasmania will adopt it in January 2013 and it anticipated that Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria will adopt it throughout 2014/2015.
There are also proposed changes to the Weapon’s Act across Australia that would impact the laser tag industr. AALARA has been actively lobbying relevant regulators to ensure they understand the impact these changes would make to our members.
The impact of weekend penalty [pay] rates under the modern awards are always a great concern to many operators. AALARA is currently working on its fourth submission to the federal government on the impact of the modern awards across our industry.
What can attendees expect at your conference this May?
n 2013 AALARA will host a conference and trade exhibition on the Gold Coast. We are excited to have John Hallenbeck from Universal Studios Singapore and Doug Stagner of Sea World Parks & Entertainment speaking alongside Merlin’s Ed Fuller and Todd Coates from Dreamworld as key note presenters. The conference is an important industry information and training event. It is als a great networking opportunity and one where business owners and senior managers gather to discuss the direction of the industry moving forward. The exhibition. meanwhile, delivers all the latest rides and attractions, products and services by suppliers who support the industry in Australian/New Zealand and the Pacific region. It is a great few days and the event is important to the industry here.
Do you see many new operators coming into the market?
I guess the problem with the Australian market is it’s not huge, so there’s not too much room for many large parks, but you may see investors come in with smaller operations to test the market, as Merlin Entertainments had done by buying some existing businesses, I am pretty sure you will see them expand their business interests here. But it’s a two-way street as my chairman at Village Roadshow, John Menzies has been over in China looking at opportunities and we are already have waterparks in the USA.
Do you view Asian attractions as competition?
Yes, they definitely are at the moment, and many Australians are travelling to Asia for holidays due to the high Australian dollar. A few years ago you might have said Asian attractions wouldn’t impact us too much, but there have been some very exciting projects in recent years.
How can your members stay ahead of the curve?
Our members are always investing in new attractions or promotions to keep their business appealing. If you take a look at our major attraction members, all have actively invested in new rides over the last 12 months. There is also a new trend where groups of portable ride operators are joining together to develop small fixed parks. Innovative ticketing campaigns that promote good value for money and creative marketing campaigns through social media have also positioned our members well in the ‘must do’ category.
AALARA was formed in 1994 to promote and safeguard the interests business owners and operators in the amusement, leisure and recreation industry sectors. The association’s annual conference – complete with bi-annual trade show – returns in 2013 at the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre in Queensland from May 7 to 9.
Pictured below: Sea World is one of several AALARA members on the Gold Coast in Queensland