The Prater park in Vienna, Austria, formed the backdrop for a gathering of the TEA’s (Themed Entertainment Association) European members on June 18 and 19. This two-day get-together was, says Gerd Gügel, real value for money!
Originally planned as the third official European Members Meeting (last year’s took place at Disneyland Resort Paris), the format was changed at the last minute due to the limited number of attendees. Host company 5D International opted to give guests a behind the scenes insight into the Prater’s new Riesenradplatz entry plaza, a project it supervised last summer.
Those in attendance could enjoy this, and the knowledge of their peers, for nothing more than a €20 registration fee. Surely more would have made the trip to Vienna if they knew what value was in store?
Guests were asked to “plot the future” as they devised five scenes to connect an in-depth attraction experience. Reading the agenda, you might have wondered how valuable biology, history, economy and psychology can be to your business as an attraction operator or developer, but this was probably one of the best TEA events I have attended.
After an introduction by past TEA president Nick Farmer, Andreas Kornprobst of 5D International presented a provocative thesis about the current state of the industry. “True innovations REQUIRE a crisis,” we were told, as Andreas’ colleague Dr Gerhard Frank backed the statement up with a series of historical precedents.
“Crisis means – amongst other things – that business is slowing down. This gives companies an opportunity to take a closer look at themselves. What can we do differently? More convincing, more cost effective, more out-of-the-box.”
Later the TEA members took a stroll over to the cluster of attractions developed at the Riesenradplatz by 5D International. First they experienced Vienna Airlines, a next generation flight simulator using “Flyboard” technology, complemented by a handsome pre-show area. Riders stand leaning forward against a device that supports the upper body. The ride’s content is a flight through Vienna passing by the most famous landmarks. The “seating” position coupled with wind, aroma and towering sound create an exhilarating experience. TEA members rode the attraction twice, before retiring to the conference room to analyse the experience. Dr Frank, for example, initiated a very stimulating discussion about the importance of psychological aspects in driving the visitor experience.
Following requests from a number of guests, a ride followed on the Prater’s famous Giant Wheel, and then a walk around the Riesenradplatz, which is named after the ride. A lovely dinner and some important networking rounded off the evening.
The second day began with an insight into the practices of the European banks by Dr Helene Schuberth, a senior advisor to the Oesterreichische (Austrian) Nationalbank’s central department of economics. This useful session gave us some real background to the current financial crisis.
There then followed a presentation from Umesh Patel of Snibbe Interactive, who explained how to use visitor interaction as a marketing tool on social media platforms such as Facebook. Guests were then given a chance to enjoy 5D International’s Miraculum effects theatre, before summarizing the experience from a rooftop overlooking the Riesenradplatz.
5D International succeeded in delivering a relaxed event that allowed TEA members to shares ideas, know-how and constructive debate about the attractions industry at this crucial time for us all. The agenda was adapted to fit the needs all those in attendance and we felt like a real network by the end of it. This is what the TEA is all about, and I hope that this will not be the last event of its kind.
Gerd Gügel is CEO of Moods in Pictures from Munich and a TEA member.