An Industry Association Worldview: Coming Together for Perspective and Profit

The amusement and the attraction trade share a number of common ideals, one of these is an innate belief in the need for an associational structure. The feeling is that an industry dealing with the public has to be drawn towards trade bodies and organizational structure as some kind of talisman of protection. For many this belief in the need for strong associations is generated from bitter memory,  toward a vulnerability felt when the industries battle state and federal legislation and taxation interference in business. Others see an orchestrated association structure as a means to control dissemination of ideas and so apply some control to chaotic development, bringing structure to what could so easily be confusion.
But as the teeth of the current Global Financial Condition (GFC) start to bite, some in the market begin to ask the same question – “What exactly are these associations doing for me?” In this feature, we hope to chart the main international associations – their scope and the developments that are shaping their structure.


The largest domesticated audience to themed attractions and amusement has one of the oldest associational structures. Regarding amusement, the Amusement and Music Operators Association (AMOA), which was established 1948, has come to personify the traditional coin-operated amusement landscape for operators; a strong protectorate and lobbying force for its membership – with close affiliations to the street scene and those that support them.

Having felt diminishing subscriptions and calls for better membership representation, the affiliation has partnered more closely with similar groups, while consolidating interests; this best illustrated with the abandonment of their AMOA Convention in September for a conjoined event (AAMA/AMOA Amusement Expo) in March. After failed initial attempts, the AMOA has revisited the need for appropriate representation for members, hiring Circone + Associates, a well-known consultancy that have already worked with a number of amusement corporations including Merit, Global VR and uWink, to improve the group’s image.

On the amusement manufacturers’ bench, there is the American Amusement Machine Association (AAMA). Established 1981, the smaller operation has also felt the heat and has worked to create a future plan. More member-related services and the embracing of social media seems to be an initial plan.  Like the AMOA, the group has turned to a consultant to find a “magic bullet” to placate membership concerns. A San Jose-based marketing and strategy consultant executive with links to the board has been hired and has created a plan to offer a streamlined, Web-based initiative to support convention business and market recognition. A move to mark the 30th anniversary of the association was linked to its attendance at the Amusement Expo with a birthday booth.

But the real gorilla in the corner is The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). Established 1918, the oldest and most respected association for the theme park and FEC sector, comprises a true international presence and a powerful punch. Following the integration in 2009 of the International Association of the Leisure Entertainment Industry (IALEI), which was established in 1993, the association has covered the FEC sector all the way up to the theme park and visitor attraction operator scene and those that support them.

With their vast winter convention a permanent fixture of the Florida landscape for the next nine years, the association has also allocated a considerable sum towards federal lobbying, and has championed initiatives to achieve a high level of responsibility within the industry. A 2011 IAAPA Leadership Conference was held in March, gathering industry leaders to share ideas and practices towards achieving a better business. A resurgence in visitor numbers at regional entertainment venues has been seen as a move towards a reviving entertainment market.

On the periphery of the larger associations, more specialized groups hope to fill a need for a focused approach for specific groups. The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), which was established 1993, has created a portal for those developers of the experience that shapes themed venues and their attractions. Offering a chance for members to meet and share ideas, the association has also proven a useful target for the bidding process and hunting talent. The TEA has also created a European chapter, and strives to encompass more of those that shape their market.

The need for specific groups that target specific areas of the sector overlooked or ignored by the larger associations has engendered a number of new start-up operations in the last couple of months. The National Association of Family Entertainment Center (NAFEC), which was established in 2010, has emerged as a new FEC-focused operation that has been started by the International Laser Tag Association (ILTA), which was established 1996. This non-profit group has 570 international members and has added a separate FEC operation to cash in on a perceived need for a wholly independent gathering.
This has been followed by the International Association of Amusement Operators (IAAO), which was established 2010. This operation was launched by the owners of the FEC Network Web portal, and the association will target fun centers, indoor party centers, family entertainment centers, indoor waterparks, children’s edutainment centers and smaller amusement parks. This broad approach still focuses on the medium-sized venue operator.


Outside of the heartland, the international sector sees a diverse gathering of key sector requirements. The European Amusement and Attraction Association (EUROMAT), which was established in 1979, represents the all-encompassing central Europe trade and lobbying body, and is situated by the European Parliament in Brussels (Belgium). This represents the leading force in association power with the individual state associations liaising with the central body, sharing in tax and structural changes impacting business. Though representing the 23-member national association in gaming and amusement, the EUROMAT model allows each state association a broader touch with less regulation. Europe is still striving for the best mix of legislation.

Supporting the European territories, IAAPA-Europe continues the efforts originated in the states, preaching their brand of associational support. This is supported by a convention of their own traveling between European cities toward bringing developer and buyers in this sector together. 2011 sees the Euro Attractions Show (EAS) making the trip too, to the United Kingdom and London in September.

At the same time as coming to London, the United Kingdom’s attractions and leisure association has agreed to support this effort. The British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions (BALPPA), which was established in 1936, is working towards unique membership lobbying, as the United Kingdom’s coalition government looks to find greater taxation from the industry. Most recently the association has lobbied for changes in English summertime, extending the change to mirror European time rather than GMT, offering additional opening times for the United Kingdom’s leisure industry.

Beyond attractions, the coin-operated amusement scene is supported in the UK by the British Amusement Catering Trade Association (BACTA), which was established 1974. This influential trade association finds itself and membership at a time of transition, with members impacted by the depressed operators’ market and a decline in popularity of the inland and seafront amusement venue. The association has looked to broaden its scope, establishing a new show of their own called the European Amusement and Gaming Expo (EAG) held in January. The event announced after the second year of being run at the beginning of the year in London that it had signed a three-year agreement with BALPPA to support their membership.

The changing United Kingdom sector sees other associations vying to offer the best platform for their respective membership, with the rising popularity of the Business in Sport and Leisure (BISL), which was established in 1985. The association has attracted ex-BACTA executives to prominent positions, and works on their own lobbying power through established parliamentary contacts. On a smaller scale, the Association of Amusement and Leisure Equipment Suppliers (ALES-UK), which was established in 2007, offers suppliers in the attractions and amusement sector a means to have their interests represented with networking and lobbying.

The drive towards new associations focusing on specific elements of a diverse sector has seen news breaking of a new United Kingdom gathering. Called the Digital Out-of-Home Entertainment Network Association (DNA), and established in 2011, this new UK working group plans to hold their first event (a high-level seminar) in order to give the Digital Out-of-Home Entertainment arena a voice and be recognized. For the first time, the scope and value of the market, and new opportunities and technologies shaping development, will all be presented. The organizers of the event and association want to underline that it has no part of the gaming or gambling sector. It is important to announce that the author of this Tourist Attractions & Parks feature has involvement with the foundation of this new association; and will be speaking at the first seminar.

Moving further afield, there is the Irish Amusement Trade Association (IATA), which was established in 1999 and represents the interests of the amusement industry of this territory. In establishing representation for its membership, the association was one of the key supporters of the Irish Gaming, Casino and Amusement Show (AmEx) in Dublin during March, which marked that group’s 32nd anniversary.

This support for European amusement and attraction representation has seen a broadening coverage outside the usual lines. The Russian Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (RAAPA), which was established in 1995, has grown to support a fast-growing amusement and attraction sector within this new territory, and part of this support manifested in the 13th RAPPA Expo in March. The conference and exhibition was co-founded by the European Association of Amusement Supplier Industry (EAASI), which was established in 2003, and was formed to represent the European ride manufacturers and draws its members from National European ride manufacturers Associations such as AFEMO, AFFEL, ANCASVI, BARM, RAAPA and VDV, as well as ride manufacturers from Switzerland.

The emerging states have also turned to organizers of shows, hoping that they too will become an influential launch pad. We see the United Arab Emirates promoting the theme park and attraction sector through their own Dubai Entertainment, Amusement & Leisure Show (DEAL) event. Supported by the ALES-organized conference session to educate the emerging sector, along with supporting associations IAAPA, TEA and AAMA, the international trade is being gathered together to share ideas. This market is supported by the Association of Arabian Amusement Attractions (AAAA), which was established in 1995.


The requirements of each territory have always shaped the structure of association representation. Most notably the changing Asian scene has seen Japan overseen by the Japanese Amusement Industrial Association (JAIA), which was established in 2006, and is an umbrella organization that comprises the Japanese Amusement Machine Manufacturers Association (JAMMA), which was established in 1981, the Nippon All Recreation Machine Operators’ Union (AOU) and the Nippon Shopping Center Amusement Park Operators Association (NSA).

These combined interests offer the greatest coverage of the sector for their membership, and running under their organization are two important Japanese amusement exhibitions. The All Nippon Amusement Machine Operators’ Union (AOU) in February and the Amusement Machine Show (AM-Show) in September have become landmark gatherings for the trade, shaping that year’s buying habits and establishing new trends. These events are supported in part by the separate Japan Amusement Park Equipment Association (JAPEA), which was established in 1974, offering a means for the diverse Asian amusement and attraction sector to define its member’s needs and support lobbying efforts as the market moves towards increased gaming interests.

The emerging markets have yet to establish a concrete association structure, and the interest of show organisers and committees that hope to solidify into a corporate structure is keen. In the Korean and Taiwanese market, the G-Star event in December, organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism and co-hosted by the Korea Creative Content Agency, has gained momentum – partly through the auspices of the Korea Amusement Machine Manufacturers Association (KAMMA), which was established in 1999 and has 200 member companies. And IAAPA-Asia is running its own trade conference in the sector and supporting their needs. China also has a multitude of trade shows that are vying for contention in the hope to act as a catalyst to establish a prominent show, and with that an association.

China is seen as one of the most influential new markets, and it is represented by the China Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (CAAPA), which was established in 1987 and is the equivalent to the IAAPA association. CAAPA covers a diverse and evolving market and the association works hard to influence local and state control of the market and how their membership can thrive. It is a supporter of the 7th China International Game & Amusement Exhibition (CIAE), which is held in March. Even more far afield, the continuing growth of emerging markets warrants the need for support. In India, we see the Indian Association of Amusement Parks and Industries (IAAPI), which was established in 1999. Building on previous success, and a growing pace of change, this association looks toward a future of attraction business in what has to be seen as an embryonic territory.

The Internet has superseded the future of attraction and leisure associations, and the need to engender an environment where ideas could be shared and introductions made, which was once the preserve of the trade association and the accompanying shows and conferences. The number of forums, networks and portals on the Web encroach on many of the ideals of older associations with the ability to effectively cross boarders. There is also the influence of social networks that can create effective media for the sharing of ideas and the dissemination of information, such as LINKEDIN, Facebook and others, which can prove a faster and more effective way to communicate, and negate the strength of those associations unwilling or unable to embrace this new media.

It is important that we state that this feature has only been able to touch the surface of the activities of the current international associational structure and is unable to go into detail concerning the vast charitable efforts and the effective lobbying and safety legislation work achieved. But in a time of transition, some of these associations are finding it hard to justify the level of membership support that they could once call upon – their limitations in size and effectiveness to publicize membership issues. With the squeeze on resources and time for their membership under the current GFC, it is hard to stay current, and associations are only as strong as the executives prepared to serve on their boards and support their efforts. As more specialized formations of new associations erode the core membership, and as more companies rail against higher membership fees, we are about to see the whole complicated global associational structure evolve to offer an effective tool for a market in transition. –

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