To Infinity and Beyond Symposium Report

If you are asked to report on a symposium about Attractions and Theme Parks Management, you secretly hope that this will take place in the Efteling or Disneyland…

~By Maaike Dukker-‘t Hart

Together with alumni, industry partners, students and lecturers, Breda University of Applied Sciences celebrated the fifth anniversary of the international study track of Attractions & Theme Parks Management (ATPM) last week.

If you are asked to report on a symposium about Attractions and Theme Parks Management, you secretly hope that this will take place in the Efteling or Disneyland…  Nothing could be further from the truth, but the fact is that theme parks such as Efteling and Disney appeal to everyone’s imagination, from young to old. What’s the reason for that and how can you keep that fascinating world fascinating? I learnt a lot about this during the symposium Breda University of Applied Sciences organised on 26 June as a part of the fifth anniversary of the Attractions and Theme Park Management study track. As I said, not in the Efteling or suchlike, but in in the chapel of the BUas campus in Breda we also imagine ourselves in a fairy-tale atmosphere.

Our Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

Theme parks will: Tell Stories. And must continue to do so. That is the first (out of twelve!) tip from Dr. Carissa Baker from the UCP’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management in Orlando. Technology is also important and can change society, “but who has ever been in a bad VR experience? Fingers up please!”. “Not telling a story, but just showing off pixels and high tech, don’t do that!”

Theme parks will: be Part of a Web of Media. “Who knew that Pirates of the Caribbean was an attraction at Disney before the movie came out?” So, make it a complete story. The ATPM study track is already a great combination of the Tourism, Leisure & Events, Hotel and Facility study programmes, but I also see an interesting crossover with Media and Games here. And with Built Environment by the way. Because, creating immersive environments is necessary to make a credible story. Every single detail must at least look authentic.

Carissa Baker ended her inspiring lecture with a call to the students. “We need young talent like you! Listen to your teachers. Theory is important. And start with being a front-office employee. You don’t learn such a thing from YouTube. And please, go to museums! That’s where the competition is. I recently visited the Spoorweg Museum. Something about railways, I thought. Until I experienced the Dark Ride and the Simulator.”

Unpacking Experience

And this is where technology comes in again. Wim Strijbosch, one of the young talents in the industry, alumnus of BUas and PhD candidate, explains this in his lecture on the Neuroscience of Themed Entertainment. What exactly makes an experience? We drive or fly through a virtual environment and the technology ensures the right feeling. In other words, your brains fill in what you experience; bumping on a horse, shaking in a small plane.

Create a Big Moment, Not a Big Attraction

The story of Olaf Vugts, Creative Director at Efteling, goes back to the creation of the theme park that started in 1952 as a fairy-tale forest. His father worked in the park and he was able to join him as a 13-year-old boy. “I got a nice jacket with Efteling on it and I immediately felt part of the family.” Then he knew, this is what I want to do, to let people experience pleasure. “And do you know who the idea of the fairy-tale forest came from? Not from Anton Pieck, not from the mayor, but from the mayor’s wife. Creativity always comes from women.”

What Makes Us Different?

Remarkably, the alumni panel consisted exclusively of men. Together with Mr Reinoud van Assendelft de Coningh, they discussed the transformation from school to the real world. “Tough, but manageable.” As a professional in the industry it is important to always keep asking yourself: “What makes me different? What makes us different?” And remember, to conclude with the words of Olaf Vugts: “You’re not on stage, just be yourself.”

Surprising Final Act

At the end of an inspiring afternoon, senior lecturer Klaus Hoven from the ATPM team reflected on 5 years of ATPM and outlined future plans. In short, steady growth, even more diversity in the international classroom and developing a masters’ programme. The ATPM team was pleasantly surprised to receive two scholarships from the Global Association for the Attractions Industry (IAAPA) for international students to study Attractions and Theme Parks Management at BUas. Congratulations on that!

Keep an eye on our video impression of the symposium. Coming soon!

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