International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions

International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) is an international trade association for all permanently sited amusement facilities such as amusement and theme parks, family entertainment centers, museums and science centers, zoos and aquariums, water parks and resorts, casinos, and the amusement industry manufacturers and suppliers.1 They are an industry resource for improving efficiency, marketing, safety, and profitability as well as being a united advocate with local, national, and international media and government officials.

During World War I, the outdoor amusement industry was facing two challenges: an amusement tax and the drafting of their essential work force. For the past ten years they had been trying unsuccessfully to form a collective organization. However, in Chicago in early 1917, they were able to unite under the slogan of “Common Defense and Common Advancement.” The following year they officially formed the National Outdoor Showmen's Association (NOSA) and immediately began working to eliminate the amusement tax and obtaining military deferments for the workers who were essential for recreation for both the military and civilian populations. They were successful on both accounts.

By 1920 the focus of NOSA was largely concerned with the amusement park industry and therefore, in order to focus their efforts, NOSA was dissolved and the National Association of Amusement Parks (NAAP) was formed instead. They were dedicated to monitoring and influencing legislation, promoting safety, working in relationship with fairs and carnivals, assisting with insurance problems, and holding an annual convention where topics of new products, marketing assists, and business concerns were addressed.

The NAAP was able to “safeguard” the amusement tax exemption as they worked to establish their annual conferences as showcases of products and information. After five years in 1925, a committee was formed for manufacturers and distributors of amusement park equipment. They functioned as a committee for ten years and then chose to form their own association in 1935, the American Recreational Equipment Association, which is now known as the Amusement Industry Manufacturers and Suppliers (AIMS).

The New England Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, formerly known as the Massachusetts Association of Amusement Park Men, joined forces with NAAP in 1926. Another merger was in the making as well. During the 1920s the swim industry was growing and they formed the American Association of Pools and Beaches (AAPB) in 1930. After four years they chose to merge with the NAAP to form the National Association of Amusement Parks, Pools, and Beaches (NAAPPB).

During World War II, the amusement industry again provided recreation with the attitude that “It has long since been proved that perhaps the finest antidote for fear is fun, and that is our business... Fun is a gloom chaser; fun drives out discouragement and despair; fun pushes aside pessimism.”2

After two decades of austerity due to the Great Depression and World War II, by the late 1940s the amusement parks had deteriorated and needed repairs. This was a time of public disappointment and uncertainty as television became a new entertainment source. The NAAPPB adopted a Code of Ethics in 1950 to proactively raise the standard of amusement parks to one of clean, safe, wholesome, outdoor fun that is “a vital and necessary part of our community life.”3 The Code emphasized service, fairness, and cooperation to guests and business partners alike.

The early 1950s brought the Baby Boom generation to the parks, and business in “kiddieland” increased. During this time, the concept of a themed amusement park was begun with Charles Wood of The Great Escape, Walter Knott of Knott's Berry Farm, and Bill Koch of Holiday World. However, Walt Disney “took an area of activity – the amusement park – and lifted it to a standard so high in its performance that it really became a brand new thing.”4 That was in 1955 with the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

The following year, the NAAPPB held their Summer Meeting at Disneyland and listened to Walt describe his innovations in the industry such as utilizing one central entry gate, beautiful landscaping, original rides, and expanded theming.

Another significant date in the amusement park industry was in 1961 with the opening of the Six Flags Over Texas, which was a regional theme park that was a more achievable standard and which inspired strong industry growth. At the same time the swim, pool, and beach members decided to form a separate organization and the necessary reorganization of NAAPPB resulted in the formation of the International Association of Amusement Parks (IAAP) in 1962.

This new name reflects the organization's new focus on international membership growth. Ten years later in 1972, to reflect their expanding base of amusement industries beyond amusement parks, they became the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). This resulted in including any amusement centers that operated from a fixed location, such as the emerging water parks.

Besides expanding types of amusement organizations, the IAAPA expanded their programs to include the ACTIONNEWS, the Management Seminar, the Manual and Guide, the Public Relations Program, the Safety Program, the Promotion Scrapbook, and the Training Program. A decade later in 1985, they added the FUNWORLD, an industry publication. The following year they established their international headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia and formed a strategic planning committee that performs periodic evaluations of performance and makes recommendations for future policies and programs.

IAAPA expanded their base again in 1988 with the inclusion of miniature golf courses and family entertainment centers. By the mid 1990s they were also including zoos, aquariums, and museums, and much later in 2006 they began including casinos and resorts.

The IAAPA Hall of Fame was instituted in 1990 and recognizes the “true giants and pioneers of the amusement industry” who have significantly contributed to “the entire industry, their community, and the world.”5 Walt Disney was one of the seven honored that first year and P.T. Barnum was recently honored in 2012.6

In 1995, IAAPA adopted the Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, Florida, a resort for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Located near Disney World, they create a “booster shot of fun” for Wish kids and extend this opportunity for a year through the World Passport program.7

By 1996 IAAPA was online with a website, to which they added an e-series module in 2003 to facilitate online registrations and purchases. They also began webcasting trainings and launched a website for trade shows and one to assist consumers to plan amusement park trips. These sites were later reincorporated into the upgraded IAAPA main website in 2007.

Safety issues became a major media focus after some ride incidents in 1999. IAAPA provided support for members with media kits, instituted a ride incident reporting system, assisted in establishing ASTM International ride design and manufacture standards in 2003, and now host Safety Institutes annually.

To facilitate expanding internationally, the IAAPA formed the International Council in 1990, elected Bo Kinntorph of Liseberg Park in Gothenburg, Sweden as president in 1992, created the International Representatives program in 1994, and co-purchased the Asian Amusement Expo. All of these steps led to the milestone reached in 1997 when over one third of all IAAPA members were from outside of the United States.8 A new, more international logo was adopted in 2001, the same year they opened a full-time office in Brussels, Belgium.

IAAPA has since established regional offices in Hong Kong, China, and Mexico City, Mexico and have six international liaison organizations. They also host the Asian Attractions Expo and the Euro Attractions Show annually. The International Council has been reformed into the Global Alliances to effect support worldwide.

At the annual trade conferences and online, IAAPA offers trainings for personnel, managers, and executives. They also provide a daily e-newsletter for industry news. In these national and international ways they seek and support the “preservation and prosperity of the amusement industry.”9

  • 1. “About IAAPA.” IAAPA. < > 26 Nov. 2012
  • 2. “IAAPA History.” IAAPA. < > 26 Nov. 2012.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Rouse, James. Quoted in “IAAPA History.”
  • 5. Op.cit., “IAAPA History.”
  • 6. “IAAPA Hall of Fame Award.” IAAPA. < > 26 Nov. 2012.
  • 7. “Community Outreach.” IAAPA. < > 26 Nov. 2012.
  • 8. Op.cit., “IAAPA History.”
  • 9. “IAAPA Facts.” IAAPA. < > 26 Nov. 2012.