Wednesday, 16 Apr, 2014

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This Week's News

Orlando sets all-new attendance record

Orlando welcomed 59 million visitors in 2013, setting an all-time US leisure destination record.

The news was announced by Visit Orlando president and CEO George Aguel earlier this week.

The record-breaking figure, which represents a three per cent increase over the previous milestone in 2012, acts as a clear indication that the Florida city remains the key leisure destination for both US residents and foreign tourists.

"We are so pleased to announce this incredibly exciting news," Aguel said. "Thanks to the strong global marketing and sales efforts of our team at Visit Orlando and the leadership of our tourism members and community leaders who share a common vision for our destination, Orlando continues to lead the nation as its most visited destination."

Orlando is currently experiencing one of the most significant expansion periods in the destination's history.

Universal Orlando Resort will open the world's first centrally themed, multi-park experience this summer by expanding The Wizarding World of Harry Potter across both of its theme parks.

SeaWorld Orlando recently opened Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin - the biggest expansion in its company's history, while Walt Disney World Resort will complete a multi-year project that is doubling the size of Fantasyland when it debuts the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster this summer.

To help the travel trade understand how to benefit from the exciting news coming out of the destination, tourist board Visit Orlando has launched an enhanced Orlando Travel Academy.

Travel agents around the globe can use this online tool to help boost their knowledge of Orlando and augment their ability to support their clients' travel planning efforts.

New waterpark for UK venue

Plans have been announced for a £26m ($43m) indoor waterpark and sports village at the National Bowl entertainment venue in Milton Keynes, UK.

It is the first major scheme at the concert venue since it was built in 1973.

The bowl is an open-air amphitheatre that has previously attracted artists like Bon Jovi, Eminem, Oasis and Robbie Williams.

Milton Keynes Development Partnership (MKDP) chair John Duggan said it would become a "major tourist attraction".

The investment company has presented a plan to create the "UK's largest" indoor waterpark.

Natalia Bakhlina joins LDP

Leisure Development Partners (LDP) has announced that Natalia Bakhlina is joining LDP as partner.

According to the UK-based leisure consultancy, Bakhlina brings an "incredible depth" of real estate economics experience with her, with emphasis on entertainment destinations, as well as complex mixed-use developments.

Beginning her career as an analyst at Knight Frank in Moscow, she joined Economics Research Associates (ERA) in London in 2006, later acquired by AECOM.

As an associate director at AECOM Economics, Bakhlina completed a wide range of leisure and attraction assignments including feasibility studies and economic impact analyses for theme parks, waterparks, cable cars, viewing towers and platforms, entertainment destinations, zoos and family entertainment centres.

She has also worked on a number of due diligence projects and reviews of operational performance of large-scale attractions and attraction groups. Her most recent work includes projects in Spain, Czech Republic, Russia and South Africa.

LDP founding partner Yael Coifman commented: "The addition of Natalia's expertise and experience to the LDP team will add yet more strength to our global offer. We are thrilled to have her join us."

Quassy Zoo to open in May

Quassy Amusement and Waterpark will cut the ribbon on an expanded children's play area on May 3.

Located adjacent to the Yo-Yo Super Swing ride at the Connecticut park, Quassy Zoo will provide an opportunity for children to enjoy a number of animal-themed fibreglass creations.

"We've incorporated a number of new animals to help round out the theme in this area of the park," said Quassy owner, George Frantzis.

"Families enjoy relaxing under the shade trees there and taking pictures of their children with the animals. This will broaden the opportunity presented in our small 'zoo'."

The new animals were created by Enchanted Castle Studios of Natural Bridge, Virginia.

Merlin plans second Turkish attraction

Following the acquisition of Istanbul's popular Turkuazoo Aquarium last September, global visitor attractions operator Merlin Entertainments has reached an agreement to build and open a Legoland Discovery Centre in the Turkish capital.

The attraction is scheduled to open in late spring 2015, and will be the first-ever Legoland Discovery Centre in this part of Europe.

Based on the ever-popular Lego brick, a Legoland Discovery Centre is the ultimate Lego indoor playground, offering a fun, highly interactive and educational two to three-hour indoor experience for families with children aged between three and 10.

The Istanbul Legoland Discovery Centre will include Lego rides, a 4D cinema and an insight into how Lego bricks are made.

The venue will also feature a range of themed play areas, a Legoland Mini exhibit and special party rooms for birthdays and other celebrations

Commenting on the new facility, Glenn Earlam, managing director of Merlin Entertainments' midway attractions operating group, said: "When we acquired Turkuazoo last year we said that we had identified Istanbul as an exciting, vibrant and populous city in which we were looking to build a cluster of our attractions - and this is the first step.

"We have also already begun our programme of very positive changes in the aquarium, which will continue through the summer; and our experience of working with the great team in Turkuazoo has convinced us even more of the potential in Istanbul for quality attractions such as ours."

Six Flags receives tech plaudits

Six Flags Entertainment Corporation, the world's largest regional theme park company, has been named to the 2014 InformationWeek Elite 100 - a list of the top business technology innovators in the US.

This is InformationWeek's 26th year identifying and honouring the nation's most innovative users of information technology.

The Elite 100 research tracks the technology-based investments, strategies and results of some of the best-known organisations in the country.

"We pride ourselves on innovation at every level, from our record-breaking rides and attractions to business solutions that create efficient, seamless park operations," said Jim Reid-Anderson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Texas-based Six Flags.

"Our leadership role in information technology serves as a strategic and brand differentiator for our company."

Al Montazah Park makes a splash

The UAE emirate of Sharjah opened its first waterpark on March 13, following two weeks of tests.

The 126,000sq.m Al Montazah Park has three main sections: a leisure park, green park and the emirate's first-of-its-kind water park replete with eight pulsating rides.

Four of them are body slides while the rest are tube slides, all from as high as 15m.

"We completed a soft launch on March 2 to test our preparedness and the level of crowd interest," the resort's operator told local press. "We had a great response."

Village eyes Asia expansion

Village Roadshow is ramping up its international expansion plans, eyeing up to nine new sites in China and Malaysia for its theme park business and trebling the number of Gold Class cinema complexes in the US, reports suggest.

After last year agreeing to build and operate its first Chinese theme park on an island known as the 'Hawaii of China' in the South China Sea, Village executive chairman Robert Kirby said the company was assessing six new prospective sites in China and three in Malaysia.

Siriusware signs major attractions

Siriusware, a division of AIM-listed Accesso Technology Group, the premier technology provider to the global attractions industry, has announced five major contract wins.

Agreements have been signed with iFly Virginia Beach, Jasper Tramway Acquisition Corporation, African Lion Safari & Game Farm, Holocaust Museum Houston and the National Aquarium in Baltimore for a variety of Siriusware salespoint solutions that include eCommerce, front gate, access control, group sales, memberships, kiosks and retail.

Leisure focus for Oman

Theme parks and waterparks in Oman are among the key projects included in a new study on developing the Arab state's tourism appeal.

Buoyed by the increase in tourists flocking to the country, Omran - the company set up by the government to complete major projects and to manage assets and investments in the tourism sector - announced that 12 new projects are under a feasibility study.

Speaking at the Oman Future Buildings in March, engineer Wael bin Ahmed Al Lawati, CEO of Omran, said that the 12 projects would cover different fields of interest, such as the development of forts and castles, theme parks, waterparks, and eco-friendly resorts.