WWA40 Virtual features over 50 hours of planned programming
AT: Pam Sherborne
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — When officials of the World Waterpark Association (WWA) announced on August 10 they had canceled the in-person 40th WWA Annual Symposium and Trade Show, it really came as no surprise to many. The challenges and the ever-changing protocols and mandates created by the COVID-19 global pandemic was continuing to cause a lot of disruptions and confusion.
Of course, that didn't stop anyone in the water park industry from being disappointed that they wouldn't be meeting together in Las Vegas, Nevada, this year. But as WWA members have been doing all year long, they came together and quickly pivoted to the next stage. For the WWA, that was going forward to deliver a virtual show experience honoring the strong commitment to providing exceptional education networking opportunities.
Those efforts will be on full display Tuesday-Thursday, Oct. 6-8, with the presentation of 50 hours of engaging industry experts and peers, all of whom have a story to tell about 2020 and beyond.
When making the announcement of the cancelation of the in-person event, Damien Latham, chair, WWA Board of Directors, and Rick Root, WWA president, expressed their admiration and respect for how WWA members had come together throughout 2020 to develop and share some solutions.
"In many respects, changing to a virtual show experience has been an exciting new challenge that we couldn’t have anticipated but we’re pleased to meet," said Aleatha Ezra, director of park member development. "Thanks to the incredible support we’ve seen so far from our sponsors, speakers and committee volunteers, we are moving ahead with an education program that is very similar to what we would have offered in Vegas."
Over the three days of the program, WWA will provide attendees access to seven featured presentations, nine "Ask the Experts" question and answer sessions, 10 "Connect and Chat" sessions and three general sessions and award presentations. All of these will be live.
In addition, there will be 40-plus break-out sessions running concurrently over the three days.
"We’ll miss our in-person networking time, of course, but now is the time for us to set a new game plan for the coming year," Ezra said. "The year 2021 will hold many unknowns for all of us, but we don’t have to go into it alone. We can bounce ideas off each other and gather new ways to operate more safely so that our guests feel good about coming back out to visit our parks."
Instead of optioning for a virtual trade show, WWA is offering sponsorship opportunities and some of the benefits for those that participate expand outside of the actual event, such as enhancing exposure for months to come.
"We did consider a virtual trade show, but we ultimately decided it wasn't the best fit for our attendees this year," Ezra said. "We are seeing incredibly strong support from our show sponsors, as they are as committed as we are to continuing our tradition of bringing the industry together to share new ideas and re-energize for the coming year."
The sponsorships are tiered with the Platinum Sponsor at the top. For $7,500, the Platinum Sponsor package includes an inclusion on WWA's social media sites and exclusive recognition and reference to the sponsor's company name, handle and link to the sponsor's website.
The top tier sponsor also will be included in the WWA Member Spotlight printed in the October/November or December issue of the WWA's trade publication and an upgrade to a full page message from the CEO featured in the December issue. They also will receive a main logo digital magazine launch package for October/November, December or January 2021 issue.
And that is just some of the special benefits. The Platinum Sponsor also will receive most of the benefits of the lower tiers, which are the Gold Sponsor, Silver Sponsor and the Bronze Sponsor.
The virtual event will include the announcement of WWA's annual awards, including the Hall of Fame inductees as well as the Board Awards honorees. These awards recognize excellence in leadership, safety, innovation and training and honor people working at various levels within the water leisure industry.
It has been quite a year for the entire industry. Ezra said that early on during the COVID-19 pandemic, the WWA staff put a focus on being the industry’s go-to resource for finding vetted and trustworthy information about the pandemic, putting together resources and guidance on how the virus spreads, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization information and how water park operators could hope to safely reopen when they received approval from their local health officials.
"Our COVID-19 Resources page quickly became our most visited page on waterparks.org," Ezra said. "In addition to our continuous website updates, we stepped up our Webinar Wednesday programming, doing as many as two or three per week that covered meaningful topics on the pandemic and beyond, in a format that all could access from wherever they were working."
Ezra said they knew many people lost their jobs starting in March, some temporarily, but they still needed and wanted to stay connected to the latest information about the industry.
"So it was important to us that our webinars, the digital version of World Waterpark Magazine and other resources remained accessible to our members, friends and colleagues in the industry."
WWA worked closely with partners at the CDC throughout their drafting process for the Considerations for Public Pools, Hot Tubs and Water Playgrounds. This information was put into a document that became a keystone piece for health officials in many local markets.
"After the release of this document, we hosted a webinar with the CDC that attracted more than 1,200 registrants," she said.
WWA officials hope that the WWA40 Virtual will be just as and more successful as professionals share their information about this year's past experiences and how the future may unfold.
"The events of this year highlighted something we’ve always known about our industry, when creative thinking or innovative problem-solving is needed, our members are more than up to the task to respond in ways that keep safety top of mind," Ezra said.
"Of course, pandemics are tricky things to navigate because there is no specific rule-book with one-size-fits-all solutions to all problems," she added.
For those who operated in areas where phased re-openings were moving at a quicker pace, they were able to get reopened earlier in the summer season. Some areas were not able to reopen at all.
For those that did reopen, Ezra said they heard from those operators that guests returned in smaller numbers. Those that visited parks were inclined to spend money on services that improved their visit, such as cabanas or preset food and beverage packages resulting in higher per-caps for the parks.
The WWA 41st Annual Symposium and Trade Show has been set for Oct. 19-22, 2021, in San Antonio, Texas.