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March 23, 2022

Q&A with the HAA’s Board of Directors

Q&A with the HAA’s Board of Directors

Here's the Q&A with the Haunted Attraction Association Board of Directors, live at TransWorld's Halloween & Attractions Show immediately following the 2022 State of the Industry Presentation.


This Q&A session was recorded live at Transworld immediately following the 2022 State of the Industry Presentation. You’ll hear the Haunted Attraction Association’s Board of Directors take questions from the audience on a range of topics from logistics to staffing, the war’s impact, and whether demand will stay strong. 

Additional Resources

Transcript

Spencer Terry:

Great question. So we've talked about it and we're in the process of trying to figure out how to do that. Obviously the goal is to train as many people as possible through CHAOS; online is the easiest way to do that. That said, what we also know is that there is, for those of you that have been through CHAOS, there is a shared experience as you talk about how can we can do this together, that we are trying to figure out, how do we still keep that while still doing the online, but it's coming. The idea is as part of what we looked at for 2022 and 2023 of moving, not just for MHC, but also to other conferences as well, where we can do some CHAOS certification for those as well. That's the idea, is that eventually we'll be able to move in that direction. But until then we are at least able to do the recertification. We're hoping to also do one credit hour that'll be an online training that'll happen hopefully by this year as well. So that will be, the recertification is gonna be some safety training for sexual harassment, makeup, and just a few ways that we can connect a couple of dots of, we usually don't have time to talk about live. So thank you though. Good question,

Spencer Terry:

Brett. Anything else you want to add to that as the CHAOS director? Oh, thank you, Brett. Transworld's always such a whirlwind because there's so many things happening at one time. So any other questions?

Question:

You mentioned a Scream-zine. Are we supposed to automatically be receiving that?

Spencer Terry:

Yeah. So you can sign up for our magazine online. John is not up here, he's one of our marketing guys, John's getting ready for Oscars. But you can go to HauntedAttractionAssociation.com, you can sign up for the email just as the, just sign up for that generally. If you're a member you're gonna get a lot more Screamzines, those are our monthly emails, cause we have member-specific ones, but then we have industry-wide ones that will also send out to the general mailing list as well.

Question:

So this is a question for all you board members that have run haunted houses for a long period of time. Obviously, 2021 was a record-breaking year for a lot of attractions, and I feel like a lot of people are kind of puffing their chest out, but it was really due to a lot of pent-up demand. Do we feel that that is gonna continue into 2022 or are we gonna be in for a rude awakening?

Allen Hopps:

I'm ready. I think, actually the future is actually really bright. I just did a, a whole class on the, like, just before this, on the positives from COVID. I've been haunting a long time, from haunts that I've been at, it seems like a lot of customers are on a three year cycle where they come to your haunt once every three years. I do think that some haunts missed and we had a double up a little bit in some cases, that only accounts like a 33% increase, and I think many haunts were over that. I think that there are a multitude of factors that go into this, but I think that we've had a bit of a paradigm shift as far as the public.

Allen Hopps:

More people working from home means that they control their Friday night and when they get out of the office. More people working from home means that they're sick of watching their screen and they want to go out and do something. Movie theaters are down between 70% and 90%. going to the movies, which was a competition for something to do on the weekend, not as big of a factor until they fundamentally change their experience. People have reached the end of Netflix during lockdown. Like, they watched everything they wanted to watch. Now we're only competing with the new stuff, and that's actually a big deal. Yeah. If we're only competing with the new stuff, then they can watch that during the week. So I think, and those are a lot of really tiny little factors, but I think that they all add up. You also have a lot more people doing what they want with their time, that's part of the labor shortage. I just did an hour on this, I think we're great.

Spencer Terry:

Anyone else? Thanks Al, do we all concur?

Board:

Yeah.

Spencer Terry:

Yeah. I think, in general, people are tired of looking at their screens and they want to do something live and they want it immersive. We happen to provide that.

Allen Hopps:

So, another huge note is mental health. Lots of studies have come out in the past couple years because of lock down, because of COVID, that horror and dark experiences help us prepare for those things and handle them better. The more the world sucks, the more the world needs haunted houses.

Spencer Terry:

Never a dull moment. Thanks Bruce. Other questions.

Spencer Terry:

One of the email questions that we had is, how does the industry deal with war, should war happen? Copy and paste Allen's comment. I, that there's been, you know, some folks have been in the industry for 20, 30 plus years, and there's obviously been a lot of things happening during that time. In general, numbers dip a little bit, but they always come right back up. I think very similarly that the entertainment industry in general is needed about how we cope and how we it over things, and also how we have fun and we remember what it's like to be human, to have a human experience. That said, you know, there's a lot coming that we don't really know about and I think we'll all have to, I mean, no one has a crystal ball to be able to look at it, but I think it's something that we'll be able to at least get through. Do you guys have anything specific you want to add about, for those of you that have been around for a really long time things, you know, specifically that have helped you get over those hurdles? 9/11?

Allen Hopps:

I do.

Spencer Terry:

Yeah.

Allen Hopps:

So, the day it happened, I called Spencer and he and I had a pretty good talk as far as Russia invading Ukraine. Like the day that that happened, we started talking and I started chasing down rabbit holes. It seems like red states did not have a huge dip when Desert Storm started and happened, through the whole thing. Blue states had a minor dip in the beginning and recovered. This is only from like a 16 haunt sample who I knew had been open that long and I could talk to their owners. One of the reasons for the Association is so that we're all together and we all have that hive brain, so 20 years from now this question's easier to answer. 9/11, there was a dip, there was a significant dip in sales the year of 9/11, that happened in September. If we have learned anything from COVID it's how quickly we could forget a massive tragedy and get on with our lives, and luckily this... Luckily... Shouldn't happen at all, but it did happen not real close to haunt season starting. September 11th is there, like that's at the beginning, it's so fresh on the brain. I think now that's enough of a lead time, world events, I think we're gonna be okay. I don't see a significant dip happening this year from what's happening at the level it's happening in Ukraine.

Speaker 6:

So I'm just letting you know, in 9/11, I was up, Desert Storm, I was up COVID, I was up, I was up this year; not 20% like everybody, but steady. I remember the last time gas prices were $4 and who the president was, but I'm just saying, and I was scared to death and I was up. I think that people are gonna make these gas prices decisions, "I'm not going to the beach for a week because I can't afford to gas." But they're not gonna give up a night at your haunted house, and if you entertain them when they came, they're coming back. For COVID, what I seen was I did 4,000 or 5,000 people that had never been to my haunt; that was kind of shocking. For them to see my haunt, and I think they thought it was black plastic walls, and when they came and seen the haunt, I know they're coming back. So, I think, this year across the board, we'll be up.

Spencer Terry:

Other questions? We got about five minutes left before we head up to Oscares.

Question:

What advice is the board giving out as far as staffing issues?

Spencer Terry:

Good question. So the question is, what advice do we have about staffing issues? Anyone specifically want to cover in? I know there's got to be... Allen definitely had a, it was a good year.

Board:

Go ahead. I like to hear you talking. You gonna say the same thing we're saying.

Allen Hopps:

Well, early on, in speaking with Jen about classes here, like we shaped classes here in order to make sure we had classes that covered labor shortage, turning one actor into a legion, we've done several classes that cover it, touch on those notes. A couple highlights, all right, from that. Make sure that your haunt is someplace that someone that people want to work, offer an increase in pay before people start leaving. I don't think that's a bad idea to do that preemptive strike. There's a ton of building techniques and acting techniques that I would be happy to give you. The labor shortage is mostly a shortage of people who are willing to do bad jobs for little pay. We have a job that people want to do, I think will be alright. But I do think there's gonna be some flack with, we are kind of in a low, we pay on the low end of the scale.

Allen Hopps:

Awesome products out there on the show floor. As you're doing that and investing in your show on the show floor, remember how important your actors and your people are, and try to invest in them in a similar fashion. I'm not just saying dollars, it's also time and energy, because the way the world is right now, they need your emotional energy and support as much as they need financial. They may not know it or admit it, but they do, and the families that Haunts provide for a lot of people who don't have them is massive, and make sure you are welcoming to everyone. Then we're gonna have 100% get through this through the labor shortage. It's not as big a deal as we think, I think because of the kind of workplace that we are.

Spencer Terry:

At some point in time, all of us in our lives can remember when we were not part of a group, we were left out of a group, we didn't get to fit in for whatever that was. A lot of us now as operators, we have a culture on our properties where we are inclusive, we do create that culture. There may be a base pay financially, but there's an incentive pay, some of us are feeding those staff as well. There's other way that you can show and get your love, and that is going to have leaps and bounds. I think, at this point, we're seeing that sure money is part of the equation, but it's not the entire equation. There's a much bigger need that's out there, and as haunted houses are doing and giving a lot for our customers, we should also be doing and giving a lot to our staff. That's ultimately our biggest asset.

Question:

The relationship with Transworld.

Spencer Terry:

How are we doing?

Question:

Yeah, we're two separate organizations. Are we parallel? Do they still cooperate? Do they see a better future?

Spencer Terry:

Good question. So for those of you, a lot of people think that the HAA and the HAAshow.com are the same. We're actually two completely different organizations. We are obviously an operating organization, Transworld is its own privately owned organization. But we do work really well together. This is where the majority of the world comes together, this is where we collectively come together, and so because of that, we make sure that show up to make sure our events are for our membership, which is the biggest group collectively. I think there's plenty. There's some really great growth for Transworld. Obviously, this year is a really good example of it, the show keeps growing.

Spencer Terry:

Even next year, looking at how, I mean, for those of you that haven't seen the signs, the building's gonna be under construction, that's a problem because it's gonna be, you know, we've got a couple of months of literally construction time, so it's gonna have to move to February. It is what it is. We'll be here. It's still gonna be a good show, we'll do what we can. So, but I think overall, the board has also worked really hard in building a better bridge in how we can support each other independently so that we can be for our membership first and do what we can. So we'll continue to have what events we have here, they'll be here. We obviously were at MHC last year. We're gonna try to continue being in and representing HAA in more conferences as well.

Allen Hopps:

Just a quick note, I'm on the board because I care about haunted houses, and if I didn't think everybody on the board cared about haunted houses as much as I do, then I wouldn't do it, I wouldn't be on it. I think the core of our relationship with Transworld, like the root of it, is that in order for Transworld to do well, haunted houses have to do well. You're seeing that on the show floor. Our job as a board is to make sure haunted houses are doing well, and you get out of the board what you ask of the board. If you are struggling and you have issues, come to us, that's our job. Then we try to make haunted houses better, and then that makes Transworld better. So there's a very symbiotic relationship there. I think that if it gets political, you can clash, but just remember that I think Transworld wants haunted houses to do well and we want haunted houses to do well.

 

Spencer Terry Profile Photo

Spencer Terry

General Manager

Spencer Terry is the General Manager of Fear Factory Haunted House in Salt Lake City, Utah and serves as a Haunted Attraction Association board member. He has been a consultant in the retail, human resources, business, hospitality and non-profit fields for over a decade. With several rides, 6 buildings of terror, over 65,000 attendees annually, and a combined cast/staff of nearly 250, he’s proud to call Fear Factory home. Prior to his role there, he spent nearly 20 years in the hospitality, non-profit, residential management, retail and corporate HR worlds, ranging from C-Suite, EVP of Retail Operations, Executive Director positions and more. Spencer founded Gateway of Chaos haunted attraction-a 100% non-profit haunt with 50 volunteers, and has been an avid haunter, and home haunter, since he was seven years old. As a private consultant and keynote speaker (see spencerterry.com) for several of the field’s he has worked in, a former city councilman, volunteer firefighter, and an educator/presenter at over 10 universities and 15 school districts, plus his education in business and human resources, he combines his experience and knowledge in a passionate way that has helped maximize the goals of Fear Factory Haunted House to continue to be a heavily awarded attraction, and one of the best attractions in their industry (recently awarded the Legendary Haunt Tour Award in 2018). Spencer is dedicated to making the haunt industry stronger and more collaborative. When he has time to breathe, he's an avid Utah mountains lover, gardener, family man, life coach, and volunteer.

Allen Hopps Profile Photo

Allen Hopps

Show Director

A Show director at Dark Hour Haunted House, Allen also enjoys building and designing products for haunted attractions. He also runs a YouTube channel showing how to DIY for haunted houses called Stiltbest Studios