Farewell to a great pioneer5 December 2022
/ Last month saw the passing of Alberto Zamperla, a visionary Italian entrepreneur who wrote many pages in the history of amusement parks around the world /
What lies behind a successful entrepreneur? A bit of luck and a wide variety of skills and personal qualities, such as courage, passion and initiative, leadership and the ability to choose the right partners, competitiveness and ambition, knowing how to face challenges with a positive and proactive attitude, determination and resilience, as well as a generous dose of creativity.
Alberto Zamperla, President of Antonio Zamperla Spa who passed away suddenly at the age of 71 on 17 November, had all these qualities. By putting them to good use, he managed to achieve international success and to establish his company as one of the world’s leading players in the parks and rides sector. An ‘empire’ with sales exceeding 61 million euros (2021), 450 employees in 7 countries, an average of 200 rides sold per year and thousands of customers spread all over the world.
Having entered at a very young age the company operating in the amusement rides sector founded by his father Antonio Zamperla in 1966, Alberto immediately worked on expanding the company’s business on international markets: first in Europe and then in the USA, where at the age of 24 he was given the task of setting up a sales office responsible for managing the company’s vast overseas market. “At the beginning things in North America weren’t easy, because I didn’t have any local customers to use as references when I went to the parks, something that was essential to make a sale,” Alberto explained in a video published by IAAPA, when Alberto was inducted into its prestigious Hall of Fame in 2019, in recognition of his role as one of the ‘greats’ being part of the history of parks and rides around the world. “Fortunately it wasn’t long before I came up with a great idea: I gave a major local customer a couple of rides, agreeing with him that instead of paying for the rides, we would split the proceeds. His guests liked our rides so much that within a month that same operator had already earned what he needed to pay for them. So I took some nice photos, I asked him for a letter of reference, which he was delighted to give me, and thus I had what I needed to start to make myself known. And to sell more rides.”
At the end of the 1980s, none other than Disney crowned the international success of Alberto and Zamperla, triggering even greater growth for the company, with Eurodisney in Paris, Disney’s first theme park in Europe. The Vicenza company won an order for 7 of the 11 rides at the park (Phase 1 of what would later become the Disneyland Paris resort): an honour, but also an enormous technical and production ‘challenge’ that Alberto accepted with resourcefulness and competence. “That order changed our company. Since then, no-one has bothered asking us for references,” Alberto recalled smiling in the IAAPA video.
And after Disney the other global giants in the parks industry soon came knocking, such as Universal Studios, Paramount, Six Flags, Lego, and representative offices and production plants were opened in various countries: Russia (1995), Philippines (1996), Dubai (2002), China (2006), Belarus (2006), Slovakia (2008).
Still under the guidance of Alberto, who became President of Antonio Zamperla Spa in 1994 following his father’s death, the company that became a group took the big step of adding operation of parks to its primary business as a rides manufacturer. In Italy the first was Minitalia Fantasy World (now Leolandia) in the Bergamo province, in partnership with the Thorus Group, and then, just 3 years ago, the Luna Farm in Bologna in collaboration with F.I.CO. Eataly World. Overseas, since 2010, through C.A.I. Ltd, the company has been running the historic Coney Island amusement park in New York, which Alberto described as a splendid showcase for showing off and testing new rides.
To those who asked him the secret of all this success, the Vicenza businessman replied by listing several factors, namely market diversification and having constant direct contact with each, to understand what they require and their specificities (including in terms of approach: for example, the culture in the Arab countries is very different from that in Europe, and ride manufacturers cannot ignore this). No less important, in Zamperla’s experience, was equipping the company with all the technologies needed to create the rides, acquiring full mastery of them.
A few yet fundamental points that are backed by immeasurable passion and dedication to work, together with considerable intellectual curiosity and determination. A spiritual legacy that Alberto Zamperla has left to all those who had the pleasure of getting to know him, and that we hope will continue to guide his company and the work of his 3 sons Antonio, Alessandro and Adriano.
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