Thea Blog

07 February 2019

Leave your preconceptions at the door -- Q&A with TEA Summit 2019 Day One co-chairs Christine Kerr & Melissa Ruminot

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) annual Summit conference is a two-day event, followed by the TEA Thea Awards Gala presented by Chimelong. The weekend of events takes place April 11-13, 2019 at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. 

Christine Kerr

Programming: TEA Summit Day One sessions (April 11, 2013) will feature the current headline Thea Award recipients: lifetime achievement honoree Mark Woodbury of Universal Parks and Resorts, and Thea Classic honoree Dollywood park. The program also features a session on global industry economics with specialists from AECOM, which collaborates each year with TEA to produce the TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index, the leading attendance study for the sector. In addition to those features are a series of curated sessions that vary from year to year to reflect current trends, issues and needs - as the co-chairs refer to it, "the business of the business of themed entertainment."

TEA Summit Day One co-chairs are TEA Past President Christine Kerr of BaAM Productions, and TEA Eastern North America Division Board President Melissa Ruminot of The Companies of Nassal. Also on the team as curators are TEA Past President Steve Birket of Birket Engineering, and Kile Ozier, Experience Architect. 

Melissa Ruminot

Read on for an illuminating question-and-answer session with Kerr and Ruminot about TEA Summit Day One, April 11, 2019 at Disneyland Resort.

Click here to purchase tickets/get more info 


TEA Summit Day One: The business of the business of themed entertainment

How would you summarize the role of this program?

Christine Kerr, co-chair: TEA Summit Day One is an opportunity for the industry to gather and talk about what we do through a business lens. It encourages lifelong learning for our members, at all stages of their careers. 

Melissa Ruminot, co-chair: Summit’s focus as “the business of the business” allows us to put these topics to the forefront, and focus on the WHY behind the business decisions made, and the outcomes and results of those decisions. 


Steve Birket

Year after year, why does this industry need this Summit? 

Kerr: TEA’s vision, as an association, is to serve the creators of compelling places and experiences. Summit considers the owner/operator perspective as well as the creative/project point of view and allows these groups to understand the shared challenges we face and the possibilities that lie ahead for all of us. It also blurs the lines between all types of “compelling places and experiences” as we discover there is much that we have in common.

Ruminot: As our global industry continues to evolve, TEA’s reach in defining who our members are, the experiences they are creating, and the way we connect our members to other members becomes vitally important. Whether it’s a theme park, a cultural institution, a zoo or aquarium, traveling exhibition or nighttime spectacular, each of these experiences has its own unique challenges and stories to share and learn from.


Kile Ozier

What are some of the ways you’re making the 2019 Summit relevant and fresh?

Kerr: We feel a strong responsibility to be a resource for benchmarking the “State of the Industry” for the industry. We’ve established TEA’s credibility with mainstream media as an expert resource in global attractions and tourism with the publishing of the annual Theme Index.  Making this information relevant by truly contextualizing it is a new focus. We’re thrilled that one of our primary "State of the Industry" sessions will start with a keynote by economist Lauren Saidel-Baker, who will provide a global picture within which we can frame the industry-focused perspective AECOM provides. We then want to drill down to a more specific level with a panel discussion that considers the trends and impacts on regions or sectors or type of business by asking the question “What does this mean to me?”  We’ve been paying attention and listening to feedback and have come up with a series of “Hot Topics” where we will drill down on some of the big issues and challenges that are top of mind for everyone working in the industry.

Ruminot: A deep dive into the “why” behind business decisions is a big focus this year. Content will break outside of the traditional voices and contextualize challenges that all businesses in our industry face, regardless of the core market you serve.


"State of the Industry" -
Lauren Saidel-Baker, CFA
will moderate the
Global Economics discussion at
TEA Summit Day One

Will it be equally important and meaningful for established industry members as for those less established/experienced?

Ruminot: TEA is at a critical place to position itself and our members as thought leaders in a global industry. Summit allows us to gather together for a day of benchmarking and establishing best practices, and to celebrate the successes of our peers. The mix of content will touch on a variety of business topics that affect each of us in different ways. Whether you are just starting out, in mid-career, a 30-year veteran or you’ve joined themed entertainment from another industry (and wondering how you fell into something this cool), there will be something for you to find value and make relevant to your role and responsibilities.

Kerr: Yes. We never stop learning and growing so Summit is a place for a shared dialogue about some fundamental truths of our industry. The program provides a balance of learning, networking and celebration (plus some time for down-time, park-time and socializing) making the trip very worthwhile. 


Networking is an important element of 
the annual TEA Summit

Tell us about the team you are heading up for Summit Day One and how you’re collaborating.

Kerr: Melissa and I make a great team – we share a passion for providing our attendees will valuable insights and information that is really meaningful. And doing it in a fun and engaging way. Earlier in her career, Melissa worked in the conference and events business so she brings experience and expertise that compliment my background in creating guest experiences. Steve Birket, and Kile Ozier continue to work with us on curating content and the group dynamic is great – we really challenge each other in the pursuit of a program that will be the most relevant for our attendees. 

Ruminot: Collaboration truly is the key to success. What makes this year great is the different perspectives that each of us bring to the table as we’ve been curating the program. As the relative “newbie” on this team, bringing diversified speakers into our panels to represent not only our core theme park business, but also the voices from our other industries we serve was really important as we curated the program for 2019. 


Mark Woodbury of
Universal Parks & Resorts
will be a featured presenter

What more can you tell us at this stage about the programming?

Kerr: In addition to what has already been shared, we are really looking forward to hearing from our Thea Classic Award recipient, Dollywood. The park has a great story to share that extends beyond good product and great marketing to include a culture that is the envy of the industry. We’ll also be hearing from Mark Woodbury, the recipient of TEA’s Buzz Price Thea Award for a Lifetime of Distinguished Achievements. He will share his perspectives on the industry and what it takes to lead multi-disciplinary teams to achieve the success Universal Parks and Resorts continue to enjoy around the world.

Ruminot: Part of what we have taken into account in our curation process was the TEA Member Survey that was sent out in late 2018. We noted what the members were saying on key challenges anticipated within the next five years, and used that to help guide content development. As the roster of sessions and speakers are announced in the coming weeks, I am very excited about giving each of these topics a forum for discussion and addressing them head-on with panelists who offer a diverse perspective and insights. 


As the 2019 recipient of the TEA Thea Classic Award,
Dollywood will be spotlighted at the TEA Summit

How will the TEA Summit be an especially valuable networking opportunity? 

Ruminot: Connecting members with members is at the very core of what makes the TEA so special. I’d encourage those attending to have fun, connect with someone new, and use this as an opportunity to connect with those you may not see often. 

Kerr: Our TEA members are a very welcoming and friendly group of people – uniquely so. Networking and collaboration are intrinsic to TEA culture. Trying to plan in enough time in for networking is always a huge consideration in planning a TEA event. We encourage everyone to take full advantage of the breaks, lunches and social activities to make new connections. 


Brian Sands is part of the
AECOM team that collaborates
with TEA on the Theme Index,
and will present at the Summit

Visitor attractions is more of a global industry than ever before. How will this be reflected in the TEA Summit, to the benefit and education of TEA members and the industry as a whole? 

Kerr: Representing the global diversity of our membership is critical for the success of our programs. There are many factors to consider in planning with this global focus, so we continuously engage with members across all of TEA’s regional Divisions as we develop our content and plan our program.

Ruminot: Our members are global members of the TEA, and the content delivered at Summit reflects that. We all do business around the world. Bringing forward the key aspects of what is affecting how and where we do business is prominent in this year’s Summit content.


Click here for tickets/more information on the 2019
TEA Summit & Thea Awards, April 11-13 
at Disneyland Resort

What are some of the takeaways that a Summit delegate can look forward to? Mentally, how should they prepare?

Kerr: Takeaways: awareness or education on some of the key challenges, issues and opportunities facing the industry. We hope there are some “aha moments” - where people realize we have been listening - and that they realize that there are common themes that relate to their work, whatever they do, wherever in the world they do it and whatever their job or career stage is – gaining the sense that they are not alone. 

Bring your questions and your curiosity. Our goal is that our Hot Topics amplify some of the industry trends, issues and opportunities we’ve all been hearing about over the past year. Attendees should consider how all of this is relevant to them – in their jobs, in their businesses, in their future career and in their lives. And we’ll try to help them connect the dots. 

Ruminot: Delegates may hope gain new perspectives that they may not have considered previously. We want to constantly be pushing one another to excellence. In what’s presented at Summit, we strive to be relatable to the everyday challenges of working in our industry face, while offering a forum of discussion, partnership, and thought leadership – getting back to that basic “why” behind the business decisions we make. 

To get the most out of TEA Summit, be open-minded, leave your preconceptions at the door, and be engaged. Some of the best content comes from questions asked by those in the audience, so be ready to participate and be conversational.  

TEA Event Guidelines

Many thanks to our TEA Annual Sponsors!

Global Partners:

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Posted by Judith Rubin



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