The Theme Park Guy

Nov 30

For Urgent Matters

Nov 30, 2020

To my business partners and friends who urgently need to travel internationally, right now:

I've done this several times over the past few months. You can still fly from almost anywhere to anywhere via Istanbul airport. Turkey currently imposes no restrictions on entry for any nationality. They have a Covid testing facility in the arrivals hall (landside, past immigration) that operates 24/7 and delivers test results within 2-4 hours. Max 4! Cost per person is 250 Lira, equaling EUR 27 or $32. If you have visa-free access to Turkey (e.g. EU citizens, Russians, Chinese) or an e-visa (e.g. Americans) and schedule a 7-hour-layover in Istanbul, you can comfortably pass your Covid test and continue your journey to the MANY countries who'll let you in with that test result. If you test positive, you'll be quarantined for 14 days in a hotel-like facility, with all expenses paid by the Turkish government. Staff told me that queues are zero at night and up to 30 mins during mornings. They catch about 20+ positive cases per day, the remainder is negative.

When I took these pics earlier this month, I saw flights from/to the US, Brazil, EU, Russia, GCC, Africa, ASEAN, HK (not PRC China), Korea.

A big thank you to the Turks for being so organized and keeping the world connected!

May 06

A Post from Tomorrow

May 06, 2020

Here's something positive: a map showing major theme parks and resorts under construction right now. Yes, right now!

Via our portals themeparX & resortX, visited by millions and run Mon-Sun by a team of six from across all time zones, we know precisely what's happening on the ground. And while both socially-shared fun and international travel are in a state of deep freeze, the entertainment industry has absolute confidence in a better tomorrow.

I totally believe in tomorrow, too. I frankly don't understand the doomsday language of 'post-corona reality' and 'it'll never be the same again'. Of course the world will be the same again. It'll all go back to normal. It'll even be better than normal. Once cross-border travel is restored and social distancing a matter of the past, we'll be so much more grateful about the basics. That once again we'll take off on a plane. That we'll be squeezed into a middle seat. That our seat neighbor coughs at us, without consequences. That an immigration officer asks us an obnoxious question, which we'll reciprocate by leaping over the counter and giving him a heartfelt hug.

Tomorrow will be a better yesterday, and those who don't give in to misery, anxiety and lethargy now, but prepare for the surreally superb times ahead, will seize the day.

Dec 31

Vikram's Way

Dec 31, 2019

Met my old friend Vikram Chopra in Al Ain, UAE, earlier this month. I don’t think there’s a multi-billion dollar theme park development anywhere in the Middle East that Vikram hasn't either been involved in or headed up, from Ferrari World to Dubai Parks & Resorts to Saudi Arabia's Qiddiya.

Vikram also gave me some invaluable feedback on themeparX seven years ago. Whatever his next project or venture will be, those who work with him can consider themselves very lucky!

Apart from theme parks, there's something else we have in common. While many of my friends consider me somewhat wack for having been living smartphone-free for the past three years, Vikram – unbelievably – lives entirely sugar-free, with no exceptions. So our commonality is that we both agree that we'd go nuts if we had to switch sides.

Happy New Year ahead! Try starting it both smartphone-free AND sugar-free

Jul 10

A Tribute to Eastern European Women!

Jul 10, 2019

Here’s to some of the most hard-working, honorable and resilient among us: Eastern European women!

I’ve been to every country and corner from Warsaw to Minsk to Kiev to Krasnodar to Samara to Almaty to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. And it bugs me that up until today, long after a period of decline and poverty, these phenomenal Slavic women – when traveling – still at times have to face immigration officers, hotel receptionists and bar patrons giving them that condescending 'you may be a cheap, easy gold-digger' look. (They have no clue!)

Wherever I looked – whether in Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan or elsewhere – what I’ve found were driven women equipped with an extraordinary survival instinct and strength of character, working relentlessly hard in their jobs, and on themselves. Stereotyping them is not just demeaning and offensive, it’s outright ignorant nonsense!

Maybe it's time to send those stereotype-perpetuating immigration officers, hotel receptionists and bar patrons to the moon, so they can see that our Planet Earth is not flat, but round, and at the end of all East there is West again.

Jun 08

Living smartphone-free

Jun 08, 2019

The two best habits I acquired in the past two years:

1. I don’t have a smartphone anymore; which means I’m not online 24/7, and when I leave the building I’m really out there, fully present, connected to the real world. Internet a la WiFi plus laptop is enough. Smartphones are like cigarettes. You only feel like you need them as long as you smoke them.

2. I write all my emails offline; so I download all the incoming ones, then switch off the WiFi and answer them one by one. That way I’m not distracted and infinitely more productive. Writing emails like this, offline and focused, is like writing letters in the past – you reflect before you put your words together. Plus, you don't get incoming emails while you’re writing your own, creating an infinite data loop (that drives you nuts). There was a reason that 20 years ago, the postman rung the bell only once a day, not 80 times an hour.

If I hadn’t switched to these two habits – try at least one of them for a few days! – I think by now I'd probably look like the challenged goat in the picture.

Jun 02

Disillusioned in Turkmenistan

Jun 02, 2019

I froze when I found this disillusioned plastic bear in a theme park in Turkmenistan.

My travels have taught me that that’s the exact facial expression people develop over time when they live under governments which don’t owe them any explanations.

But that bear? That one, too? Either the sculptor had a deep sense of humor, matched by the buyer, or the sculptor lacked talent and the buyer self-reflection. I’ll never know.

Thank you to whoever put that shattered, disenchanted bear face inside Turkmenbashi's Land of Fairy Tales Park in Ashgabat, a theme park in a country run by a white marble-obsessed dentist-turned-forever-ruler, where people cannot gather publicly for anything but an amusement ride. You made my day.

May 31


May 31, 2019

themeparX just passed the 3 million visitor mark according to Google Analytics! Traffic has been growing consistently every year since we launched in 2011 and shows zero signs of slowing down.

And it’s not just any traffic:

We did some thorough analysis of who visits us a few years ago (visitors back then had to register to access the site), and even we were surprised to learn that more than 50% of our traffic is made up of business visitors: from owners to developers, suppliers to consultants, government representatives, even CEOs and royalty. 20% visit us repeatedly.

It’s really gratifying to see so many getting so much value out of our moderated daily on-the-ground updates from all the major entertainment development sites in the world. We are a team of 7 now and will keep it up the best way we can.

Thank you, and enjoy:

Apr 15

Travel Map

Apr 15, 2019

Here is a map showing all the hotels and places I've stayed at. It took me some time to compile this, but it actually inspired a sense of beautiful nostalgia. Try doing this yourself!

I've added a short comment for each stay, so this map may help you a bit with your own vacation planning! Totally empty beach resorts with crystal-clear blue water and jumping dolphins, just you and them? Places without smartphone junkies where people make eye contact and smile at each other? Palace hotels from heaven? Transit hotels from hell? Here we go:

Mar 25

Memories from North Korea

Mar 25, 2019

These were my wonderful North Korean tour guides back in 2010, while I was exploring the many roller coasters of Pyongyang:

What I took away from that trip was that North Koreans are totally normal people, grappling with poverty, but much less brainwashed than you may think.

I have no idea where my two friends in that pic are today, and what they’re doing. But it heartens me that ongoing political developments will probably ensure that they, too, one day will travel abroad and get to explore Seoul and Tokyo for themselves. I really wish this for them.

Mar 22

Love for the EU

Mar 22, 2019

Here are some thoughts on how to keep my beloved European Union competitive and future-proof:

1. Introduce English as a second official language union-wide! Every resident should be allowed to file their taxes in English in any member state today, and future generations must be able to hold decent conversations with each other.

2. Harmonize acquisition of EU citizenship! In Spain, Filipinos can acquire it in 2 years, while a Belarusian in Austria has to wait for 10 years. Some nationals can bestow EU citizenship on their spouses while living abroad, others can't. Successful foreign managers on 3-year contracts across several member states stay a foreigner in the Union forever. That's nonsense. Granting citizenship after 5 years of residence union-wide would make the EU tremendously attractive, particularly if those years don’t have to be spent in the same member state.

3. Min tax 10%, max 35% (both personal & corporate). The moment you demand 50%, people either emigrate or keep the tax consultants busy. We have some of the highest AND lowest tax rates in the world. From 0% to 60%. Too extreme.

4. Dramatic and proactive improvement in our relations with Russia and Turkey. These countries are our land bridge to Asia. Losing them as friends would turn the EU into an island.

Mar 11

Hong Kong from a special angle

Mar 11, 2019

Here is a picture I took from the mountain behind Hong Kong Disneyland back in 2011. Looks serene. But that mountain is truly treacherous.

There are no visible hiking trails, so my professional hiker pal Michael and I more or less crawled through the bush for a mile or two. Shortly after taking that pic we were caught in a thunderstorm, and through neverending rain and in complete darkness we somehow scrambled, skipped and slid back to civilization; a ‘trek’ that took many hours, was genuinely dangerous (cliffs!) and NO FUN.

Nevertheless, it was worth the risk. Hong Kong’s is my favorite Disney resort, not for the park itself, but for its location and its potential. While the other five grace various suburbs and swamplands, this one sits in its very own and very special lost valley.


Mar 04

Universal Studios Dubailand

Mar 04, 2019

Here is to the remnants of what would likely have become the UAE’s most successful and beloved theme park: Universal Studios Dubailand!

Impeccably well-designed by my friends from FORREC, it went as far as the start of construction, but wasn’t meant to be and faltered in the second half of 2008.

It’s such a shame. Watch how far it got:

Feb 12

SEO Horsepower

Feb 12, 2019

Theme & Water Park Suppliers – here’s a welcome side effect of our themeparX supplier package: 80% of our clients experience a search engine ranking improvement, catapulting their own websites above their direct competitors’. That’s one of the reasons why we have a 9-out-of-10 renewal rate. The screenshot below shows our clients’ unedited, real 1st page rankings for a keyword of their choice as of today. (If you have trouble believing this, google some generic supplier keywords and ask yourself why the suppliers in our directory 
are habitually ranked better than our non-clients.)

We have publicly committed to working with no more than 100 suppliers in total, so grab this opportunity while it still exists:

Feb 07

2019's Garden of Eden

Feb 07, 2019

To my fellow entrepreneurs who don't know how to spell 'weekend', my perpetually stressed big city dweller friends, and the theme park folks out there consumed in construction chaos: There is a place in the world that will RESET it all. And it took me 150 countries to find it.

Here are some photos of what I feel is as close as it gets to the Garden of Eden. The one place in the world that’s mind-blowingly beautiful, totally safe, permanently 24 degrees Celsius, and largely ignored by tourists and travelers from October to May. I can’t believe this combination still exists in 2019. You’ll have it all to yourself: Oman’s Dhofar region.

Dec 10

1 Million Views for Fox World

Dec 10, 2018

In the wake of the current Fox/Genting meltdown in the unforgiving Malaysian jungles, here is a snippet of interesting data:

Fox World Malaysia is only the 2nd park after Shanghai Disney to ever reach the 1 million views threshold on themeparX prior to opening (see it here: So if proactive interest in the construction of a park is an indication of its likely success, then it's safe to say this will get busy.

Congratulations to my friends Claus Frimand, Kevin Barbee, Kirk Axtell, Sanjay N. and Steve Beyer!
 Whatever you have designed, built or prepared there, and in whichever shape and form it will eventually open, the demand is HUGE!

Dec 05

Smartphone Apocalypse?

Dec 05, 2018

Posting this pic again. This is not about theme parks, or China. It's about an entire world we are about to lose. The advent of the smartphone coupled with unlimited mobile data and 'social' media really was the invention of the nuclear bomb for social and mental health. Look at the pics very closely. Same location, same occasion, 7 years before and after.

We are losing interest in watching each other, our innate ability to savor the present moment, to reflect and get a little bored sometimes... the most important traits that shape us.

We can't go back in time. We have to live with these gadgets now. But we can't just 'let it happen' and passively watch a catastrophe unfold on the next generation, thinking to ourselves 'it's kinda creepy'. Those of us who remember how it was before have a duty. Colossal efforts will be required to limit mobile internet usage if we are to save our kids from the effects of an undiagnosed drug addiction of pandemic proportions.

Outlawing the provision of unlimited data by forcing ISPs to charge per minute could be a start. And it doesn't even matter how low the charge per minute would be: a metered connection would simply caution users to think twice before switching (or keeping) it on. Something has to happen, and fast.

Nov 20

$1 Emails

Nov 20, 2018

If every email or snippet of chat were to cost the sender $1, as letters did in the past, countless issues would be fixed at once:

1. Spam would vanish altogether, once and for all.
2. Job applicants would read job descriptions before applying.
3. Employers would read CVs before judging.
4. Leads received online would get the recipient's full attention.
5. Emails would be phrased and spelled properly, containing well thought-out content.
6. We’d all spend less time staring at screens and more time talking under the sun.

Sep 25

Theme Park Suppliers: Attention!

Sep 25, 2018

To my theme & water park supplier friends – you probably have come across our themeparX supplier package at some point:

Let me emphasize here: this is NOT another 'marketing package'. It's a tool designed to give you a lasting edge at the expense of your competitors. And we'll stand by these words: we will never work with more than 100 suppliers.

You're welcome to brush this aside now, but when it dawns on you in two years what this was all about, don't shout at us over the phone. Ignore at your own peril. Contact Nancy Patterson or myself for more info.

Sep 20

Spotify's Founder & the pre-Theme Park Guy Days

Sep 20, 2018

Here's a picture with two fantasmic Swedes from my pre-Theme Park Guy days back in 2003. I used to run, the German market's best-known affiliate marketing news platform at that time. Ulrika Ytterholm and Martin Lorentzon ran TradeDoubler, a Swedish affiliate network that was expanding into the German market.

I remember Martin having tremendous, insatiable, positive energy. He walked into the room like James Bond having just jumped off a chopper, equipped with impeccable communication skills and merciless curiosity. I recall wondering back then: what's this exceptionally energized guy's endgame?

And not to my surprise, he ventured on to create something we all know and use today… Spotify. Which made him a billionaire.

The entrepreneurs' world out there is fair. Yes, there are some folks who don't understand give-and-take, who enrich themselves at the expense of their clients or screw over business partners with rotten contracts and insolvencies. But I strongly believe their success is short-lived.

Martin is a shining example of someone who from day one deserved to move mountains and succeed. I wish him happiness and neversubsiding entrepreneurial drive with his everlasting wealth.

Sep 18

The Theme Park Guy Movie #1

Sep 18, 2018

Anyone remember ‘Dubailand’? 10 years ago we shot a little movie there, back in summer 2008, just before the economy tanked and visions vanished. The best part is that we captured Universal Studios Dubailand (which would likely have turned into one of the world's finest theme parks) from our helicopter while the park was still under construction. Watch it here

And since that film is a little chaotic and silly, we'll soon make a much better Theme Park Guy movie marking its 10th anniversary (not about Dubailand). Just finished the script. Brace yourself for something real fun and unique in 2019. Get in touch if you want to be part of it.

Aug 30

A Tribute to all Cabin Crews

Aug 30, 2018

If you're looking for someone truly competitive to manage your business, don’t hire a business degree graduate – hire a former Emirates, Etihad or Qatar flight attendant!

They've seen and done EVERYTHING… they know what it means to be expats out of their comfort zone; they've been exposed to every culture imaginable; they speak perfect, neutral English; they can handle stress and extreme fatigue; they know how to be alert and stay representable simultaneously; they've learned to interact with both top executives and construction workers; they understand loneliness; they know how people act when they want (and don't want) something from them; how they talk; how they sleep; the state they leave the toilet in; how drowsy faces glued to screens turn fearful during turbulence – all priceless insights into people's true character.

Former Gulf carrier cabin crew members are NOT tea or coffee servers. They've wisened up beyond the imagination of most of us grounded creatures. Consider them for top positions!

Aug 20

Dubai Nostalgy

Aug 20, 2018

Whenever I want to feel old, I look at this picture. It’s a shot I took of Dubai Ma
rina from my balcony back in the summer of 2006, when I lived there. Unrecognizable!

Jul 19

Theme Park Guys Boat Party

Jul 19, 2018

Here's a group of theme park folks who are not only very successful at what they do, but who also all have in common that they are very authentic and have their hearts in the right place..

Thank you for coming to my little boat party earlier this year!

Jul 18

Meeting Alan Zeman

Jul 18, 2018

This is Alan Zeman, a self-made billionaire and one of Hong Kong's best known and most admired men, in his office.

Alan founded nightlife district Lan Kwai Fong in the 80s and owns most real estate there. He headed Ocean Park for 14 years, chairs Wynn Macau and various other businesses, and habitually dines with prime ministers and presidents such as Xi Jinping.

What can we learn from Alan? First: keep your desk clean. Second: stay humble – Alan is very humble. Third: don’t get disconnected from the real world – Alan doesn't have a door or separation wall between himself, his secretaries or literally anyone who walks into his office; everyone shares one big room. Fourth: if you aim to become an entrepreneurial game changer in life, don't get distracted by university: like Spielberg, Gates, Jobs, Branson and Edison, Alan didn’t graduate. And last but not least, and I think this is the secret of his success, predict the future and forecast what people want... 20 years in advance!

Thank you Alan! Meeting instinct-driven entrepreneurs like you who haven’t lost touch is always an inspiration.

Jun 20

A Tribute to Filipinos (and my team)

Jun 20, 2018

Here’s a pic with my Philippines team members, some of whom I’ve been working with for over a decade.

It’s not easy being born a Filipino. You've got decades-long economic misery, a deeply dysfunctional society and multiple governments who didn’t give a damn.

As a result, wherever you go in the world – a remote petrol station in the Middle East, a fish restaurant in Palau, a cruise ship that never docks, or even the UN-controlled Israeli-Syrian border – you’ll always find an expat Pinoy, singing a song, doing their best, and supporting a family far away.

On the picture you can see that my body height commands that I look down, but from the inside I really look up to you my friends!

May 15

GCC Drive

May 15, 2018

Picture with Yas Island's CEO Mohamed Al Zaabi and Aspen Creations' founder Hashem Al Marzouqi. They are both powerful Emiratis, but first and foremost they are down to earth, extremely smart and a lot of fun!

Apr 10

Snorkotel Launch

Apr 10, 2018

To my friends and partners who spent their last holiday at a terrible beach – we’ve invested a couple of months putting together our SNORKOTEL map, showing you only those hotels and resorts facing dream beaches with crystal clear turquoise snorkeling water.

Hello dolphins & turtles:

Mar 30

Job Posts of the Future

Mar 30, 2018

I think the job posts of the near future will undergo a dramatic simplification.

Mar 22

The Citizenship Map

Mar 22, 2018

I couldn’t find this anywhere online, so we did it ourselves. Here is a world map showing how long it takes to obtain citizenship in any given country. 5 years or less: GREEN. Between 5 and 10 years: RED. More than 10 years, or never, or based on unknown criteria, or depending on the mood of the case officer: BLACK.

Please comment here if we’ve got any of our colors wrong. This wasn’t merely online research, we also talked to friends & partners who reside in some of these countries. There are quite a few places out there with naturalization laws stating ‘citizenship can be applied for after XY years’, but in practice it’s just impossible.

I leave it to you to judge what this map reveals. To me, it serves as an interesting compass indicating whether foreigners are perceived solely as a necessary evil, or as a welcome addition in their respective host countries.

Mar 20

The Garden of Eden

Mar 20, 2018

It took me 10 years of travel & over 150 countries to find my favorite holiday refuge on earth. Blessed with otherworldly nature, sunshine and safety, this is a place rarely found in guidebooks; the place none of your neighbors can spell. You’ll only find one tourist every 50 miles, if any. I feel like I've found the Garden of Eden.

I'll share more at a later date.

Mar 20

Interview with Andrew Darrow

Mar 20, 2018

Meet the guy who spread KidZania (and now The Void) around the world at the speed of McDonald’s – the humble and ingenious Andrew Darrow:

Mar 10

Interview with Rick Hunter

Mar 10, 2018

Watch ProSlide’s founder Rick Hunter share with us how he created his water slide empire from scratch – in fact, from a garage – without any financing:

Feb 20

Interview with Michael Mack

Feb 20, 2018

Europa-Park is a shining example of how independent, family-owned theme parks can excel. Watch Michael Mack reflect on his family's business secrets:

Dec 18

themeparX Construction Platform

Dec 18, 2017

To those of my [hopefully few] theme park industry friends & contacts who haven't come across our themeparX construction platform yet: we have been around since 2011, receive millions of visitors, and work really hard every day to ensure that themeparX stays as organized and useful as possible. Enjoy:

Nov 22

Borderator Launch

Nov 22, 2017

Have you ever been treated badly (or very well) by any immigration officer anywhere? We just launched this:

Please share your experiences, and if you like it, share the Borderator with your globetrotting friends!

Nov 20

Nov 20, 2017

In response to numerous requests, we have now added a Jobs & Careers section to our themeparX theme park construction platform. You can also post your CV here:

Nov 01

10 Years The Theme Park Guy

Nov 01, 2017

10 years ago I committed to visiting all theme parks in the world, today the map looks like this. Very humbled to have gotten this far:

Sep 26

Interviews with Theme Park Industry Giants (coming soon)

Sep 26, 2017


Sep 06

The Smartphone Overuse Pandemic

Sep 06, 2017

I don't have a smartphone anymore.

It’s been over a year now. And I miss nothing. I can tell you now for sure that they are a total waste of time, and even more so, a waste of your life.

Just recently I was struck by a photo I took in a theme park in southern China a mere 7 years ago. The other day I looked at it again and thought to myself ’hey that is so nice, people look so relaxed and happy here; they savor the moment; I wanna go!’

Well… that was before the smartphone pandemic hit. The world and society have turned upside down since then, and that retro-romantic energy on the photo might have long faded away, in fact, that place might be unrecognizable. So I decided to fly back to that very same Chinese theme park, just to take a picture again, of the exact same spot, 7 years later.

The picture below tells its own tale.

Claiming that smartphones facilitate human interaction is like saying slot machines facilitate wealth creation or cigarettes promote relaxation. I don’t dwell on nostalgia, I am pro-progress, love the internet and look forward to space travel – bring it on! But gadget addiction is not progress, and this can't be the future. This pandemic of smartphone overuse is a menace of epic proportions that turns otherwise happy, healthy people into drowsy, distracted shadows of their true selves. I would even go as far as to say that our collective mental health is at stake here.

I really hope that in 15 years from now jokes will be made about how smartphones made us more 'social and connected' in the 2nd decade of the 21st century.

May 26

The Theme Park Guy's Private Events

May 26, 2016

Thank you to my friends, colleagues & partners who have attended my events in Asia and Europe in the past 12 months!

Jul 01

Private Event Dubai, 15 April 2015

Jul 01, 2015

Thanks to all my friends and colleagues for coming. Must do more of those!

Apr 30

7+ Years of Travel

Apr 30, 2015

I am frequently asked if that wacky eternal theme park journey is for real, or if it is a Photoshop-powered fantasy. Here is the proof.

I have still seen only a fraction of this marvellous world. And I have met people on my journeys who have traveled so much further and wiser than I did, it dwarfs the sight of these passport pages. If I have learned something from all this, then it is that traveling humbles you. Whenever you meet a really arrogant person, ask for his or her passport. Chances are the pages are empty. This does not imply the reverse, of course.

Feb 04

Why we aren't working and won't be working on a mobile-optimized site!

Feb 04, 2014

Reposted on Linkedin in 2017:

I drew this some three years ago, and it doesn't let me go.

I think we are losing ourselves in these devices. Tech is a means to facilitate life, not to replace it. Cameras, just as our eyes, are supposed to point outwards, not inwards. The current Virtual Reality hype in the theme park industry will fade, because so many of us already live in VR. We are losing our ability to savor the here and now, constantly 'connecting' to worlds beyond our present. We need much more R, and get rid of the V again. I strongly believe that smartphones will go down in history similarly to cigarettes, as a 'social' tool that had its time, but whose effect on people, their health and their spirits was nothing but devastating.