Interview with Mr Daniel Heinst: Chairman of the Polish Association for Tourism and Family Attractions (STiAR) about Poland as a great tourist destination, a family holiday destination, theme parks and tourist attractions.
Beata Bruggeman-Sękowska: You are the chairman of STiAR – Polish Association for Tourism and Family Attractions, which was established in 2016 and is the only organisation of this sort in Poland. Can you tell us more about STiAR and the targets of this Association? Why was is established?
Our industry is quite young in Poland. It wasn’t until 2004 that the first attraction park opened up in Bałtow. Since that time more and more projects were realised, small at first, but these days with larger and larger budgets. Poland currently counts over 300 attractions, ranging from small indoor playgrounds, to large outdoor dinosaur parks.
Over the years we noticed that we were lacking a neutral platform that could represent the industry as a whole. Even though the list of current family attractions ranges from static miniature parks to active rope courses and amusement parks with mechanical rides, there were still many aspects they had in common. These included safety regulations, technical legal requirements, issues with local administration and a general lack of public awareness in the market of these new products. Also what we really needed was a neutral entity that could act as a source of information to the media.
Therefor last year the CEO’s of Rabkoland, Loopy’s World and Holiday Park Kownaty decided it was time to establish a new association that would cover all these items. This will be our first year, so I’m really excited about the upcoming developments.
You have been living in Poland for 16 years and one of your fields of expertise are theme parks and tourism. Tell us more about the theme parks and water parks in Poland and is Poland an attractive destination for theme parks and why?
When it comes to theme parks, Poland is still very much a blue ocean. The demand is high and the supply still very low compared to Western European standards. Theme Parks are expensive because of the nature of their attractions. So what we have seen in the last 10 years is that the majority of attractions that started in Poland, chose to implement cheaper offers. But quite a few of them have been growing really fast, by adding new concepts every year. There are several attractions that attract over 300.000 visitors per year now, so that is quite an achievement.
The latest addition to the sector would be Energylandia, that opened their first season in 2014 and was able to take a big part of the Southern Poland market. But also noteworthy is the Afrykarium in Wroclaw. Although it is actually a part of Wroclaw zoo, it is a very modern investment. The first year it attracted thousands of visitors, making Wroclaw zoo the most popular zoo in Poland.
There are also some other projects in progress at the moment, not the least our own project, Holiday Park Kownaty, due to open in 2017.
When it comes to waterparks, it seems that the big investment boom has passed for the moment. The previous years we saw many projects planned and most of them were also realised. Almost all parks are public investments, operated by cities or municipalities. I think that there are still opportunities for more waterpark investments but it’s hard to compete with subsidised public pools.
I have been promoting Poland as a family holiday destination. Will you agree with me that Poland is a fantastic family holiday destination offering lots of attractions?
Yes, I do agree, Poland has a wide range of attractions and activities to offer if you know where to look. I think the main problem why incoming tourism is still low compared to neighbouring countries is the negative image foreigners have about the country. There is still a lot of work to do to improve Poland’s reputation abroad. Unknown does make unloved.
When I travel with my own family, we like to visit a region we haven’t been before and just see what we encounter. There are so many great hotels, you will always find an affordable place to stay without having to make advance reservations.
A very important development from the last few years are the investments in infrastructure which dramatically improved the connectivity of the regions. For example the Mazurian lakes are a great place to visit, but getting there was always a problem. Now with the new express ways ready they are suddenly a lot closer and accessible.
What are your favourite places in Poland and why?
I love Warsaw. It has been my home town for 16 years now and it was one of the main reasons why I decided to stay in Poland and try my luck. The city is developing at an amazing speed and gives a lot of energy. It is truly becoming an international metropole and it is the best business card Poland could wish for.
Warsaw these days has everything to offer you would expect from a capital. New restaurants and bars open up weekly, you can find any kind of food or drink you want. I love going eat out, no matter what day of the week, you will find your favourite place busy. It’s never a dull moment in Warsaw.
How would you recommend visiting Poland to foreigners who do not know much about our country and its tourism attractions?
Start with a weekend to visit Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw or Poznan. That is enough to change your mind and forget any old opinions you had about Poland before. After that, the rest of the country is open for you to explore, from the Baltic coast, to the Mazurian lakes and the Tatra mountains. You will want to come back for more.
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On the contsruction site, Mr Daniel Heinst is on the right.
Photos: Daniel Heinst