There’s some creative destruction going on
PHIL HETTEMA While the COVID-19 pandemic is painful and heartbreaking, the attractions industry will come back stronger and more creative than ever, The Hettema Group president tells Magali Robathan
ounded by Phil Hettema in 2002,
Theme Parks Worldwide for 14 years. In 2002,
The Hettema Group is a creator
he launched his own company, The Hettema
of award-winning experiential
Group, which has gone on to become one of the
attractions and shows, including
leading companies creating immersive stories
the One World Observatory in New York at
Here he talks to Attractions Management
Observation Wheel at The LINQ, Las Vegas;
about his upcoming projects, the impact of
and Beyond All Boundaries at the National
COVID-19 on the industry and why creating
World War II Museum, New Orleans.
amazing experiences is all about emotion.
The group is currently working on several new projects, including the Aon Center observatory in Chicago, a “game-changing” new gallery for the Arizona Science Center,
Can you sum up what The Hettema Group does?
We’re an experiential design and production
a new theatre for the National World War II
studio with about 35 people on our staff. I’ve
Museum and a major casino resort in Macau.
spent 45 years in this industry and I’m from the
An industry stalwart with a raft of awards to his
theme park industry originally so I understand
name – including TEA’s Buzz Price Thea Award
that business pretty well. We now take what
for a lifetime of distinguished achievements –
we learned there and apply it to the museum
Phil Hettema caught the attractions bug early.
sector, to the standalone attraction sector, what
“I grew up in southern California and was
we call iconic experiences – the One World
born the year Disneyland opened,” he says,
Observatory at the World Trade Center in New
speaking from his home in California. “You
York, for example – as well as large resorts.
could say I was a bit of a Disney nerd.” Hettema
for theme parks, museums, resorts and more.
the One World Trade Center; the High Roller
We’re also looking at additional industries
paid his way through college with a part time
outside of that circle, including the medical
job at Disney, then later worked in a range of
sector, and looking at how the guest experience
managerial roles for the company, before joining
works. Whichever area we’re working in, it’s
Universal, where he was senior vice president,
all about having a storytelling goal – making
attraction development for Universal Studios
sure that guests leave having been changed
attractionsmanagement.com 1 2021