Interview with Christoph Kiessling
Christoph Kiessling is a German entrepreneur and the co-founder and co-owner of Siam Park, a popular water park located in Tenerife, Spain. Kiessling grew up in a family that was involved in the amusement park industry and joined his father's company, Loro Parque, which is a well-known zoo and botanical garden in Tenerife. Kiessling helped develop Loro Parque into a major tourist attraction in the Canary Islands and later envisioned building a water park that would be unlike anything else in Europe.
Siam Park opened in 2008 and has since become one of the most popular water parks in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year. Kiessling has been instrumental in the development of Siam Park, overseeing the design and construction of many of the park's attractions. He is also responsible for the park's marketing and promotion, helping to make it a household name in the water park industry.
In addition to his work with Siam Park, Kiessling is also involved in other ventures, including hotels and real estate development. He is considered one of the most influential figures in the tourism industry in the Canary Islands, where Siam Park is located. Kiessling has been recognized for his contributions to the tourism industry and has received several awards for his work, including the "Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year" award from the Spanish government in 2012. He is also involved in philanthropic activities and has supported several charitable causes, including environmental conservation and social welfare programs.
Christoph Kiessling interviewed by Premier Magazine in 2014.
A park with an exciting storyline
It's hard to imagine that just a few years ago there was nothing on this site. How was the idea for this magnificent park born?
We started in 1972 in the north of the island with Loro Parque. But over time, the centre of tourism moved to the south coast, so we decided to build a park here that would complement the existing one, but not compete with it. The first thing we decided on was the concept: we conceived of a water park because there is so much sun. Because the water park industry has developed so much in recent years, it had to be a new generation water park. So we are going with the Thai theme, which is what all the rides are about. So we are a theme park with water rides.
Thailand is all about friendliness, wonderful nature and smiles, flowers and fruit. Both here and at Loro Parque there is this theme because we love Thai culture. We wanted to recreate that welcoming atmosphere of relaxation in the tropics, the exoticism that Asia and especially Thailand provide. The park is a delight to be in and enjoy, even if you can't fully enjoy the rides due to personal circumstances, for example.
In fact, everyone can find a place to have a good time. What's your favourite thing about the park?
I like the atmosphere we've managed to create. The vegetation, the theming. And the adrenaline that you can get in this environment by riding the slides. It gives a good kick, a real, strong emotion. That's what I like.
You have many extraordinary rides. Which is your favourite?
I have at least two.
The first is The Dragon, which is super, one of the best and most popular rides. And the other is Kinnari, the new big ride which we opened last year and which is over 200 metres long. This ride combines three slides in one. It's very, very fast - I think it's the most extreme of all the current slides in the water parks. Also now we have Mekong Rapids, which is a great speed ride for the whole family.
And when you ride these rides, do you scream?
Yes, of course! Everybody screams.
Christoph Kiessling received permission from the Thai royal family to use a Thai theme in the park and its name. In accordance with the wishes of the royalty, he did not copy the architecture of the royal palaces and temples, nor did he install Buddha statues on the grounds. In 2008, Siam Park was officially opened by Princess Maha Chakkri Sirinthon of Thailand.
There are five world records in your park. Or are there more already?
The first records were set five years ago. As time goes on, new parks appear - so perhaps some of them have already been broken. Among those that have survived we have the biggest rise of a slow river, 8 metres - that's the difference between the highest and: the lowest point. We also have the biggest Slow River, although not the longest. Because there's a similar attraction in China which is 1.3 kilometres long, ours is 1 kilometre long. But ours is 4 to 10 metres wide, so the volume of water is bigger. There was also a record for the variety of rides. I think there are now parks that compete with us in that respect.
But the first three records remain with us, as well as another one - the largest representation of Thai culture outside Thailand.
And of course, we have the highest artificial wave in the world, the largest wave pool. It's a popular attraction and one of my favourite places to even go surfing.
Do they have surfing lessons here too?
Yes, in the evenings after closing time. You just need to book your place in advance. You can take lessons or train on your own, by appointment.
Do you practice on your own as well?
Of course! Having waves like this... it's one of the most wonderful things - to enjoy them, to experience them for yourself. This is where I learned to surf. Our pool is a miracle. The water is heated to 25 degrees. The waves are adjustable at will: small, big, right or left... There is also a beach bar next to the pool where you can have a barbecue after class. We have a good time with friends.
You have some great parties here. Tell us more about these events.
Four times a year we hold big parties in the amphitheatre with DJs who play electronic music - we usually have at least six disc jockeys. About 6,000 people come to hear them and dance. It's always a real party. People come to us from all over the world, from all over Europe.
Tickets sell out literally within two weeks.
We organize private parties as well: weddings, birthdays... Anything that people would like to organise in an unusual setting, we can do here.
Before the opening you said that you would like to attract more young people to your park and to Tenerife in general. Have you succeeded in this?
I think so!
And how many people have already visited your park?
Last year it was more than 800,000, and over the whole time it was more than 3.5 million.
You talked about slides that have been built recently. How did you determine what to build next?
In general, it has to do with attendance. When you see that there are a lot of people in your park, you have to create new spaces so that every guest really has fun, enjoyment.
With this in mind, we plan what we should add: whether it should be for children, for relaxation, or for an adrenaline rush. Once we've decided on the overall concept, we start looking for the best attraction to build.
Do other water parks help you with that?
Absolutely. We are very interested to see what new developments, new types of attractions are emerging. We are always looking for inspiration.
But what we are building here is always a tailor-made attraction, adapted for our visitors. When we started Siam-Park we visited different parks around the world. Everywhere we asked: what's your best ride? We would go wherever they showed us and experience these slides for ourselves - you only gain experience by trying them. And then we asked people: what would you change about this ride?
What did you like and what didn't you like? So we find out which rides are in good demand and how we can improve them to make them more effective. For example, Dragon: we made the entrance much bigger - the ride doesn't start immediately - and we added a tunnel at the end. Each of these drops gives emotion.
You have studied rides well from an emotional point of view!
Yes... often the ride starts with a tunnel, but inside - we don't want it to be just - bang! - and it's over. No, no. There has to be an ascent, an ascent, then one ride, then a descent and one again! It's a whole story. It's like a film: with its own introduction, climax and finale.
That's probably why Siam Park is so famous. It's considered the best in Spain, isn't it?
Yes, and one of the best in the world. Last year we were voted the best amusement park in Spain by Tripadvisor, based on the users' opinions.
Your park is also at least the best water park in Europe.
Yes, I suppose it is. I am happy that other people think the same way as I do. As I said earlier, when we visit other parks we understand what we want to present at our place and what level we need to work at.
All our energy, all our efforts are aimed at creating the best conditions for our visitors.
And what do you think is the main secret of success?
Attention to detail. It is what gives birth to real quality. In addition, we never stand still, we develop.
Right now are you thinking of something new?
We are constantly thinking about what rides to add. We have two main groups of visitors: one is families and the other is adults who really like indoor slides.... they like speed, adrenaline. We will probably be building something like that in the near future.
You are not planning to limit yourself to one park, are you?
We are in the process of creating a new park on the neighbouring island, Gran Canaria. It is the second largest island in the Canary archipelago — also in terms of the number of holidaymakers. We hope we can build a park there similar to this but with different attractions — so that people who have already visited Siam Park are also interested.
It must be very exciting to plan an amusement park. What do you enjoy most about the process — inventing, creating or trying?
All of the above. It's very important to get involved, to get a feel and experience while working on the rides.
Trying it yourself and seeing people who enjoy it. The combination of all these processes is wonderful. From imagination to reality.
So you like to participate in every stage of creativity. Are you a creative person?
Yes, I am.
Describe Siam Park in three words.
Emotional, impressive, exciting!