As it continues to move around the continent, Asia’s largest amusement industry trade show arrived in Seoul, South Korea, where it took place at the COEX exhibition and convention centre from June 9 to 12. Owen Ralph reports from IAAPA’s latest Asian Attractions Expo.
“Given the worldwide concerns over the H1N1 virus, the current political climate in the region, and the state of the global economy, we are pleased that more than 3,500 people participated in Asian Attractions Expo 2009,” reported IAAPA president and CEO, Charlie Bray.
Visitors at this year’s Asian Attractions Expo (AAE) came from 40 countries, with a particularly strong showing from China and South Korea. Attendance was up by around a thousand on “nearly 2,600” last July in Macau.
Neither set of figures are enough to set the world alight, and AAE remains IAAPA’s least well attended show, where exhibitors often console themselves with quality over quantity. That may or may not have something to do the way people do business in Asia, but AAE certainly doesn’t seem to be the same social outlet for the industry as IAAPA Attractions Expo or Euro Attractions Show.
A break-dancing display by Love Productions got Wednesday night’s Opening Reception off to a lively start, but guests didn’t stay around for too long afterwards. Maybe they were keen to get off to the “Young” Professionals Reception where a relaxed entry policy avoided any embarrassments over age.
Straight after the show on Friday night, a handful of Expo attendees were treated to a complimentary evening at Vivaldi Ocean World, a waterpark resort about an hour from Seoul. Indeed the close concentration of parks and attractions within the area meant there was a number of venues for professionals to examine before, during or after the show, even if Seoul itself didn’t fill every visitor with delight.
A strong education programme also complemented the proceedings. For example, 110 industry professionals participated in the IAAPA Safety Institute ahead of the show on June 9. Attendance across the other education sessions exceeded 400, as participants learned about the state of the industry in Asia, guest service, technology and waterpark development. Speakers included representatives of Seoul Grand Park, OCT Tourism, Chimelong Group, Ocean Park, Walt Disney, Sentosa and Enchanted Kingdom.
“This is my first time at the Asian Expo,” reported Chang-Gyoon Kim from Dream Park in Korea. “It’s very good for making contacts and networking. We’re going to build a waterpark, so I’m interested in inflatables and aquatic products. There are many good products at the show.”
Exhibits covered 2,895 sq metres of floor space, down from last year’s record 3,248 sq m. Many of the 142 participating companies choose small stands, including most of the big ride manufacturers.
Making its presence felt., however, was one local exhibitor. Based in Seoul, Shinwa Aqua has supplied five of South Korea’s dozen or so waterparks during its 20 years in business and participating in AAE for the first time,
“The show has proved successful for us and we are really interested in doing other shows now, perhaps Las Vegas,” the company’s CEO, Dong-Goo Lee, told Park World. “We would really like to promote Korean-style waterparks to other countries.”
Over at the booth of Total Immersion, there was a lot of interest for its “augmented reality” technology, and the French firm was pleased to announce that it would soon be opening two new projects at Incheon in South Korea. “Asian audiences respond very quickly to this kind of product,” noted the company’s Nicolas Bapst.
“This is a good time for the business in Korea,” remarked Joong-Ho Lee of DaHae International, local agent for the Fabbri Group. However, he did feel some local buyers were put off visiting the show because of the entrance fees. “Admission is very expensive if you are not an IAAPA member, and not so many people here are.”
“We cannot compare the show to last year because we were not here,” remarked John Swartebroeckx of Theme Builders in the Philippines. “However, we cannot complain. We will action several things next week as a result of our meetings here and hope soon to sign a Korean agent; you need to know the different ways of doing things here.”
“We came not expecting much but for us it’s been very positive, way busier than last year,” remarked Gordon Dorrett Of Forrec. ”It’s been mainly Korean people, some Chinese and also Singapore. There’s not been many Indians or Middle East; I guess it depends on where the show is each year.”
“All our focus is on Asia at moment,” reported Michael Hesse of Huss Park Attractions. “Although Asia is influenced by the economic downturn, it is not killing everything and there are still projects moving forward, including several in China.”
World Goes On
“Luckily we are not feeling the recession and are installing all the usual suspects from carousels to Ferris Wheels,” remarked Beat J Frei of Westech. “We do notice people are uncertain about the future, but the world goes on…”
“We were really busy at this show,” boasted Horst Ruhe of Maurer Söhne. “We started doing business here five years ago, and now we see the customers coming through. Many have already seen our Rockit coaster [at Universal Studios] on the internet. Compared to Europe and the US, the industry here is better.”
“We are very happy with IAAPA as always,” reported Indian exhibitor, Ajay Sarin of Hindustan Amusement Machines. “As well as Korea, we’ve also had enquiries from Egypt and Kuwait.”
“The show seems quiet to me,” countered Michael Bertazzon of Bertazzon 3B as he peered out over the top of his laptop. Unfortunately, he was not the only exhibitor who had time to check his e-mails on the show floor.
“The last few years the Asia show has not been very busy,” agreed Elena Munari of IE Park. “This year started very quietly. We saw one person from Australia, one from Malaysia, one from Qatar, and then we saw a few people from China. Of course we saw quite a few people from Korea and we are lucky because we have a good relationship with Lotte World.”
“Having a good presence in Korea market meant we got to see a lot of existing clients,” remarked Sascha Czibulka of Intamin. “Yes they do feel the economic turmoil here, but the worst is over, which supports new projects. On the negative side, visitors from west Asia have been practically zero. Is it Seoul or is it the economy? I hope IAAPA is making all necessary effort to make event to attractive to people from these countries.”
Asian Attractions Expo moves to Malaysia in 2010, taking place at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre from July 13 to 16.