Attendance up at IAAPA European expo
After the bizarre situation in 2008, when Euro Attractions Show took place twice, the event settled into its new fall (autumn) schedule as it appeared inside the Europa Hall of Amsterdam RAI exhibition centre from September 30 to October 2. Owen Ralph reports from IAAPA’s biggest and busiest yet exhibition for the European attractions industry.
Last year’s attendance was diluted thanks to the staging of shows in both Nice and Munich, each of which attracted over 5,000 visitors. So Amsterdam represented IAAPA’s chance to prove autumn is indeed the best time for attraction operators to get-together and, hopefully, make purchasing decisions for next season and beyond. More than 8,000 of them did.
Visitor numbers for this event have been vague ever since IAAPA took over in 2005, but what we do know is that this year’s Euro Attractions Show (EAS) beat the previous record set in Seville back in 2007, when “more than 7,400” attended. We also know that the around a third of the attendance came from Holland and the number of exhibitors was also at an all time high – 278.
“We are extremely pleased with the result of the show,” remarked IAAPA European director Andreas Veilstrup Andersen as the event was wrapping up. “Despite a very difficult economical context, we have a solid show with the greatest variety of exhibitors.”
In fact, most park owners arrived in Amsterdam after enjoying a successful summer, buoyed rather than hindered by the economy. Attendance increases of between 10 and 20% were reported as families across Europe chose to make the most of attractions close to home. Against this backdrop, EAS exhibitors should have been doing brisk business.
Lack of Innovation?
But how much new product was there for visitors to see? A small cluster of exhibits could be inspected outside the Europa Hall including a 4D cinema, Mondial Heartbreaker and a lifting bike from Action Innovators.
Inside the exhibition itself, Clostermann Design’s Alien Idol exhibit stopped several visitors in their tracks, and there were a variety of multimedia offerings, across several price ranges. A lot of the brochures, however, contained rides or attractions that were simply variations on a theme.
This was not a vintage year for innovation, although it’s worth noting some companies were holding back their new ideas for the larger IAAPA Attractions Expo the following month in Las Vegas.
Park World’s (unscientific) poll of European park owners the week before EAS revealed that several were giving Amsterdam a miss. Maybe they were waiting for Amusement Expo Europe in Genoa (October 28 to 30) or, just as likely, Las Vegas, where they could see all the same exhibitors and more, have a vacation and spend significantly less on accommodation than in the Dutch capital.
One EAS stand that was buzzing was that of coaster giant Vekoma Rides Manufacturing. “We sent out a lot of invitations before the show,” revealed the company’s Peter van Bilsen. “Most of the parks say they have had good results, and a few people are buying equipment last minute, but others are delaying.”
“We are satisfied even in the financial crisis,” remarked Wolfgang Brück of Zierer. “The parks in Europe are still spending but it is difficult to get firm orders for attractions over €2 million, which is why we have to be flexible.”
“We had serious talks and negotiations with European park owners to discuss projects for 2010 and 2011”, reported Udo Weisenburger of Theming and Animatronics Industries (TAA).” We are very likely to sign three projects this month and to get our first project outside Europe.” With a well-themed stand to the right of the main entrance, TAA could not be missed.
Neither could Holland’s own ETF Ride Systems, which, like most Dutch exhibitors, had used its own manpower to erect its stand inside the RAI. “We have a good spot by the entrance, and this is really working for us,” commented Ruud Koppens.
More Business, Less Talking
“The fair has been much better than last year,” reported Marco Mazzucchi at the Zamperla stand. “There’s more business, less talking, and the parks have had a good season too.”
“We have been very busy,” confirmed Maximilian Roeser of Mack Rides. “Everyone is asking about our launch coasters and interactive water rides. We currently have some large projects on the go on in China and Japan, and three more in Europe.”
While there was good news from parks across the continent, it seems the 2009 season was more of a mixed bag for those with travelling amusements: “Business for showmen in France and the Netherlands was good,” observed Peter of KMG, “but in Germany and Spain it was not so good.” Nevertheless, the Dutch ride manufacturer has full order books for the next 12 months and hopes to develop two new rides concepts in winter 2010/11.
“We have met some new people,” remarked Lisa Gosetto from the Italian ride manufacturing family. “It has been 90% European, but some from Saudi Arabia, Israel also.”
Indeed, a number of companies expressed their pleasant surprise at the distances some visitors had travelled to be in Amsterdam. Now firmly established as an autumn event, EAS seems to have found its feet. The 2010 will take place in Rome from October 6 to 8. That should prove popular with overseas visitors too.
Those arriving in Amsterdam early and wanting to keep close to their industry colleagues had a number of options before the start of Euro Attractions Show.
On Tuesday, September 29, four coach loads of guests made the trip to Efteling in the south of Holland for a park tour and peek behind the scenes of the new Bosrijk holiday village, set to open this December. Back at the RAI, an IAAPA board meeting and the Emerging Leaders Institute took place.
Running parallel to EAS from September 30 to October 2 were three days of seminars in the RAI Elicium congress centre. More than 1,000 places were taken during the 14 individual sessions as speakers, panellists and audience members were asked to imagine the shape of the attractions industry in 2020 – little more than a decade away. On Thursday, October 1, a separate TiLEzone conference was staged on the topic of sustainability.
Social events included Wednesday night’s Welcome Reception, notable for its high ticket price and lack of food, Thursday’s EAS Party at the Heineken Experience, recently transformed by BRC Imagination Arts, plus two networking events for young professionals.