IAAPA does Oktoberfest
It might have come only eight months after the last one, but the recent Euro Attractions Show (EAS) in Munich nevertheless attracted over 5,000 visitors to the Messe München exhibition centre – roughly the same amount that turned up at the start of the year for the same event in Nice, France. Owen Ralph reports.
The combined attendance of those two shows gives event organiser IAAPA its highest ever EAS turnout – or the Munich total is about 2,000 down on previous events in Paris, Seville or Vienna. Next year we will learn how popular EAS is likely to remain when the event consolidates its position as an autumn/fall fixture.
The reason there were two shows this year was because IAAPA wanted to switch to this new timescale but was unwilling to wait another year to do so – hence the short, eight month gap. Bearing all this in mind, the organisation should be pleased it pulled the numbers it did in Munich when the show took place from September 30 to October 2 (Tuesday to Thursday).
“We developed, marketed and produced a quality show,” believes EAS chairman and past IAAPA chair, Mats Wedin. “There were fewer showmen in attendance, and while most of the major attractions in Europe were represented, we know the difficult year in Europe and the economy played a significant role in the turnout.”
While Oktoberfest is likely to have lured some attendees, paradoxically it may also have kept others away thanks to the exorbitant hotel and flight costs associated with the event. The exhibition centre was also a long way from the “Wiesn,’ or Oktoberfest site. The fact they could wait less than two months and visit IAAPA’s Orlando show instead – for less money – was probably enough to persuade some parks and attractions operators to stay put. Many exhibitors welcomed the new dates because it gave them chance to get orders in time for next season but for those park owners, and showmen, still open at this time of it was less than perfect.
But what could visitors could they find if they made the trip to Munich? A good time. The parties and receptions and IAAPA’s European events boast, dare we say it, a better atmosphere than any of its other shows, and with the Oktoberfest spirit permeating throughout the entire city, there was little chance of that changing in Munich.
More than 1,000 people participated in the Tuesday night’s Welcome Reception in the Messe München foyer area, which lasted around five hours and finished with a party on Ronald Bussink’s Giant Wheel outside. The following night a sold-out crowd of 800 experienced Oktoberfest itself. Tickets for this were pegged high (€95), but several visitors were able to attend as guests of various exhibitors and guaranteed seating was provided (although this was one of the few nights when it wasn’t actually a lockout). By the end of the night nearly everyone was word perfect to Ein Prosit but we’re all still clueless as to who Alice is.
Around 125 IAAPA members arrived in Munich early to attend the association’s confusingly named Summer Meeting, which took place from Saturday onwards. The event last visited Germany in 2004, when IAAPA was hosted by the Mack family at Europa-Park, and once again there was a mix of tours to local attractions provided. For those travelling long distances to be in Munich particular, including some of the Americans, this was a good way to make a week of it by tagging on some sightseeing and networking.
Creating a bridge between the Summer Meeting and EAS, Munich’s own Maurer Söhne hosted a well-attended event at its factory on Monday night, and also took customers to see its Skyloop reference project at Allgäu Skyline Park in Bad Wörishofen. In fact, several exhibitors with local connections exploited this to their full advantage. Zierer, for example, ferried a number of interested parties over to its premises in Neuhausen for a peak at some of its new constructions. The company’s Marina Ernst was also one of a handful of German exhibitors to brighten up the exhibition floor by donning local costume during the show!
As for actual exhibits, there was little new to see, and this is still pretty much a rides show with a lot less of the ancillary products and services you see at IAAPA’s big exhibition in the States. Nevertheless most participants seemed in relatively good spirits despite the obvious financial burden of having to attend two European exhibitions in one year.
“We thought it would be a flop but it has been OK, ”remarked Michele Colombari over at the Fabbri stand, “about the same as Nice.”
“We had mixed feelings about the show,” reported Hannes Lackner of Funtime, one of several companies which booked late and so ended up in a second, overflow hall. “A September show is better for us as it gives us enough time to complete orders, but I think one event a year is enough!”
“It was an excellent idea to hold it at the same time as Oktoberfest,” enthused Wolfgang Richter, chairman of Huss Park Attractions, which could boast six or seven big rides this year on the Wiesn. “We have had high level discussions with people we would normally expect to see. Despite the financial conditions right now, things look pretty positive for the future.”
According to Charlotte van Etten of Vekoma, the quality of attendance and the surroundings were good. “It’s been a nice combination having the show together with the Summer Meeting, it’s a nice area to explore, although I think a week is a little too long. This still has to be affordable for us as suppliers.”
Yet for one exhibitor in particular, the timing was a disaster: “The dates couldn’t have been worse,” remarked Phil Pickersgill of Innovative Leisure, one of handful of British companies that has also been exhibiting at the established Leisure Industry Week the previous week in the UK. “I should be following up my leads now, but I can’t do that if I’m here.”
Mauro Ferarri of Preston & Barbieri highlighted some other unfortunate scheduling. “At first I was enthusiastic because of Oktoberfest, I thought this would be a special year, but it is a big holiday here in Germany on Friday, so I do not expect to see many people at the show towards the end of the week. Also the Middle East people have not come because it is the start of Ramadan. This will not be the case next year, but these things need looking at.”
“It’s not been bad for us, although we did not see too many visitors,” commented Technical Park’s Marco Grigolo. “It seems like maybe Germany is waiting for Interschau, this is busy time for the showmen sector.”
Peter Theunisz from the Dutch ride builder KMG was happy though. “It’s been good for us. We have seen plenty of European buyers, including a lot from France and even Slovakia, but not Germany because the business is bad.”
After getting the week off to such a great start on Monday night at the company’s premises across town, Maurer Sohne’s Horst Ruhe was in an understandably good mood when we caught up with him in the closing hours of EAS. “The show has been very good. The big European parks were here, except the UK for some reason, and of course it’s been helpful for us meeting here in Munich. We have new orders now from Europe and Asia right now and are very satisfied with the situation.”
It’s off to Amsterdam in 2009, when EAS appears at the RAI International Exhibition and Congress Center over the same dates as Munich, September 30 to October 2 – this time Monday to Wednesday. Located in the south of the Dutch capital, the RAI is less than eight minutes from Schiphol Airport. After trying places like Seville and Vienna in the past, it appears IAAPA is now aware how important a major air hub can be to the success of a show.