It was one of the busiest and certainly the biggest ever Euro Attractions Show. Owen Ralph reports from EAS Berlin.
Europe’s largest trade show and conference for the amusement park and attractions industry took place at the Messe Berlin exhibition centre from October 9 to 11, staged by the International Association for Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA).
Preliminary estimates suggest 8,100 people, including 5,800 qualified buyers, attended the three-day fixture. That’s about the same as EAS 2009 in Amsterdam, a thousand more than last year in London, but short of the show’s record attendance of more than 9,000 set two years ago in Rome. Whichever you read it, the event has been on an upward trajectory the past few years and there was certainly a buzz on the show floor, and off it, for much of the week in Berlin.
Behind the grand but stark façade of Messe Berlin, visitors could discover 367 exhibitors spread across more than 9,000 square metres of space straddling five hall – an EAS record – and practically all the key international suppliers were there. The multi-hall layout was slightly confusing at first, but IAAPA did a good job with signposting and the bar in the stained glass-lit foyer that linked the two largest halls was a welcome spot in which to refuel and catch up with industry colleagues. If anything, the show’s configuration helped spread the attendees out, and there were less of the obvious dead spots you get in a single hall show.
Berlin’s own One World Studio made a statement with an impressive booth showcasing some of its recent work at the Up & Away FEC in Beirut, Lebanon. “We knew we had to ‘wow’ and we are here with a bang,” smiled company founder Olaf Mordelt. “For us the European show is the most important internationally. While we’ve been here we’ve also had some great follow-up meetings about projects in Lebanon.”
Maurer Sōhne, which invites a number of its customers and potential clients down to Munich each autumn to enjoy some Oktoberfest hospitality, found that the addition of EAS in Berlin provided a particularly enticing itinerary for its guests from further a field. “It’s been a nice combination,” remarked the company’s Wolfgang Brost, “and we have seen customers from as away as Australia come to enjoy in Germany.”
Presiding over the EAS proceedings as IAAPA’s first ever German chairman was Roland Mack, who brought with him a little bit of Europa-Park showbiz. Kick-starting proceedings on Tuesday morning was the new look EAS Opening Ceremony, adopting the same sort of format as the Kick Off Event at IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando. As well as a “What’s New” video compilation of new European attractions (see it here), the audience also received an address of welcome from German tourism minister Ernst Burgbacher, and of course IAAPA Europe executive director Karen Staley.
Food & Fireworks
That same evening, Europa-Park mascots and performers were on hand to spice up the EAS Opening Reception. With no gala dinner this year, IAAPA focused all its efforts on this always bustling party. Guests at the sold-out function were provided with a steady supply of food and drink over a three-hour period, plus a firework finale to send them on their way. The default after party for many was the Young Professionals Reception at Beachmitte bar.
Other after dark events and networking opportunities included a boat party hosted by Europa-Park, publisher Gemi Verlags’ first European Star Awards and Wednesday night receptions from the British trade associations BALPPA and ALES-UK, plus the TEA (Themed Entertainment Association).
“I think the opening reception was a good spotlight for our industry and really set the benchmark for future fairs,” said Dr Ulrich Müller-Oltay, managing director of the German park operators’ association the VDFU. “The European market is becoming more and more important, and while Orlando remains of great interest, this show is essential for our members.”
Accompanying his colleague Fernando Aldecoa, the CEO of PortAventura who shared the stage with Roland Mack at Wednesday morning’s Leadership Breakfast, the Spanish park’s operations manager Giovanni Modena was due to spend two days in Berlin attending meetings and browsing the EAS exhibits. “Of course we already know all the ride manufacturers but every time we come to this fair we always get at least one thing we can use in the park,” he told Park World. “It’s a very big show this year!”
“I think the show is fantastic,” enthused Peter van Bilsen from Vekoma Rides Manufacturing. “There are new customers and new projects out there, which is very positive for our industry. We’ve seen people from a lot of places including Eastern Europe, where they don’t really have a lot of amusement parks at the moment but there is a lot of potential.”
“There have been lots of Eastern European visitors,” agreed Elena Munari of IE Park. “We’ve also seen a few clients from the Middle East. In Italy we have been hit by the economic crisis, but overall our industry is doing well; there is work for everybody.”
“We caught up with many people and will have a lot to follow up after the show,” said Mirko Schulze of Huss Park Attractions. “Still nothing beats face to face contact. Looking at our order book, I do not feel the crisis!”
“I think this has been one of the best European trade shows so far,” commented Eric Dillens of 3D film distributor nWave. “The first two days were brilliant and our new films helped drive traffic to the booth.”
Booths Of All Sizes
Last year, on home soil, Simworx offered a full 4D theatre on its booth in London, but was adopting a more low key approach in Berlin. “That meant the people we got to see this time were those already interested in what we do,” noted Terry Monkton. “There weren’t too many quiet spells though.”
Two British companies – Garmendale (GEL) and KD Decoratives – decided to pool their resources and present a nice booth showcasing their wide-ranging services, from ride building and theming to attraction maintenance and engineering. “We’ve had some really good meetings and set up a few site visits,” GEL’s David Shelmerdine informed us. “Working with Merlin does us a lot of good because they are quite hard task-masters. People are happy to work with us because they know we work with Merlin.”
“Yeah it’s certainly been a good show,” remarked Coen Nieuwenstein, representing Gerstlauer Amusement Rides. “There is some confidence in the market, however it’s still very tough out there.”
“This show has been a lot better than last year in London, but I would prefer the dates not to be so close to Orlando,” said Theo van Zwieten from Dutch ride builder Mondial. “Also the event is lacking travelling showmen.”
As the world’s leading waterpark supplier, WhiteWater is a regular fixture of this and many other industry events, but it was the first time at EAS for the Canadian company’s Julie Zakus. “I never knew the show was this large,” she confessed. “There’s been traffic all day, every day, and I am very impressed with the organisation.”
“EAS 2012 demonstrated the increasing importance of our industry for the entire European tourism sector,” concluded Roland Mack. “Attendance is evidence that the industry is resilient in times of financial and economic crisis. EAS is now recognised as the most important [attractions industry] trade show in Europe.”
Exhibitors and visitors alike will be relieved that next year’s Euro Attractions Show – in Paris – is scheduled for September as the five week gap between the Berlin event and IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando was a little too close for comfort. Nevertheless the growth of EAS, in both size and stature, makes the need to visit both shows unnecessary. With both travel budgets and work schedules under increasing pressure in the current climate, Park World suspects Paris could well become the expo de jour for many Europeans in 2013.
Learnin’ in Berlin
As well as special events such as Wednesday morning’s Leadership Breakfast with Europa-Park’s Roland Mack and PortAventura’s Fernando Aldecoa, Euro Attractions Show attendees in Berlin were free to dip in and out of the comprehensive two-day conference programme. More than 1,200 did just that, the most ever at an EAS event. Sessions were delivered on Halloween events, social media, emerging markets, food and beverage, safety, guest service, pricing, payment and new technology. EAS tours to Tropical Islands waterpark and Filmpark Babelsberg both sold out, and there was also a post-event tour to northern German attractions including Heide Park, Hansa Park and Hagenbeck Tierpark (zoo) in Hamburg.
To Paris …and beyond!
Euro Attractions Show 2013 will take place at Paris’s Port de Versailles convention centre from September 18 to 20, and more than 200 companies have already confirmed their attendance. After moving EAS around Europe for the best part of a decade, IAAPA is expected to settle on three or four host cities for future events, which should make things a little easier for all concerned, not least the exhibitors and IAAPA itself. Berlin could well become one of those cities, and it certainly provided an enjoyable meeting place for most concerned this autumn.