Quality not quantity in Macau
This summer’s IAAPA Asian Attractions Expo in Macau (July 16 to 18) was the biggest ever in terms of exhibitor numbers and floor space, but was the attendance there to match?
Owen Ralph reports.
Like most things in Macau, the Special Administrative Region of China where gaming revenues now outstrip Las Vegas, the action took place inside a casino. Less than a year old, The Cotai Strip Convention and Exhibition Center at The Venetian (modelled after the development of the same name in Las Vegas) was clean, modern and spacious. This allowed IAAPA to allocate a record 3,248 net square metres of exhibition space to 167 companies from 25 countries – 30% up on the previous AAE record, set last summer in Bangkok (Thailand). Attendance, however, was down by more than 20%. IAAPA’s preliminary figures suggest “nearly 2,600” people participated in AAE 2008, versus 3,200 last year and 3,300 in 2006 when the event visited Shanghai.
“The exhibition definitely seems larger than last year,” observed the chairman of the Chinese Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (CAAPA), Liu Jingwang. “There are more international exhibitors here than our own show in Beijing, and I know a lot of parks are sending high level delegations down to see what is new. Chinese manufacturers are also paying a lot of attention to this show, but personally I am a bit disappointed there are not so many real machines to see, just brochures.”
But it wasn’t all about rides and attractions. To its credit, IAAPA also put on a great selection of networking and education events as part of this year’s Expo. As well as the Wednesday night Opening Reception and young professionals get-together, more than 225 people attended two Leadership Luncheons, to hear presentations by Tom Mehrmann of Ocean Park in Hong Kong and Eric Bello from Las Vegas Sands (owner of The Venetian), as well as a number of seminars.
Things got off to an encouraging start when the doors to the show floor opened at 10am on Wednesday morning, July 16, but traffic slowed soon after. “We had a good day first day, as good as I can ever remember,” remarked Keith James of Jack Rouse Associates. “The numbers are low, but the quality is exceptional. This market has been good to us, we love being here, and we hope to be here for a long time.”
“We signed a deal on day one, and that’s the first time in my 14 years in the business I have ever managed to do so,” said Dave Sandstrom from Bob’s Space Racers. “That’s proof that Asian Attractions Expo attracts serious buyers.”
Occupying an attractive booth near the main entrance was Vekoma. “The show seems very quiet but we are very busy!” declared Peter van Bilsen. ”I think the casino draws some people away during the day but I am pleasantly surprised by the those we have seen. As well as China, we have talked to people from Japan, Korea and a lot from India.”
Further into the hall, Golden Horse Amusement Equipment was also doing brisk business. “The show has been good for us because we are strong in the domestic market,” highlighted David Jia. “We also have a good booth and people like our products.”
“We have seen people from all over Asia, including India and Pakistan,” reported Aji Krishnan of Wonderla Rides from India. “There have also been quite a lot of visitors from Australia. We don’t expect to sell anything here, but we are happy with the event.”
In Shanghai two years ago a lot of the talk was about copying of rides. There’s still some fairly blatant abuses going on from a handful of Chinese manufacturers, but it seemed less of an issue this time for most of the Western manufacturers Park World spoke to, although many were careful with exactly how much product they put on display.
Zamperla, for example, can usually be relied upon to exhibit a handful of working rides at most trade shows, but presented a relatively modest booth in Macau. “Just look around, they copy everything, even the layout and the colours of our catalogues!” frowned Alberto Zamperla. The Italian company already has its own factory in Suzhou manufacturing for the Chinese market, but Alberto simply wasn’t seeing the weight of people he would have liked in Macau: “There’s no new customers here, the show is lousy! I am scared for next year.”
Of concern to some other exhibitors was the belief that potential visitors from the mainland had stayed away because of difficulty obtaining the domestic Exit-Entry permit (similar to a visa) required to travel to Macau. “It’s slow, slow, slow!” grumbled Kurt Mack-Even over at the Mack Rides booth. “We are not seeing many Chinese people because of the visa problems.”
“We do not expect huge crowds at a show like this, but we’ve made some good contacts,” reported Wyeth Tracy of Empex Watertoys. “People here are still working out what’s out there, they’re taking a lot of brochures, but Macau is not great.”
“We are not too satisfied,” reported Marina Ernst of Zierer. “It started well for the first few hours on Wednesday, it looked crowded, but there were not too many good people. Maybe some more will come in for the weekend on Friday and stay for the casinos.”
Complete not only with its casino but also, as in Las Vegas, an integrated shopping mall, canals, bars and restaurants, The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel seemed like a great venue for the Expo. It’s quite possible, however, that some visitors never left the complex for the entire duration of the event, and some hotel guests even needed a map navigate their own room! It was almost too convenient.
Getting to Macau, on the other hand, was not, which surely explained the dip in attendance. Yet with Asia, and China in particular, being one of the few growth areas in the world right now for the amusement industry, maybe quality really was more important than quantity on this occasion.
In 2009, Asian Attractions Expo moves to South Korea, taking place at the COEX Convention and Exhibition Center in Seoul from June 10 to 12. According to IAAPA more than more than 1,200 square metres of floor space is already sold.
“We are very excited about hosting the 2009 event in Seoul,” concludes IAAPA president and CEO, Charlie Bray. “The fact that 40% of exhibit space is already sold a year in advance reinforces the Expo’s position as the premier gathering for the attractions industry in Asia.”