A very British show
There was a sense of new momentum amongst attractions operators visiting last year’s Leisure Industry Week (LIW) show in the UK. But was it still there when the 2007 event took place recently? Park World reports from the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham.
From Tuesday to Thursday, September 25 to 27, a total of 13,986 leisure professionals ranging from amusement park owners to fitness specialists visited the event at the NEC. These figures, released ny the organisers, represent a 10% increase on 2006 attendance, although there is still no breakdown offered for indivdual sections of the show.
Among the 450-plus exhibitors, major ride suppliers were few and far between, with Italy’s Moser Entertainment the only notable manufacturer in attendance. Fortunately for the organisers, Mattias Moser told Park World he would be happy to return next year. An impressive number of catering companies on the show floor gave leisure providers of all kinds something else to look at, but for attractions operators the bulk of exhibitors were suppliers of inflatables and play equipment.
The reason for this is probably the fact that LIW is very much a British show. While Birmingham is central to the UK, it lacks the pulling power of London when it comes to attracting international visitors. Alongside the traditional UK park operators, that leaves smaller local attractions like play centres and farm parks.
“It’s interesting to watch some of these guys evolve,” commented David Robinson over at the World of Rides stand. “A lot of them started with maybe an animal corner and a few inflatables, and now they are coming back and buying rides.”
Whatever the show floor may or may not have to offer, the free Attractions Industry forum seminar programme introduced in recent years has been a positive addition, but spread as it is over three days (one day at the show is enough for most people), attendance at the individual sessions fluctuates wildly.
A well supported session this time was Wednesday’s launch of the revised HSG175 Standard for Safe Practice at Fairground and Amusement Parks, discussed by Geoff Robson and Richard Barnes of the Amusement Device Inspection Procedures Scheme (ADIPS) and Barry Baker of the Health & Safety Executive.
Park operators were obviously keen to follow this session, and many stayed on for the ‘Big Top Bash’ the same night at Drayton Manor, a second successive event at this popular park close to the NEC.
Encouraging its member to attend was BALPPA, the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions, which was provided with a members lounge again on the show floor. Although the association receives money from LIW organisers for each of its members that attends, a fairly honest assessment was printed recently in its newsletter when it was stated, “the exhibition last year was an enormous improvement on recent years.”
At least one BALPPA trade associate, however, did confide in Park World that they didn’t think this year’s show was any better. Taking part in this, like any other show, can be expensive for exhibitors, and even visitors to the exhibition are stung £8 each by the NEC just to park their cars.
It is true that for BALPPA members there is no other obvious show in the UK for them to attend, but LIW organiser Ithaca Media, which just days before the show was taken over by United Business Media/CMP Information, must not get complacent. After all, few other trade shows in Europe are more than a 2-hour cheap flight away.
LIW 2008 takes place in Birmingham from September 23 to 25.