ALES UK at IAAPA: Tony Whittaker on Showcasing and Supporting UK Suppliers

ALES UK (Amusement & Leisure Equipment Suppliers of the United Kingdom), represents sixty UK companies supplying services and products to theme parks, zoos and aquariums, water parks, visitor attractions, Family Entertainment Centres, Play Centres, farm attractions and holiday parks.

Established in 2004 by Gerry Robinson, ALES UK aims to smooth the path of UK companies hoping to exhibit worldwide, offering networking, expertise and routes to funding.  It is the only industry trade association that specifically represents the interest of UK registered manufacturers and suppliers.  ales uk logo

Gerry Robinson sadly passed away in August this year and Tony Whittaker has taken on the role of Secretary of the Association. Together with the ALES Management Committee including ALES Vice Chairman Pauline Quayle (the Juice), Whittaker has ambitious plans to build on the legacy left by Robinson.

A key strategic initiative will be to increase the profile of the Association and to this end, between the 18th to the 21st of November, ALES UK will have its first booth in the First Time Exhibitor Pavillion at the upcoming IAAPA show in Orlando.

Blooloop spoke to Whittaker to find out about more about ALES UK as well as the path which led to him becoming the Association’s Secretary and spokesman.

ALES UK at IAAPA: Tony Whittaker on Showcasing and Supporting UK SuppliersA Unique Industry

Whittaker (left), also MD of Elton Amusements Ltd, began his career in finance in the Audit Group at Grant Thornton Accountants in Liverpool, where he remained for ten years before being headhunted by a client to become Financial Director at Westbrook Packaging Ltd.  He helped the Westbrook family sell the company to a large worldwide packaging group, securing a very favourable deal for the shareholders. Subsequently, he joined Elton Amusements Ltd, world leaders in the manufacture of roll-a-ball redemption games.  

Of having bridged the chasm between the financial sector and the amusement and leisure industry, he says, “It’s very addictive and gets into your blood.  I did over a decade in Accountancy and a further decade in corrugated but this industry, you know… it’s unique. Once you’re in it grabs hold of you.”

ALES UK Aims

Through the UK Government’s Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP), ALES has helped provide more than 60 grants this year alone.  The grants help fund overseas commercial conference facilities and exhibition stands, enabling UK companies to promote their goods and services to global trade audiences, including such emerging and high growth markets as India, Russia and the UAE as well as iconic exhibitions.

ALES UK’s Management Committees goals are to:

  • grow membership, giving support to newly exporting UK enterprises so that they can learn how to use exhibitions as a key tool in their trade development plans;
  • ensure that the industry is kept au fait  with the latest products and services available; 
  • help new UK exporters into the industry using the vast experience within the membership as a resource; 
  • create an easily recognisable ‘one-stop-shop’ in the industry for all that is British; and
  • maintain the close relationship ALES has with the UKTI (UK Trade and Industry) and leading exhibition providers worldwide. 

ALES UK are seeking to achieve these objectives by continuing to help UK exporters with TAP (Tradeshow Access Programme) funding via the UKTI (UK Trade and Industry) so they can learn the exhibition process.  In addition the current website is to be updated, linking all members to the industry and keeping the industry informed.  

ALES UK will also attend exhibitions to showcase the membership and to continue with networking events and expand advertising and sponsorship, such as the recent EAS show in Amsterdam and the forthcoming Blooloop IAAPA Party at IAAPA in Orlando for which ALES UK are Gold Sponsors. 

ALES UK at IAAPA: Tony Whittaker on Showcasing and Supporting UK SuppliersSpeaking about the increased visibility of ALES UK at IAAPA, Whittaker says, “We have a great opportunity to promote the membership and ensure the industry knows about the many benefits the membership can provide.  The idea here is to both promote ALES UK and attract future membership, but also to raise awareness so users internationally can see it as a one-stop-shop for UK companies.”

Benefits of Membership

One major benefit of membership is the provision of funding for exporters: ALES UK is the only Association with the government’s Tradeshow Access Funding (TAP). 

However access to grants is not the only benefit.  

Clients will find an easy to navigate ALES UK database of UK suppliers of amusement and leisure equipment and services*.

Whittaker says, “Our membership is so diverse and with decades of experience we provide a ‘one-stop shop’ for everybody in the industry and my aim is to ensure that shop continues to grow and look to the future needs of the industry and the members alike.”

Members who are new to the industry as well as suppliers who are looking to expand into overseas markets, will be have access to a network that acts essentially as a pooling of experience as a resource.  

The collective knowledge available at ALES can be invaluable; first time exhibitors to a new country can tap into the vast experience of other companies in the Association who have done it for 20, 30, 40 years.  The ruin by attraction the juice filmsAssociation can discuss any pitfalls, aid with funding of the stand and give advice on many issues such as joint haulage, insurance cover required and any other unique issues that a specific exhibition brings with it.  Other examples of the advantages of membership involve simple things like ensuring inclusion when people are travelling to shows, especially if they are alone, as well as any opportunity to look at pooling resources and sharing costs, such as translators.

Whittaker says that it is common for the network of ALES members to be in a position to help each other both at shows and social events: “Many times I have been given valuable leads and information regarding new ventures that fellow members have been invited to quote for.  I’ve also have been recommended by fellow members which provides a great advantage… It’s amazing how much networking is people’s preference. People do count.

In conclusion Whittaker says ALES UK plans are, “basically about new members coming in and gaining expertise from other members – because we all drink from the same well…. That’s it, in a nutshell.”

Visit ALES UK at Booth 3684 during the upcoming IAAPA expo in Orlando to find out more.

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* The following represents some of the services that ALES UK members provide to the industry:

  • 4D effects theatres/simulators/motion theatres
  • 4D content
  • Admission ticketing and access control systems 
  • Animated figures 
  • Bumper boats
  • Bouncy castles/Inflatables 
  • Battery or electric coin operated boats & trains 
  • Climbing walls, mobile & static 
  • Coin operated kiddie rides 
  • Costume characters, bespoke mascots, live shows 
  • Children’s touch screen interactive educational units 
  • Commercial financial, feasibility, Design and park management services 
  • Dryers
  • Electronic shooting galleries 
  • Fairground equipment 
  • Feasibility studies
  • Finance
  • Freight transportation
  • Go-karts, electric & battery operated 
  • Go-kart track design & operation    
  • Group participation competitive redemption games 
  • International developers, managers & consultants
  • Indoor play equipment 
  • Insurance schemes for leisure operators & manufacturers 
  • Inflatable walk-about costumes 
  • Inflatables
  • Maize & puzzle design, manufacture & installation 
  • Multi-rides & giant games 
  • Play attractions, adventure golf, miniature golf 
  • Qualified safety inspections 
  • Remote controlled model systems & games
  • Roll a Ball Derby games 
  • Refurbished amusement equipment & spares 
  • Specialist design, calculation & fabrication services 
  • Specialist design & engineering consultancy 
  • Theme park & FEC design 
  • Timber buildings & play structures 
  • Wet & dry amusement park rides 

…and much more 

Image credits: top LCI Productions, bottom right Ruin film by Attraktion! and The Juice Films.