Sun, city, sea and the amusement industry: How could EAS 2016 in Barcelona possibly fail? It didn’t. With 12, 600 visitors in attendance (8, 700 of them classed as buyers) and over 500 exhibitors for them to see, IAAPA EMEA’s flagship event was by far its biggest and busiest yet.
“Euro Attractions Show 2016 is record-setting” confirmed current IAAPA chairman John McReynolds. “Kudos to the industry and the staff for producing this amazing event, and thanks to the entire region for adopting us for a week.”
Staged at the Fira Barcelona Gran Via exhibition centre from 20 to 22 September, but with ancillary events starting as early as Sunday the 18th, the event put EAS back on an even keel after the blip in attendance suffered last year in Gothenburg, Sweden. Whilst that show, staged in and around Liseberg amusement park, is still spoken of highly by those that attended, the city lacked sufficient direct flights to make it easily accessible for many in Europe. And for the Northern Europeans that flew out to Barcelona, we suspect the weather might just have been an extra incentive.
Here’s several more things that contributed to success of EAS 2016:
Spread across more than 13, 000 square metres of floor space, the show’s approximately 525 booths included all the big names, plus a healthy dose of newcomers including several local Catalan companies. When it comes to exhibitor numbers, EAS is now about half the size of IAAPA’s flagship Attractions Expo in Orlando. Kudos indeed.
One of those fresh firms taking part was POMA, the French company that built the pods for the London Eye, Las Vegas High Roller, Golden Reel in Macau and the new i360 observation tower in Brighton, England. “People know the projects we have worked on, but they do not know us, ” commented Sébastien Georget. “We have to get our name out there, we want to develop more in this industry.”
Whether it was Simworx offering a multimedia water ride with Interlink, Vekoma’s continued collaboration with Brogent, or Polin partnering with the Hungarian firm Eleven to produce a range of LED-lit waterslides, there were many collaborative projects in evidence this year across the show floor at EAS.
Polin Waterparks was certainly kept on its toes during the week: “We came with seven people on our booth, ” said Söhret Pakis. “It was not enough, I wish we had brought more, we were busy throughout the show. This has certainly been better than Gothenburg.”
The education opportunities
EAS 2016 offered an extensive educational programme with more than 30 hours of seminars. Industry experts shared insight on topics including lodgement and resort development, dining experiences, increasing revenues, safety, show and event production, creative park development, customer satisfaction and marketing.
The popular CEO Talk session on Tuesday (20 September) was an all-Spanish affair moderated by Yael Coifman (Senior partner at LDP) on this occasion, with contributions from representatives of PortAventura World, Parque Warner Madrid (Diego Gracia Lovaco), Tibidabo (Rosa Ortiz) and Illa Fantasia (Joan Cama Sacrest). One of the first topics to be addressed by the panel was Brexit, something which is not expected to impact the latter two parks to any great extent because they rely principally on the local market. At PortAventura, however, Britain is one of its key foreign markets.
Director general Fernando Aldecoa reported that the park resort near Tarragona had recorded a double digit percentage increase in guests from the UK this summer but that he thought this was because most had booked their holidays before the EU referendum. He was less positive about the prospects for this market next year, but is hoping to attract more guests from countries such as Italy and Germany following the opening of Ferrari Land in April.
On Wednesday, there was a panel discussion spotlighting developments in the Middle East and North Africa, reflecting the expanded area now served by the IAAPA EMEA office (formerly IAAPA Europe) in Brussels. Moderator Yael Coifman from LDP asked a variety of questions to the panellists covering topics such as staff training, growing competition in the UAE, and the difficulty of pricing in emerging economies.
As well as studies from the UAE, Turkey and Morocco, there was a presentation on Iran from Ali Benham of A&B Consulting. “Many of of you don’t have very good impression of my country, ” noted Ali, beginning his presentation with a video from a German video blogger called “Don’t go to Iran” (see below), which sets out to challenge preconceptions on aspects of the country including its traditions, landscapes and gastronomy. Yet clearly some in the leisure industry do see potential in Iran, which is set to welcome several new parks over the coming years as well as 60 new shopping malls by 2017.
PortAventura representatives were the keynote speakers of both Tuesday’s Lunch & Learn and Wednesday’s Leadership Breakfast events, and the resort also co-hosted the IAAPA Institute for Attractions Managers and IAAPA Safety Institute. An additional day-long conference for operators of FECs, small parks, play centres and complemented on Thursday by a Waterpark Forum at Ilya Fantasia. With a separate Waterpark Masterclass hosted on Monday by WhiteWater at Hotel Arts, operators in this sector of the industry were well catered for.
With the trade show starting each day at a civilised 11am, there was no reason not to embrace the Latin spirit and make the most of things after dark during EAS. Kicking off the week’s social programme for a few hundred EAS attendees was a Monday night drinks reception on the terrace of Hotel Arts, hosted by BALPPA and WhiteWater, straight after the latter’s Waterpark Masterclass (see above). On the same evening, Kirmes & Park Revue hosted its fifth annual European Star Awards at PortAventura.
On Tuesday there was only party to go to: the EAS Opening Reception at Tibidabo. Worth a visit at any time simply for the stunning views over Barcelona, this charming amusement park provided the setting for an enjoyable evening of food, drink, networking and riding attractions. Almost too much to do in one night, in fact, but certainly an EAS reception to remember.
On Wednesday, many headed to L’aquarium Barcelona for a well-attended Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Mixer, where guests mingled among the fish tanks whilst wearing Teletubbies headwear provided by one of the event’s sponsors. Whatever must the fish have made of it all? WhiteWater hosted a party too on the same night, taking over the roof terrace of the city’s Museu d’Història. Those that chose to take the free bus straight to this gathering from the exhibition centre were treated to a free sightseeing bus tour of Barcelona. A handful of EAS attendees eschewed both the above, however, in favour attending a football match over at Camp Nou. And why not?
“I liked the location of both Tibidabo and TEA parties, ” noted Christian Martin of Triotech. “It’s better to be out there visiting attractions than in a some stuffy room in the convention centre after a day on the show floor. Europeans have a great traditions of entertaining.”
The behind-the-scenes tours
An exclusive glimpse of Ferrari Land was provided to ticket holders on Monday’s sold-out ‘EDUTour’ of PortAventura Word, a day-long affair that provided an insight into how the operations team deliver the thrills, excitement and entertainment at this leading theme park resort on the Costa Daurada.
On Thursday morning, IAAPA hosted a tour and seminar at L’aquarium Barcelona. The backstage access and education opportunity provided an added element over the previous evening’s TEA Mixer at the same venue, but prices for the three-hour session were a little steep at €70/80 (IAAPA members/non-members).
Another sold-out event was the EAS 2016 post tour, on which attendees travelled to Madrid and Seville to take in attractions and including Zoo Aquarium Madrid, Parque de Atraccionnes Madrid, Parque Warner Madrid and Warner Beach Waterpark, Isla Magica/Agua Magica, plus a closing dinner in Seville.
Back to Berlin
The German capital will host Euro Attractions Show in 2017, taking up residency at Messe Berlin from 24 to 26 September. Last time EAS visited the city, in 2012, attendance was just over 8, 000. It could, therefore, be a tall order to beat this year’s barnstorming performance but perhaps the event now has sufficient momentum to do so. Either way, many will be hoping Barcelona can become a regular stop on the tour for Europe’s largest attractions industry conference and trade show.