The Asian Attractions Expo 2013 ran from 4th to 8th June at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and saw the event revisit Singapore. The island state was a popular location having hosted the 2011 Asian Expo, and the hotel a stunning venue. A busy trade show and a packed seminar programme made for a hugely successful week for the organisers, the International Association of Amusement parks and Attractions (IAAPA), and the thousands of theme park and attractions professionals in attendance.
by Charles Read
In opting for Singapore, IAAPA had chosen wisely. The city is a practical, easy to access destination for both Asian and western attendees. The city is also a natural and fitting site for the show, with its rapidly growing portfolio of attractions and ambitious plans for further development. The Marina Bay Sands was also a solid choice. Exhibitors were all housed in the same room, unlike the last show in Singapore, an important consideration as a second room can often feel like an afterthought.
With the attractions industry continuing to grow in Asia, as the recently released TEA/AECOM attractions attendance report confirmed, this is the one show in the calendar that really feels like it has its finger on the pulse and perhaps the one that is unmissable. Early reports from IAAPA reflect this, with a significant increase in both attendees and exhibitors.
Alongside the trade show IAAPA ran a seminar programme, giving attendees the opportunity to hear from some of the region’s leading executives and gain a fresh perspective on just where the industry is developing, what issues are being tackled and how.
Tuesday the 4th saw the IAAPA Safety Institute, which gave delegates an overview of current safety standards and regulations for the attractions industry. Participants learned about ASTM standards and heard from speakers including Matthias Li, Ocean Park Hong Kong/IAAPA Asian Safety Subcommittee (Enterprise Risk Management), Hashim Bin Mansoor, Building and Construction Authority of Singapore (Safety of Adventure Activities) and Daniel Cuffe, Director of Safety and Compliance, Universal Studios Singapore/Resorts World Sentosa Attractions (Safety Maintenance & Best Practices).
The following day had two well attended sessions – “What’s new in Asia” and Social Media. Three of Asia’s leading theme park players took to the stage to give an overview of developments in the region. Mario O. Mamon, Chairman and President of Enchanted Kingdom (EK) in the Philippines talked about growth in the region in general, while Tunku Dato’ Ahmad Burhanuddin (“Tab”), MD Themed Attractions and Resorts Malaysia looked at Malaysia and Mike Barclay, CEO Sentosa Leisure Group, highlighted the continuing development of Singapore’s Sentosa Island
Mike’s talk in particular was very interesting. He explained how growth in the attractions business in Asia is fuelled by the expansion of Asia’s middle class, the spending power of which is due to grow up to 7 fold over the next twenty years. With existing and new attractions in development over the border in Malaysia and Singapore and Sentosa Island adding new attractions, it seems that Singapore is growing into a huge leisure destination “hub”, an Asian Orlando.
He also spoke about how sustainability is at the heart of Sentosa’s development. Running the island – which has 200 tenants, the biggest of which is Resorts world Sentosa (RWS) – he sees sustainability as being of vital importance. This is not just through simple altruism. From a business perspective, he said, it makes perfect sense as guests expect it. His eight point plan included enhancing and protecting the island ecology, minimising the carbon footprint and protecting the island’s history and heritage assets. The plan is that the island should remain 60% “green and open”.
I then took part in the next session, which looked at Social Media, along with Philp Whittaker, Chief Marketing Officer, Themed Attractions and Resorts Malaysia and Jonathan Mackenzie, Director OMD Singapore. We each had a slightly different perspective. Philip is marketing his company’s growing portfolio of attractions to the public, Jonathan is in advertising and advises clients across many sectors on how to be effective in their social media campaigns and I talked about current trends in social media with a brief look at the soon to be ubiquitous Google Glass.
The Open Ocean and a TEA Party
There were a number of functions in the evenings after the show. IAAPA’s opening reception was held at Marine Life Park on Sentosa Island. The park houses two attractions, Adventure Cove Waterpark and S.E.A Aquarium, the world’s largest aquarium. The centrepiece of the aquarium is its Open Ocean Tank which includes the world’s largest viewing panel at 36 by 8.3 metres and is home to over 50, 000 animals. After a buffet outside, accompanied by a spectacular tropical rainstorm complete with lightning over the bay, we took a look around both attractions.
Whilst the waterpark was impressive, it was not at its best at night, with no-one on the slides and no punters getting wet. The aquarium however, was truly stunning; gigantic tanks with healthy fish and obvious care and attention paid to signage and information panels. There were also quite a few species not often encountered in captivity such as the Nautilus and Guitarfish. It was a great evening and a good spot to mingle. I banged on about diving to LDP’s Michael Collins and chanced across Scott Deisley (VP, Aquaventure Waterpark, Dubai ) who as another diver was equally wide eyed at the exhibits.
The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) also had a function, again on Sentosa Island. This was well attended and 7 or 8 new Asian members were signed up over the course of the evening, auguring well for the association’s expansion into Asia. The TEA president, Christine Kerr is aiming to make the TEA less US-centric and sees Asia as a key part of the association’s ongoing development. As the TEA’s second women and second non US president, and with her determination and drive to develop the TEA to reflect the increasing globalisation of themed entertainment, she is the right person at the right time.
How was it for you?
So it was a fun week but how was the show for the exhibitors? I asked a question in our LinkedIn group and here are some of the comments:
Claus Frimand, Senior VP, ProFun Management Group: “Great to see so many young Asians employed in all the different disciplines. Welcome to a fantastic industry!”
Olivier Vincent, Communication Manager, Alterface: “A good show with many contacts and projects in the pipe.”
Nick Farmer, Farmer Attraction Development: “A good show, pleased I came.”
Jennifer Birdseye , Marketing Director, TJP Engineering: “Had a busy, successful and fun experience in Singapore. Mario's performance at the opening ceremony, the opening night reception at RWS and leadership breakfast were all highlights.”
Charlie Broschart , Business Solutions Architect at Gateway Ticketing Systems, Inc. : “IMHO, the best Asian show for us in years. Attended the Leadership Breakfast and was reminded why Ocean Park is the most awesome park on Earth (my opinion of course).”
Mark Whittaker, Sales Manager at Elton Amusements Ltd: “Singapore and the Marina Bay Sands Expo Centre was a fantastic setting for what was overall, a very positive show.”
Terry Monkton, Managing Director at Simworx: “I enjoyed a very positive Asian Expo. Very busy first 2 days, and even though the usual final day "Grave Shift" was quieter, I certainly spoke with more people than at most final days at many exhibitions. The venue itself was pretty much perfect. I am still a fan of having all exhibitors in one large hall, rather than being spread across several. UKTi also deserve a massive thank you for the events that they arranged and their support for UK companies attending the show.”
Anthony Stubbs, Managing Director at Funkimation: “ A fantastic trip to IAAPA in Singapore, great to see old friends, and make some new ones.”
Al Cross, VP, PGAV Destinations: “We like IAAPA Asia and this year was no different. Asia embraces it and treats it like a place to do REAL business. The networking and opportunity seeking is genuine and serious. In fact, we re-routed our trip home to specifically call on new acquaintances from the event.”
Manfred Meier, CEO at KRAFTWERK Living Technologies GmbH: “I had a very positive impression of the IAAPA Asian Expo. This impression is strongly marked by countless interesting projects and an enormous market in China and India. There is not only an economic upturn – I have also noticed an increased commitment to high quality and professionalism. Compared to other Expos on other continents, the genuine interest and the willingness to invest is really astonishing and makes the IAAP Asian Expo to an indispensable show.”
Dawn Foote, Managing Director of Katapult ; “The IAAPA Asia expo was a really positive experience, the growth in the market and the opportunities as a result were really strong. Lots to follow up on.”
On to Beijing
So, another professionally run and well attended show ends and thoughts are already turning to the two IAAPA shows in the Autumn, Europe’s EAS and the Orlando show in November. It is clear that the Asian Expo is becoming more important to the industry with each passing year as the tremendous growth in the attractions sector is set to continue across Asia. Next year sees the show move to Beijing. With China at the epicentre of this growth it looks set to be another show not to miss.