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Amusement Parks: 3 days in Rome at the EAS

Opinion

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The venue, Fiera Roma, is thoroughly modern, not unattractive, but as with all these custom built out of town sites, vast and a little soulless.  The EAS  website rather optimistically stated that the convention centre was “20 minutes from Rome City Centre. (It) can easily be reached by car or train”.  By Ferrari perhaps, but for  those taking the train from the centre of town, this was far from true, the trip (with a fair wind) was over an hour each way and some poor exhibitors took 2 hours.  Hannibal reached the gates of Rome more quickly and he had elephants.

Attendees were thus faced with the sticky choice of staying out by the Fiero Roma, in drab surroundings with little to do in the evening,   yet close to the show, or taking rooms in Rome itself which offered  the glittering nightlife and breathtaking architecture of one of the world’s great cities but quite a trek in the morning.  We stayed at a hotel by the Termini station, adjacent to a “Streep tease”  -nothing to do with the actress – and opposite an adult movie theatre.  The hotel’s website boasted (and bullet pointed ) its amenities as being  a) a reception and b) a lift.

The  trade show was buzzing, with two halls packed with attendees from over 100 countries, around a third from Italy itself.  265 exhibitors had  booths, a 10%increase on last year’s Amsterdam show.  Products that caught my eye included the Nemo submarine by Felsen , a transparent climbing wall , EyeClick’s interactive floors and the new 5D interactive cinema from Alterface.  Bumped into my local park owner, Rick Turner, of  The Big Sheep in North Devon, dropping in on his way home after a week’s cycling in the Apennines.  Electrosonic’s  Alan Wilkinson and Chris Conte had also made it to Rome. Talked insects with Martin Rafferty, the Irish CEO of RGI leisure, which owns and operates Liverpool’s Bug World; a brand  which is one to watch and might, as they say, have legs.  David Schofield,   Liseberg’s British Creative Director was visiting too,   he  commutes between Sweden and his studio in Blackburn, Lancashire, where I am reliably informed they still have 4, 000 holes. 

Staying in the city it transpired , had been the right choice, with exhibitors based  near the Fiera Roma talking of nothing to do and those in the centre having a whale of a time.  Heard a story involving Stefan Holtman and  Peter van Bilsen from Vekoma Rides Manufacturing BV and a large fish on a roof top restaurant.  It’s worth asking them.

On the Wednesday  night  I was a guest of BRC Imagination Arts, the museum and theme park designers, who kindly took a group of us to a gorgeous restaurant where we were treated to a 3 course truffle -based  dinner, washed down with copious amounts of Chianti. Our hosts were represented by the UK’s Donna Davidson, Director Project development;  Greg Lombardo, Director of Brand Experiences and based in China ; Bart Dohmen, BRC’s European MD and the organiser of the evening and  Brad Shelton, Director, Entertainment Experiences.  Our table was a Scandinavian/ British mix, with a solitary Dutchman, BRC’s Jeroen Holman.  It included a group of Swedish theme park investors, Martin Barratt, CEO of The British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions (BALPPA),   Leisure Development Partners’  Yael Coifman , Vision XS’ Lesley Morisetti and journalist Owen Ralph.  Martin and Yael, in an act of solidarity with the Chilean miners, had spent part of the afternoon trapped in their hotel lift.  (Though light hearted about the ordeal, I imagine they’ll shortly be involved in a petty dispute about film rights) .  It occurred to us as we fine-dined that the trade show lanyards that many of us wore had been sponsored by JRA, another leading museum and theme park design firm.  We tucked them in – an indelicate moment, like drinking  Pepsi  at a Coke convention.

Christer Persson, of Eksploria Edutainment, sitting by my side, explained that he had a slight allergy to truffles.  Owen and I, brought up in gritty Lancashire mill towns, where truffles didn’t  form a large part of our diet,   had not had the opportunity to develop such an affliction.  The meal was extraordinary, heaven on a plate and as we later left the quaint family restaurant, the owner, with his finger firmly on the pulse, reminded us to give his fine establishment  5 stars on Trip Advisor.

So, a successful and record breaking show, a taste of La Dolce Vita and a lot of red wine.  Now over to Harry Potter and Orlando…

Images from top: 1. Rome at night  2. Hannibal, who is currently believed to be somewhere between platforms 25 and 27 of the Stazione di Roma Termini, cursng whilst trying to read an Italian phrase book and working out how to get to Brindisi. 3. A rainbow trout.

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Rachel Reed

Rachel Read

Rachel is Finance Director. She has a degree in engineering from Cambridge University and qualified as a Chartered Accountant at Deloittes in London. She worked in finance in industry for twenty years. She oversees our news and also manages our events.

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