LONDON -- The fourth staging of the European Gaming & Amusement International Exposition came to a rousing conclusion on Jan. 24, having established a new record for attendance. "Despite enduring the very worst of British weather, everyone rallied to prove beyond all doubt the resilience of the industry and the importance of EAG as a standalone event," the show's organizers reported, noting that its January date continues a 70-year tradition in the UK's amusement industry.
Severe storms had taken Western Europe by surprise, dropping enough snow to force flight cancellations. The weekend before EAG opened, London's Heathrow airport had cancelled about 20% of its usual schedule because of snow and low visibility.
EAG International Expo chairman Martin Burlin observed that the 2013 event drew 5,411 "unique visitors," up slightly from the 5,333 showgoers recorded last year. Including registrants who attended the show for more than one day, he added, total "visits" exceeded 7,000. The latest in products and services from approximately 150 manufacturers, suppliers and related trade associations were showcased during the three-day event.
The 2013 expo again was the occasion for the UK's IOA (originally Independent Operators Association) to hold its annual general meeting. IOA is a group of 14 owner-managed regional operating companies that, collectively, cover the entire country. According to chief executive Peter Weir, EAG International Expo provides the perfect time and location to stage its annual gathering.
"This will be the fourth year for holding our AGM at EAG International," he added. "We support and attend many regional shows, but EAG International is the most important. Since its inception, EAG has been the event where we can see and discuss the very latest products."
Also returning to the 2013 EAG event was the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions. BALPPA is the nonprofit trade association that represents the interests of owners, managers, suppliers and developers in the UK's leisure parks, piers, zoos and static attractions sectors. The 76-year-old association has 300 members, including some of the UK's most iconic attractions.
EAG's Burlin welcomed BALPPA's continued support. "With the blurring of divisions between the various markets in the leisure sector, EAG International Expo is enjoying a broadening appeal," he observed. "We're confident that as the show continues to adapt, it will become increasingly relevant to BALPPA members."
"Having a physical presence at key industry events is important for any trade association," said newly appointed BALPPA chief executive Paul Kelly. He reported that the association also scheduled its 2013 annual general meeting for the day before the show opened. The group also hosted a BALPPA lounge in the exhibit area.
Exhibitors were very pleased by the turnout and the interest displayed by showgoers. "This show was the best event we have enjoyed in our company's 16 years' experience," said Josip Tarres of DC Digital Centre (Barcelona, Spain, and Miami, FL).
The show also is exerting its appeal on new categories of exhibitor. A first-time participant this year was Maple Moose, which has developed a proprietary solution for delivering branded crepes, along with waffles, beverages and scoop and whipped ice cream.
Managing director Hans Parker explained, "With 17 outlets in Ireland and the UK, Maple Moose is already a successful franchise operation, trading as standalone shops, stores within stores and food courts plus even as a mobile operation. We believe our concept is the small-space solution for amusement and attraction operators looking to offer their customers something different from the usual run-of-the-mill fast food."
The company was founded in 2008, and its specialty items are produced using a secret French recipe. Making its debut at the EAG was Maple Moose's Popcakes machine, which quickly turns out stacks of 10 "mini American Pancakes" and is about the size of a conventional microwave oven.
Rounding out the agenda were the popular EAG Master Classes. This year's curriculum included a comprehensive overview of the new "machine games duty," imposed on gaming equipment, which has superseded an amusement machine license fee plus “value added tax.” A series of presentations at the EAG Expo addressed the impact that MGD is likely to have on an operation, including changes in VAT recovery; the accounting records that operators must maintain to comply with the law; and the practical considerations in the event of a visit or inquiry from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs department.
On a happier note, Michael Getlan led presentations on two days on "how to make more money," dealing with the choice of ticket redemption equipment, the art of selecting and displaying prizes, and an overview of merchandise dispensing equipment and staff training and motivation.
Getlan, a third-generation amusement center operator, runs a number of facilities in the U.S.; the largest, Fun Fuzion at New Roc City (New Rochelle, NY), occupies almost125,000 sq.ft. He also owns Amusement Consultants LLC and serves on the board of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.
Next year's European Gaming & Amusement International Exposition, the fifth, will return to the ExCeL exhibition center at the historic Royal Victoria Dock in London's Docklands, from Jan. 21 through 23, 2014. The organizers, Swan Events Ltd., maintain a website for the show at eagexpo.com.