EAS 2013 had 390 exhibitors – a record number – and was attended by an estimated 8,500 attraction industry professionals.
While not yet on the scale of the Orlando IAAPA show, there are a number of good reasons for attending EAS. The show provides a rare opportunity to arrange meetings with a large number of people in a short space of time, network and learn from the industry at the seminars during the show.
The CEO talk, led by Reinoud van Essendelft of Leisure & Culture Consultants and featuring Bart de Boer of Efteling, Miikka Seppala of Tampereen Sarkanniemi Oy, Amanda Thompson of Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Nicolas de Villiers of Puy du Fou, included a debate about the extent to which the industry is recession proof.
While the industry was reported to have performed well so far, there was some concern about the length of the economic downturn and the impact of this on the price sensitivity of some markets. With the exception of Puy du Fou, who don’t participate in discount promotions, the other parks felt that discount vouchers have become so ingrained in our cultures that theme parks have to participate in promotions – particularly those in markets where competitors are discounting.
Another trend related to potential shifts in consumer behaviour in visiting theme parks. Recent Mintel research in the US was quoted, showing that the proportion of teenagers who consider themselves as regular theme park goers has fallen from 76 per cent to 67 per cent in recent years.
Another seminar considered the opportunity for lodging and resort development at attractions. Statistics show this is a growth area, with smaller, niche appeal accommodation offers being added to the themed hotel offers at major parks.
The Zoo de la Fleche’s recent development of safari lodges was particularly fascinating. The lodges are set within the themed zones of the zoo and integrated into the enclosures, providing a unique level of interaction with the animals, including the opportunity to open your bedroom curtain in the morning and come face to face with a white wolf or to eat your breakfast watched over by tigers.
Not surprisingly, the cost of the lodges was high (including providing glass which is strong enough to safely view the animals through) but the lodges have been sold out and the park reported that most weekends in 2014 are already booked up.
The Paris show set a new standard for the opening reception with a stunning evening at the Musee des Arts Forains (Museum of Fairground Arts), attended by 1,200 delegates. The museum houses an amazing collection of fairground rides and attractions dating from 1850 onwards, all restored and brought back to life by the owner, Jean Paul Favand, an actor and antiques dealer. All in all, EAS 2013 was an excellent show.