Thoughts from EAG 2012...
The third annual EAG International Expo has been heralded a success by the European amusements community. InterPark's Adrian Lennox comments on the changing shape of the UK's out-of-home leisure show circuit.
"EAG International Expo closed its doors this afternoon (Thursday, January 26), with the vast majority of exhibitors declaring the 2012 edition of the show to be the most successful in its three-year history.
Although official attendance figures and related data have not yet been released by Swan Events, which organises the UK exhibition on behalf of the British Amusement Catering Trade Association, many exhibitors at the ExCeL venue in east London reported strong trade, particularly during the first two days of the show.
Upon its inception in 2010, EAG was widely regarded as a divisive 'breakaway' event, created by - and for - the UK and wider European amusements industry, many key members of which were becoming increasingly despondent towards what they considered to be an ever-increasing focus on the casino and online gaming sectors at the long-established - and thus supposed 'rival' - ICE event.
Initial reports suggest that ICE - which continues to run parallel to EAG, albeit at Earls Court in west London - also enjoyed an increased number of visitors.
This double upswing draws into question the split (both economic and technological) that is often perceived to be occurring between hard gambling and family-focused, low-stake fun, as the European amusements sector - which firmly finds its home within the latter category - will no doubt be walking away from EAG 2012 with a confidence that has not existed within the sector since the economic maelstrom began to take full effect in 2008.
The UK's leisure trade show landscape is set to shift once again over the next 12 months, following the recent and much-publicised news that ICE itself will relocate to ExCeL in 2013. Unfortunately, however, ICE 2013 takes place precisely one week after EAG.
Rumours of sector-specific, political heel-dragging have been - perhaps unexpectedly - aplenty throughout the course of this year's EAG and ICE, with many longstanding UK amusements representatives, who remain uncomfortable under the perceived shadow that is being cast by other sectors, drawing a metaphoric line in the sand.
However, throughout the course of speaking with both exhibitors and visitors at EAG 2012, it appears the majority of the UK and European out-of-home leisure industry is in favour of re-aligning the two trade shows once again (with, perhaps, ICE taking up two or three halls at ExCeL, and EAG representing the amusements community in a standalone hall within the Docklands venue - exactly as it has been doing for the past three years). Of course, this all depends on the organisers consenting to hold their events at the same time.
Ultimately, just as the global leisure industry continues to evolve, so an almost infinite number of potential synergies take centre stage. And despite the sometimes seemingly unassailable contrast of ideas and ideologies that have become manifest across certain leisure sectors over recent months, the potential cross-over between casino, online and traditional amusements should not be overlooked."