When it comes to ideal January destinations, London’s Docklands may not immediately spring to mind. However, despite the inevitable wind, rain and sometimes snow, more than 5,000 decision-takers from the amusements and leisure sectors make the annual journey to ExCel London for the eagerly anticipated EAG International &Visitor Attraction Expo. The 2018 show will take place on January 16-18th, the time at which many leisure businesses are finalising plans and investment decisions for the forthcoming season.
Originally, the January show was largely focused on coin-op but since the launch of the co-joined Visitor Attraction Expo, four years ago, the show’s offering has widened considerably and it would be hard too think of any leisure business to which it wouldn’t be relevant.
Traditionally operators of the larger holiday parks have attended the event to experience the very latest amusement and prize vending machines, plus products such as kiddie rides and children’s go- karts and electric vehicles. Increasingly, operators of smaller facilities are visiting EAG & VAE, seeking products that will not only entertain their guests, but also deliver valuable new income streams.
Some park owners and operators have been wary of introducing machines, concerned that they might disrupt the core business and even damage their brand. These concerns are justifiable, particularly where, in the past, the machines may have been poorly selected, out of date and poorly maintained.
Today’s guest has high expectations but there are products that compete with the at-home entertainment offering, whilst delighting guests and delivering healthy profits into the bargain. Many current amusement offerings feature well promoted and familiar licensed entertainment brands, delivering great walk-up appeal and a high-quality experience.
For the uninitiated, a trip to EAG & VAE can be a slightly overwhelming (and noisy) experience, with, literally, hundreds of products from as far away as Asia and the USA, all vying for attention.
Expect to see Virtual Reality experiences, carnival-style games, electric and pedal vehicles for children, confectionery and prize vending, grabber cranes, water games, kiddie rides, indoor play equipment, ropes and hi-wires, laser tag, air hockey, trampolines, candy floss, ………….the list is almost endless!
Equally impressive, will be the level of knowledge and advice available, both at individual exhibitor stands, at seminars and educational sessions, and from trade associations and user groups present at the show.
Many of the people you will meet have years of experience; they know what works and what doesn’t. This is an industry based on long-term relationships and the sharing of expertise, with a great deal of this taking place at the show.
EAG & VAE will be showcasing products for parks of every size and type, so it’s important to choose products that reflect the preferences and demographics of your guests. Advice may be obtained from manufacturers or from distributors appearing at the show. They can assist with the choice of suitable locations within a park and, of course, product types.
For those holiday parks not wishing to invest in a capital purchase or having no product support capability, manufacturers and distributors will invariably be in a position to recommend reputable operating partners.
Many parks will have a games-room complete with games such as pool, air hockey, shuffleboard and often a juke box. For high footfall areas, prize every time vending is often recommended as it is perceived as giving great value for money: as any parent will know, young children don’t deal well with the concept of losing! Crane grabbers and other machines can bring a touch of theatre and entertainment to a purchase. Prizes and merchandise produced under licence tend to have a higher appeal, especially where the prices compare favourably with a normal retail offering.
Where the average guest stay is sufficiently long, redemption games or even a full carnival style skill wall may be an option. The longer stay enables tickets to be accumulated and exchanged for attractive high-value prizes.
EAG &VAE is also home to companies that supply important consumables such as wristbands, bingo supplies and popular F&B items. Also worth a look is software that optimises and protect income, as well as collating valuable information about guest preferences.
There is a popular misconception that amusement machines only contribute small change and can be problematic. Correctly chosen and operated they can deliver very substantial and quantifiable returns; they can provide entertainment and add a real sense of occasion. They can also help to keep guests on site where this is a priority.
We urge you to invest a little time at EAG & VAE, to look at the products and take advice from the experts. There will be something for every holiday park, be it as small as a lollipop vendor, or as large as a sky ropes course or complete children’s driving school.
Come for a day or come for longer, open your mind to new revenue possibilities and meet the people who can help you deliver them: you’ll be surprised at how much you have in common!
Entry to EAG & VAE is free of charge and registration is now open at www.eagexpo.com