Stuart Hunter, Managing Director Clarion Gaming, had the pleasure to respond at our invitation to do our traditional interview, I can say, about ICE London 2022. We discussed about Clarion’s decision to do this ICE in April and about the conditions of participation considering the covid situation. Also Stuart told us about importance to come back to in-person events and, of course, we tried to find out much more about what is going to happened at ICE in April. An very interesting interview for our readers. Not to be missed!
Recently Clarion announced that ICE 2022 was confirmed for 12-14 April. How was this announcement received by the exhibitors?
Moving ICE London to April is very much a one-off made necessary by the absence of any alternative dates for an exhibition of this significance. When it became clear that our original February dates did not give the industry sufficient confidence in terms of concern regarding the emergence of the Omicron variant in December 2021 we set in motion a reach-out programme to connect with our community of exhibitors, sponsors and attendee groups. Migrating events that are the size and scale of ICE and the co-located iGB Affiliate London represents an enormous challenge and we worked tirelessly through the Christmas period with our colleagues at ExCeL to identify and secure an alternative date. We only really had two potential solutions both sitting either side of the Easter break in April. Neither of them perfect solutions, but our only chance to ensure ICE would be able to run in 2022. To achieve this involved the migration of six other events to enable ICE to have the entirety of ExCeL which is the space required to operate at full capacity. To illustrate the level of demand that exists for space at ExCeL the venue has confirmed that it will host a total of 350 live events during 2022. We appreciate that the new dates do not suit everyone and we will continue to work through any remaining challenges with our clients and support them with their preparations and planning for what is the world’s biggest and most influential gaming industry gathering.
What are the main conditions, regarding Covid-19 pandemic situation, to be present at ExCeL London?
Whilst the situation with regards to Covid has improved significantly in the UK we remain totally committed to delivering safe and secure editions of ICE London and iGB Affiliate London. At the end of January the UK Government moved to a new more relaxed response level which has involved a significant easing of Covid restrictions including the end of mandatory face masks and a relaxation of the rules applying to Covid Certification Passports and social distancing. In addition, vaccinated international travellers do not have to test for Covid on arrival in England: this is a major development that will encourage more visitors to make the journey to London and be part of the ICE experience. The lifting of restrictions represents a step towards normality, and show that the UK and ICE London are very much open for business. Clarion took a proactive approach to Covid, contributing to the drafting and refinement of the widely adopted ‘All Secure Risk Assessment Framework’ a best-practice guide for events professionals. Our protocols, which have been fully-tested, have the ability to deliver an ICE experience that will be both safe and business-friendly. Gambling industry professionals planning to attend ICE London, should be encouraged and re-assured that many shows are already running safely and effectively in venues across the UK and have generated a hugely positive response from buyers and sellers alike.
After 2 years of online events why is important to come back to in-person events and what are the expectations of visitors?
Our experience running iGB Live! and iGB Affiliate Amsterdam five months ago demonstrated quite how much the industry has missed the opportunity to meet face-to-face and the huge commercial value of being able to do so. All of the research we’ve undertaken, all of the anecdotal comments, all of the conversations that we are having confirm the power of in-person. Official events industry data confirm that nearly seven out of ten buyers (69%) will recommend brands that they have engaged with at events. There’s no doubt that the return of in-person represents a major opportunity for businesses and industries to bounce-back after a really difficult two-years.
How will ICE 2022 compare with ICE 2020 in terms of size?
Virtually every exhibition that’s returned after what has been a long time away is smaller in size than pre-pandemic which I think is understandable. The experience will be different from that of 2020 and ICE will be around two halls smaller than two years ago. Our utmost respect, care and support goes out to the predominantly land-based clients that have postponed their attendance at ICE this year until February 2023, due to the current trading conditions and the new dateline not being ideal for their business. We respect their decision and are currently focussed on working with a selection of brands that wish to retain a presence at ICE London via some exciting sponsored experiences that we are working on. I would like to stress that they are postponing their attendance until next year. We have a responsibility and a duty of care to the entire gaming industry to deliver ICE London this year. Combined with our IGB Affiliate London event which co-locates with ICE, we will see over 600 gaming companies in attendance – by far the biggest business gaming event in the world.
In 2022 what matters for exhibitors? What is the main focus for them this year?
We recently did an interview with the principals of Cammegh, who outlined what they were looking for from exhibiting at ICE in April. Cammegh will be the only casino brand to have exhibited uninterrupted in each available year at four different locations – Olympia, Earls Court 1, Earls Court 2 and ExCeL London – so they know ICE extremely well. Managing Director Richard Cammegh said that he felt that now was the time for the industry to get back to business and rediscover those aspects of working that attracted him to the industry in the first place and to rekindle that excitement and energy that’s unique to the industry. He said that when you bring operators and suppliers together in a professional and progressive environment you capture the industry at its very best – talking product, talking trends, identifying opportunities and networking with friends and colleagues. Zoom/Teams have been useful tools but they are no substitute for the power and enjoyment of live events when people can reconnect, see products, touch products and most importantly get that excitement back. I believe that reconnecting with the industry and doing business are at the top of the agenda for most of the 450 exhibitors who will be at ICE London.
What is your message for all who want to come at ICE 2022 but are not convinced yet to do this step?
ICE London 2022 will feature 450 world leading brands on the show floor plus the 160 at the co-located iGB Affiliate – making April the biggest and most dynamic gathering of the industry ironically since the previous edition of ICE. The Omicron situation in the UK continues to improve, government regulations on international travel, have normalised travel into England and ICE London has significant support from major gaming industry brands and large swathes of the international industry. Add to this the access visitors will have to initiatives and features such as Pitch ICE, the International Casino Conference, World Regulatory Briefing, the ICE VOX conference programme, Consumer Protection Zone, our brand-new Hosted Meetings Programme and the most comprehensive demonstration and analysis of the Esports phenomenon, all of which contribute to the overall ICE London experience. It’s been too long since the industry has been able to meet face-to-face and we are looking forward to bringing everyone together to celebrate the return of the industry in a safe and a secure environment. In these respects, the UK and ICE London are very much open for business. ICE London and iGB Affiliate London 2022 will be an historic and unforgettable celebration of the industry and one not to be missed.