Visitors and exhibitors will find plenty of new things to see —and even more new things to do—at G2E Asia 2014
In her 21 years developing and organizing trade shows in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong native Josephine Lee has observed Macau’s phenomenal growth from a front-row seat. As senior vice president of Reed Exhibitions she has been instrumental in sustaining the event giant as a force in the region’s MICE markets. She helped found Reed Exhibitions Greater China a decade ago with offices in Beijing and Shanghai, and today oversees an extensive portfolio of events that includes G2E Asia, the region’s largest gaming industry trade show and conference, which Reed produces in partnership with the American Gaming Association. Looking ahead to its return to The Venetian Macao from the 20th through the 22nd of May, she sat down recently with Inside Asian Gaming to talk about how the 2014 edition, the largest yet, is shaping itself to serve the rapidly changing needs of the world’s most dynamic gaming markets.
IAG: What are the most pressing needs the marketplace is communicating to you heading into this year’s show? How will G2E Asia 2014 address them?
Ms Lee: The audience is expecting more diversity in our content. This includes cutting-edge solutions and technologies to help drive their businesses and cope with the realities of expansion. On top of our core gaming sector, visitors would like to see more exhibitors on the floor in areas such as business solutions, entertainment, interior design and materials. I believe this is in response to the expansion of gaming across Asia. In addition, since G2E Asia is a major platform, our audience would like to be able to do more networking during the show. For many of them this is the most important opportunity they get to meet the who’s who in the region. So we are investing in more tools and on-site activities to facilitate this need.
It’s interesting that you mention expansion. As this evolves into a broader, more varied resort model, with the non-gaming side becoming increasingly more important, what does it imply for the future of the show? Quite a lot, it would seem.
Definitely. In order to stay on top of trends, especially in Macau, we engage in constant dialogue with key industry stakeholders. In light of the upcoming gaming license renewals in 2020 and the Macau government’s commitment to fostering Macau’s image as a familyoriented destination rather than as a gaming market, we’ll see a building boom for the next 10 years or so. We identified the needs of this broader non-gaming resort market quite a few years back through our conversations with the stakeholders, and it has been part of our long-term plan to ensure comprehensive coverage of a broader spectrum of services. And in 2014, as I mentioned, there will be new areas on the show floor to feature them.
What about the exhibitors themselves? How are their needs changing and how is the show responding?
In addition to what I have mentioned, and this is across all the events that we run, audiences are expecting more support from us as organizers prior to an event to facilitate networking and help them find new contacts. Reed is investing quite a lot in enhancing our capabilities in these areas to enable exhibitors and visitors to network prior to the show via online and mobile tools. This will greatly enhance the quality of the business meetings during the show. It will also provide our audience with more valuable information as they prepare for their visit.
It sounds like the scope of this year’s show definitely will differ from past years.
The show in 2014 is expected to expand by 20% over last year, and this primarily is being driven by new business segments in the areas I mentioned. With four months to go, we have already exceeded the showroom floor space of the 2013 presentation by almost 10%. Equally important is the new focus that we’ll have on non-gaming amenities, Internet gaming and investment.
This new focus, would you characterize it as the highlight of G2E Asia 2014 as the planning has progressed so far?
There are quite a few highlights, both in terms of the scope of the show and in how we are creating more networking opportunities for all participants. Yes, you will see a lot more exhibits and content from non-gaming sectors such as lighting, interior design and entertainment. This came out of our continuing dialogues with casino operators. In light of the massive infrastructure and property developments taking place in Macau currently and over the next few years they have a real sourcing need, especially from new suppliers who might potentially be able to offer more value. At G2E Asia 2014 you will see thematic areas which will give these suppliers a consolidated platform for presenting themselves and their products to the operators. We are also creating specific slots for non-gaming suppliers to present to the operators. On the conference side, i-Gaming is a very current topic across the globe, with tremendous potential, especially in Asia. While it has always been a focus of G2E Asia, the team has taken a step further in 2014 by organizing an i-Gaming conference to take place on the last day of the show. In addition, we will also have an Investment Forum that will be part of the main conference program. On top of that, Reed is also investing in new technology to connect people in the industry prior to and during the event. We are very excited about these new developments and the possibilities they can offer in terms of providing the most relevant platform for the industry to congregate.
Can you give us a bit more detail on these new “thematic areas”?
As I put it in my response to you earlier, we are constantly engaging with the customers, meaning the operators, the visitors, in our planning of the event. As you know, they are investing quite a lot in non-gaming development, and this is something they would like to see more of in the show. That is the how and why of the direction we are going in. So what are these non-gaming sectors that we are going to bring in? When we talk about non-gaming, of course, it’s very broad, it takes in almost everything, but we have identified a few areas that will receive most of the attention: design, interior design, design materials, lighting and the products that go with it, and what they can do in terms of enhancing the appeal of the operators’ retail areas, meeting areas, lobby areas, entertainment areas. Like the other day when I talked with Edward Tracy, he said, eventually it’s all about getting customers to come. When they come, they will play. So it’s so important to understand how to keep them coming back. You have to offer them something like Las Vegas, something exciting, something interesting to them. Throughout the conversations that we have had with all the operators this is what they want to see.
Are these exclusively Asian companies?
No. Some are global companies operating in the Asian markets. I hope by March we will be able to share with you more of the names of who we are talking to right now. Hopefully, we’ll get confirmations and then be ready to disclose.
Are they current exhibitors at G2E in Las Vegas?
Some of them are, but the majority are not.
It’s a new customer base then?
And the “thematic areas” themselves, how will they look and function?
In a thematic area, like the design area, for example, you will see interior designers showcasing their products and services, and there will be a networking program attached to that. So they will not only be showing what they have, there will be in-depth networking where they will have an opportunity to talk about the details of their projects and case studies, and give presentations during which they will be able to answer questions. It’s more intensive networking than just waiting on the show floor for someone to walk by.
These will be separate physical spaces on the floor? Clusters of like companies? Pavilions?
We’re still at the stage of working with them to come up with a final format. At this point, we’re talking about an area where they will have a presence, like a pavilion, and they will be able to use conference space to make their presentations and do their networking. They will need a little bit more of an exclusive area. So we will actually supplement their presence on the show floor with a networking function in a conference setting.
The online and mobile technologies you mention, these will operate outside the physical parameters of the show? How will they work?
There will be a few areas: First of all, there will be an online portal where exhibitors can go in and look at who will be visiting, and they can send messages to them. So it will make their presentations a lot more fruitful. And those messages and information they’ve sent out will also be synchronized with a mobile app.
This is ongoing, right? Suppliers and visitors will be able to communicate directly, set up meetings, that kind of thing?
Yes, they can actually look at who is coming, send them a message, see who has replied and develop an agenda. This will appear in a map and on the portal. It will show that you have a meeting and in what facility: on the show floor, in the lounge, in the café, where. This will be very, very valuable. Visitors will find it a lot more meaningful because they’ll know who they’re meeting, how much time they’ll need and what kinds of things they’ll need to prepare. Also, visitors can network with other visitors. At the end of the day, for most of these events, the networking opportunity is the reason they come. So that becomes a very attractive value proposition we’ll be able to offer.
The new Internet gaming focus, that’s interesting.
Yes, indeed. It is increasing in importance in the region with sports betting and online casinos. This is an exciting period for the industry as everyone tries to get clarity on regulatory developments and trends in the region, understand online security and learn how to best navigate in this sector so both online and land-based operators get a slice of the pie. This represents tremendous opportunities for everyone. As I mentioned earlier, this sector has already been a focus for us for some years. This year we are taking it a step further and offering a bird’s eye view. A sneak peek into the topics to be covered includes a regulatory and legal overview, new and emerging jurisdictions, mobile gaming trends and innovations, and security and anti-money laundering concerns. No other event is more suitable than G2E Asia to organize this. The majority of Asia’s casinos already attend. We are confident that no other platform can rival the networking opportunities that G2E Asia can provide for both land-based and online operators and players.
What’s the latest on the conference you’re planning in Japan this spring with the AGA? What will be the focus?
We are still at the planning stage. The event will provide a good overview and look at the key issues. It will definitely benefit whoever is planning to go into the industry there. Also it will be an important networking platform to meet the who’s who. I see G2E Asia becoming more important regionally, facilitating more business discussion and forging partnerships. Actually, in Macau we are expecting very sharp growth in terms of the number of visitors from Japan. We have been working with them to provide some tailored programs to meet their specific needs in 2014.
Is this an effect, in your view, of the Macao Gaming Show? What is Reed’s position on that? Is there room for competition in the show space?
From the discussions that I had with my customers, they feel that these are two very different events with totally different focuses. As I mentioned, G2E Asia 2014 is expected to deliver 20% growth in terms of size and number of exhibitors over last year, and the majority of our key exhibitors have expanded their exhibit space as well. I believe the customers will decide if they need two events in Macau. G2E Asia is focused on delivering the value that our customers expect from us and doing it well to sustain our growth.
Where do you see the growth opportunities? Are these in new markets or new event product?
G2E Asia is in a very good position to offer market insights to the industry and provide a major networking platform for investors, regulators and operators. We will become a key relationship broker in the industry and at the same time bring in the solutions that meet the market’s needs. We will continue our dialogues with our customers to identify the areas where we can expand so as to serve the market better. One point I would like to make is that the results we announce are audited. They are audited by BPA, which you know well because they do a lot of circulation auditing. We just want to share that the numbers we use are always credible.