Rebuilding the future

As plans are underway for the much anticipated return of ICE at London’s Excel, Clarion Gaming Group Managing Director, Alex Pratt looks ahead to February 2022.

Q: How has Clarion risen to the challenges of the last two years and not having been able to host ICE?
The last 18-months have been unusual for everyone – both professionally and personally. It’s been a very challenging period for the events industry and the Clarion Gaming team has responded magnificently succeeding in bringing great new digital products to the table, not least ICE Connect and, which are part of a £1m digital technology investment that’s been made by Clarion to help the international industry to develop and explore commercial opportunities throughout the year. The team is focussing on our key brands, led by ICE London, in order to ensure that we continue to deliver the very best in-person events in the gaming industry calendar.

Q: What are the expectations for ICE 2022?
That’s a difficult question to answer on the basis that expectations for the show differ from sector to sector. Clearly the land-based part of the business which includes many readers of Bingo Connect, have been hit extremely hard by Covid-19 with the lockdowns resulting in businesses being closed for long periods. Myself and the team at Clarion have spent a lot of time talking with the land-based sector and their view is that ICE provides an important opportunity for businesses to regroup and rebuild. It will be the first time that the international industry across all of the gaming verticals has been able to meet and come together since the last ICE event in February 2020.

The gaming industry is one of the most innovative and resourceful parts of the economy and I am convinced that ICE London will provide the platform for businesses to grow and re-establish themselves. From large sample size research that we commissioned 72% of respondents said they were planning to attend ICE in January with a further 25% yet to make a decision – so we know there’s an appetite to be part of ICE 2022. This is a people business and the gaming industry thrives on the ability to meet face-to-face, network, talk business and do deals. Sometimes those deals might not be completed for months and months but they will be the result of connections that have been made at ICE London. From an organisers perspective we are just looking forward to getting back into the saddle, doing what we do best and delivering a great show that meets the needs of our customers.

Q: You’ve issued a Customer Charter of commitments – can you explain what that entails?
As it became clear that the pandemic was much more than a temporary blip, we felt it was important to present the industry with some hard and fast actions to assist with the recovery.

The Customer Charter represents a list of commitments from us as event organisers to the industry. It includes a freeze on the costs of exhibiting in 2022 and 2023, a £500,000 investment in a Hosted Buyer Programme, a 121 Match Programme to organise pre-vetted at-show meetings with targeted buyers, discounts on IT and Web costs, as well as the formation of an internal task force to help secure the best possible room rates at London hotels. I’m pleased that we’ve set out our commitments to the industry in this way and replaced words with actions.

Q: Is London still the best host city for ICE?
It’s not what we think as organisers that counts, instead it’s the views and opinions of our international community of stakeholders, who have made ICE such a success over the years that matter. It’s been said on numerous occasions that without their loyal support ICE would not be the world leading brand that it is today. The on-going dialogue we have with our customers provides an important gauge of opinion but this year I wanted to formalise the process and hired the services of a professional market research company to dig down into what the market wanted from ICE including their preferred location. The independent research conducted by Explori, found that 75% felt that London was the right host city with the most frequently cited reason being ease of travel (61%), convenience for international visitors/exhibitors (59%) and London’s ability to attract the right mix of customers and suppliers (53%). I was concerned that perhaps all of the positive responses to London were from industry professionals based in the UK but that wasn’t the case as over two-thirds were based in continental Europe. Clearly location is a fundamental part of the ICE proposition and the research has confirmed the popularity of London.