SINGAPORE: INTERVIEW: Show organiser Experia's Jimmy Lau

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Jimmy Lau, the managing director of air show organiser Experia Events, says this year’s show is so popular that several exhibitors have opted for double-decker stands.

Lau spoke to Flight Daily News a few weeks prior to the show. He says there is a great deal to look forward to this year, from some major new pavilions out by the static line to four exciting teams in an action-packed flying display.

Lau also shares some of his thoughts on how to conduct negotiations and the dynamics around major order announcements – and how hard they can be for organisers to pin down prior to a show.

Q: How are things looking for the 2014 show? Can you update us on attendees? Anybody new coming?

A: I can feel it in my body. This is a great show. We are up in all major categories of items, namely space. Space has grown by about 1,000m2. We were 24,000m2 in 2012 and we’re 25,000m2 now.

We have companies who have built double-decker stands to add space. We’ve also reduced some service areas, namely the size of the restaurant, to squeeze sufficient space out of the facility. But we’ve put food and beverage outlets outside the hall to compensate for this. We have more indoor space, and in terms of the outdoor area we have companies such as Irkut, Israel Aerospace Industries and a few others who are building custom-made spaces in the static park. This doesn’t even include 3,000m2 of space occupied by the Republic of Singapore Air Force near the static line.

Q: Have any major companies come in that weren’t here last time?

A: All the big players who were at the last show have returned. There are a handful of players who have increased their presence somewhat. We have grandfather clauses with the major attendees. If they confirm early they get to keep their space. The front end of the hall is largely occupied by all the bigger boys, and everybody has mostly stayed put in their footprint. Even if you want to extend you can only extend upwards, also keeping your footprint. Therefore three or four companies have expanded upwards. [Upper decks] give a good overview of everything.

We consistently attract 60 of the top 100 companies in aerospace. There will be a greater Australian presence at the show this year.

Q: Following the major orders at the Dubai show in 2013, what can we expect from Singapore this year?

A: Your guess is as good as mine. I am optimistic in a guarded way that we will have some key announcements. Again, many attendees are lining up a couple of announcements. I hope that the timings suit everybody. Attendees try not to say too much prior to the show as this adds to the pressure for the vendor.

There is a need to meet deadlines in order to make announcements, but at the same time companies are quite careful that they don’t overplay this before the show. If a company says it wants to announce something, then vendors will realise they are under a deadline, and negotiations can take a different twist. This can put a company at a negotiating disadvantage.

We know several things are lined up, but we’re not chasing numbers here. If there is a good outcome of orders, with as much as the $31 billion at the 2013 show, then I’ll be very happy. More important is that we bring the right people here to start their business cycle.

Q: What’s cool and new on the static line?

A: The Airbus A350-900 will be at the show. We’ve done everything we can to try to facilitate Airbus’s plans. This will be a headline-grabber because this will be a world debut for them in terms of air shows. They will be in the static line and also perform in the flying display. This will be very cool.

The A330 MRTT will also be at the show, and Silkair will be showing off its new Boeing 737-800. Boeing will also bring in a Boeing Business Jet and a 787 operated by Qatar Airways.

Q: How is the flying display looking?

A: The flying display is chock-a-block. We’re having up to four teams including the Singapore Black Knights, the Indonesian Jupiter team, the South Korean Black Eagles, and the Chinese August 1st team. This is the first time the Chinese team has appeared anywhere in the world apart from China and Moscow last year. (Chinese team needs to be re-confirmed before publication)

Aside from this, we’ll have the US military performing as well. The Irkut Yak-130 trainer from Russia will also appear, and the Royal Australian Air Force will come with an F/A-18F Super Hornet. That sums up the entire programme.

Q: Any major exhibitors sign up at the very last minute?

A: We had one sign up the week of 13 January, with Gore Design taking 100m2 inside the main hall. We managed to squeeze them in.

Q: If I want front hall real estate in 2016 can I get it?

A: (Laughs) 2016? No, we’ll offer that to the current users first, and they have a deadline to renew their footprint. Singapore Technologies has a 10-show agreement with us, but the rest of the exhibitors in the first half of the hall have the right of first refusal.

We keep all the key elements of the air show close together. One – we have a single hall with everyone under one roof, so we don’t split them all up into groups, as is the case at other air shows.

Two – we keep the static display and chalets close to one another, so you don’t need to walk desperately. It’s really quite compact.

Q: The USA is a featured exhibitor at the show. What can we expect from them?

A: They have a theme, "Iconically American". They have brought in more companies, and we’re working to promote this participation. There will be a US pavilion, and all in all it has been quite a good collaboration.

We’ve introduced a couple of things, such as the aviation training zone, focusing on companies that provide training, whether through the classroom or a simulator. The aim is to get these companies together and show aircraft operators what is available in the market as far as training is concerned. The whole idea is to get a lot of small- and medium-sized enterprises to attend the show and put them together so they are in the show in strength.

Training is an important element of this year’s show, because the growth in this area is going to be huge.

Q: What’s your personal role at the show?

A: We’re continuously promoting, but things at the show are very dynamic and happen in real-time. We’ll have a lot of distinguished visitors, so my job is to ensure the gaps are covered in terms of meetings taking place, access controls being well manned, and basically keeping watch on all functions from security to the towing of aircraft. I will also do some side entertaining.