The UK Mac industry's biggest event, MacExpo 2003, is over, and organizers have announced the dates for next year's show.

MacExpo 2003 was the best year yet, they said: "We would like to thank everyone involved with MacExpo 2003 for their support and interest and we look forward to seeing you all again at MacExpo 2004 next November."

Visitor admissions rose yet again for the third year running; 22,844 people attended over three days, with Friday seeing 9,363 admissions. The conferences and masterclasses attracted 1,784 visitors.

Distractions to this year's event included England's rugby victory against Australia on November 22, and mass protests against US president George Bush's unpopular visit to the UK on November 20.

Group event director Bob Denton told Macworld: "These were clear distractions to our show, but we attracted 600 more visitor admissions than last year."

Saturday was a quiet day across the UK, with road traffic at 60 per cent of normal and 37 million pints of beer consumed, as sports fans gathered to share England's rugby success.

Despite these distractions – which would have severely impacted against other IT events, Denton observed: "While many IT shows are in decline, the Mac community and its vertical markets are in a period of massive growth.

"To some extent this is led by the enormous interest in iPod and certainly by the growing realization of what Apple's user-friendly iLife solutions can deliver to consumer and business users," he said.

Bookings for 2004 Denton confirmed that MacExpo 2003 was sufficiently successful to encourage many exhibitors to sign-up for next year's show: "We have already booked exhibitors for 2004, and we have also seen renewed interest in our MacExpo event in Germany in June 2004."

The organizers report that 35 per cent of the exhibitor space was re-booked during the event. Denton's team was busy: "We couldn't get on the stands to sign up more."

Attendees and exhibitors spoke with Macworld and confirmed the show's success. Adobe marketing director Mark Floisand said: "We have seen constant traffic for both our at-stand product demos and masterclasses. This show has been a great opportunity to meet our customers."

Apple UK's managing director Mark Rogers said: "We are very happy with MacExpo and our relationship with its organizers." Rogers could not commit to Apple's presence at next year's show, as the company will declare whether it will participate in the show at a later date. "Our products and product demos are attracting attention," he said.

Exhibitors selling products at the show also enjoyed brisk trade. Mac security specialist vendor Intego confirmed it had sold 84 copies of its Internet Security products by Friday afternoon.

The show's gaming arcade – a selection of Power Mac G5s equipped with the newest titles currently exciting the industry – was also busy throughout.

MacGames technical director Tony Pollard said: "We have been unbelievably busy. We completely sold out of the newly released Finding Nemo title on day one. Not only is MacExpo a fantastic sales tool, but it provides us the chance to speak personally with new and regular customers. It gets better each year and we'll be here in 2004."

Apple Financial Services UK and Ireland sales director, Jon Singleton, said: "We have done more business today, on the first day of the show, than we did over the entire duration of the event last year."

Mac resellers at the show also enjoyed steady trade, with one taking orders worth in excess of £100,000 on the first day of the show.

MacExpo 2003 attracted new and existing users and people curious about switching to Mac – for example Mac user Annette Veikkanen, who said: "Last year I was converted to Macs at the show. This year I’m back to see what goodies I can find."

Sussex Downs College multimedia teacher Andrew Williamson said: "For a vocational and multimedia course like ours, MacExpo gives students an essential experience".

UK Mac users should pencil-in dates between November 18-20 2004 for next year's exhibition, Denton said. "We look forward to welcoming everyone back next year."

Mac users may witness the organizer's continued determination to extend the event in 2004. Several ideas are in consideration already.

The MacExpo Web site will be updated in New Year with more information about MacExpo 2004.