Organisers of IMEX, the award-winning global meetings industry exhibition, report increased participation from all sectors of the industry and from across the world, at this year’s Frankfurt show, 22 – 24 April. Together with a rise in the number of hosted buyer groups and a forecast increase in the number of key German decision makers attending, IMEX organisers are predicting the busiest and largest IMEX to date.
The demand for extra stand space has been high from both new and existing exhibitors with more than 60 exhibitors having already increased their presence. Notable increases have been seen from across the Asia-Pacific region including Australia, Japan, Macau and Singapore. From Eastern Europe, Bulgaria returns with a 76% larger stand, while Croatia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro and Slovakia are all increasing their presence. Other boosts in space have come from destinations as diverse as Argentina, France, Costa Rica, Germany, Greece, Malta, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Tunisia. Travel groups Hogg Robinson Group, Kuoni and TUI have all increased their presence by between 75% – 120%, with Emirates Airlines also taking over a third more space.
US representation will also be higher with Las Vegas, Texas Tourism, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau joining established IMEX exhibitors New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City and Florida in a new centralised US quarter.
IMEX organisers also report an increase in the participation of the leading hotel groups, with up to six new hotel groups including Capella Hotels & Resorts, Preferred Hotel Group and Prestige Hotels; plus increases seen from 13 hotel groups including Dolce International, NH Hoteles and Steigenberger Hotels.
Buyer demand strong
The positive outlook identified by IMEX across the meetings industry last summer has so far survived financial and economic uncertainties in several countries, according to a poll taken between October – December 2007. Meeting and event planners in Europe and Scandinavia remain strongly optimistic about the future with 71% currently anticipating ‘significant’ or ‘slight’ growth in the next 12 months. Such optimism is in line with the demand from buyers to attend IMEX from all corners of the world with hosted buyer and visitor registrations at an all-time high.
More than 450 hosted buyer groups are now confirmed for the exhibition, including many new groups from traditional European markets, plus long-haul markets of North America, the Middle East, Australia, China, Thailand and India. The expansion in IMEX’s trademark long-haul hosting programme is supported by official airline Lufhansa, plus Etihad, Continental, Swiss, Virgin, Air Tahiti Nui, United and airline networks Skyteam and Star Alliance (IMEX’s official airline network).
A boost in the numbers of high quality North American planners is also expected as a result of the co-location of The European Meetings and Events Conference, delivered by MPI, which takes place in London on the weekend prior to IMEX. Working in close partnership with Visit London, ExCeL London and MPI; plus sponsors Hilton Hotels and Novotel, North American planners who are placing business internationally are being offered a one-off hosted buyer programme incorporating the conference in London and IMEX exhibition. Up to 50 such buyers are expected to attend.
Marked by innovation
IMEX’s strong tradition of innovation will continue in 2008, with IMEX being the first trade show organisers at Messe Frankfurt to use green energy. The locally sourced hydroelectric power will be used throughout the week, including build-up and break-down, for all electricity needs. This further enhances IMEX’s green credentials which also includes recycling 80% of the exhibition’s waste, offering participants greener travel options, the use of environmentally friendly visitor bags and the introduction of an anti-idling policy on buses which will be powered by bio-fuel.
The launch of the new Green Supplier Award has attracted an unprecedented number of applications, whilst The Green Meetings Awards and the Commitment to the Community Award continue to attract a high standard of entries. According to IMEX organisers, this is evidence of a shift in grassroots attitudes to environmental protection. In response to demand from young people in the meetings industry to learn more about ‘green meetings’, IMEX will also be launching a new Future Leaders Forum alongside the Green Meetings Industry Council’s annual conference in Vancouver in February. A second, new Future Leaders Forum, in partnership with MPI, will also launch in Shanghai in April.
The IMEX Corporate Programme has also expanded this year welcoming buyers from across the world. An innovative educational session – The Event Brain – led by Eventology and Eventia and will take the form of a traditional and interactive Oxbridge debate focussing on the reasons why people buy event services and what process their brain goes through in making these decisions. The IMEX Association Day is also due to highlight new meeting techniques with the World Café and Wiki Workshops introducing a fresh format and increased dialogue for the hundreds of association buyers who attend.
Several technology enhancements have also been introduced for 2008. The IMEX Mobile Exhibition Assistant (for use on handheld devices) will now allow hosted buyers to network with each other, while exhibitors and stand co-ordinators can also opt to receive important information updates by text to reduce paper usage.
Another new offering takes place on the Convention Industry Council -sponsored Professional Development Pavilion, where mentoring company, Shine, will provide 20-minute speed-mentoring sessions to complement the Pavilion’s regular series of professional education workshops.
Strong focus on German market
Other developments for 2008 include a stronger focus on attracting more German buyers, and association meeting planners to IMEX. For the first time, IMEX’s strategic partner, the German Convention Bureau, will offer two new seminars specifically targeted at German association buyers on the first day of the show. MCI Germany will also be running sessions in German during Association Day the day before.
IMEX has also increased its marketing push within Germany, with several campaigns that acknowledge the growing influence of German marketing managers and directors on meetings and events planning and budgets. IMEX has also put a strong emphasis on attracting business travel managers to Frankfurt. Recent trends have shown that they too have more buying influence on the outbound meetings and events market than ever before.
Interest in the IMEX Politicians’ Forum has also been strong this year, particularly from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. IMEX recently sponsored a new CEO dinner for the European Cities Marketing Association with feedback showing that European destinations are better informed and more aware than ever of the long-term value of lobbying, both at local and national levels.
Says IMEX Chairman, Ray Bloom, “With the 6th IMEX now just a few months away we are looking forward to welcoming even more participants to Messe Frankfurt in April and having the chance, once again, to deliver outstanding business opportunities to exhibitors, hosted buyers and visitors. In addition, we are proud to be able to offer innovative new ideas and services to the industry in the form of enhanced corporate and association programmes; plus showcasing best environmental and political best practice. We are all looking forward to experiencing the IMEX ‘buzz’ once again this April.”