The buzz at the May 21 to 23 European Incentive & Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition was about the new IMEX show being launched by EIBTM founder Ray Bloom, scheduled for April 8 to 10, 2003, in Frankfurt. IMEX expects representation from around 100 countries, with about 5,500 buyers (2,500 of whom will be hosted — close to EIBTM's 3,000). Many exhibitors are struggling with the decision of which show to attend, as are buyers.

There is also the question of which city EIBTM will make its home in 2004, when its contract at Palexpo runs out. In the running are Barcelona, Lisbon, Madrid, and Vienna — as well as Geneva, where the show was held this year.

Making the situation worse, corporate buyers this year found an apology letter in their welcome packages from show organizer Reed Travel Exhibitions. Reed formally apologized because 100 “hosted” buyers found themselves with no air, hotel, or transfer arrangements, which were supposed to be covered by the show.

In other news, a new survey released at the show, The European Meetings & Incentives Report, identified a rise in niche-knowledge and a need for more specialist conferences. The report also found a rise in virtual conferencing throughout Europe.

“Companies are now taking a much closer look at the return on investment from their meetings,” said Philip Alford, senior lecturer at the University of Luton Business School, which conducted the survey in conjunction with the Mintel International Group. On the incentive side, the 25-page report concluded that the number of companies using incentive programs is on the increase, despite the sluggish economy.