An industry beset by disasters over the past few years is an industry now roaring back to global prominence and profitability. That was the spirit last week amid the aisles of Hall 8 at Messe Frankfurt, site of IMEX, the Worldwide Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings, and Events.

In its fourth year, IMEX drew 7,600 attendees, up from 7,130 in 2005. Chairman Ray Bloom said the visitor total included 3,400 hosted buyers from 57 countries, while some 3,300 exhibiting companies represented 150 countries. New exhibitors this year included Peru, Abu Dhabi, Kenya, and Tucson, Ariz.

Opening the show, Barbara Maple, president of the Vancouver Convention and Congress Centre, urged those in the meeting industry to continue the cooperative work that has come so naturally in recent years during times of "recovery and survival." But more important, said Maple, who is also the president of the Joint Meetings Industry Council and president of the International Association of Congress Centres, "we need to identify long-term issues, the fundamental shifts beyond the regular ebb and flow of the industry. We've been reacting to things in the short term. Now we need to think about what [the next] 20 years will bring."

Maple cited demographic shifts in the Western world's labor force, the movement toward sustainability, and the need to strengthen the meeting industry's community profile as three areas that need attention. Indeed, the idea of "sustainability" and "green meetings" was much in evidence at this year's IMEX, with the first-ever Green Exhibitor Award going to Sri Lanka for its environmentally friendly booth, and two IMEX Green Meetings Awards given out in partnership with the Green Meeting Industry Council for the first time—a "gold" award to the US Green Build Council and a "silver" award to the Sierra Club, with both organizations having demonstrated huge, coordinated efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle at their respective annual conferences. Continuing its environmental focus, IMEX will join with ICCA to launch a study later this year to measure and track suppliers’ green practices across the industry.

Looking ahead to future IMEX shows, Bloom said that the hosted buyer program will expand in 2007 with an increased concentration on long-haul buyers and that emerging markets will be a continued focus for the show. The 2007 IMEX convenes at Messe Frankfurt April 17 to 19. For more, visit www.imex-frankfurt.com.