IMEX, in partnership with Meeting Professionals International, has launched IMEX America, a major, new meetings, conventions, and incentive travel industry exhibition, to be held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, October 11–13, 2011.
"I've thought for a long time that there was a gap in the market for a show like this with a hosted-buyer program," Ray Bloom, chairman of IMEX, said in an interview. "This will be a show for the entire industry." According to Bloom, ongoing discussions with industry colleagues came to a head this year, and all agreed that the timing was right. "The market is looking for new opportunities," he said.
Bloom announced the new show at a press conference October 28 along with Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO of MPI, and Rossi Ralenkotter, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
"Raising the profile of the industry amongst political leaders and the corporate world has always been fundamental to IMEX’s vision,” Bloom said at the press conference. “Now, through IMEX America, we will align ourselves with others in the industry who share that vision."
One of those is strategic partner MPI, which has worked with IMEX on other initiatives, such as the Future Leaders Forum, for the past six years. "It's time for the IMEX experience to come to the Americas," said MPI's MacMillan, "at a time when our industry is beginning its recovery and also when new opportunities for growth are emerging in Central and Latin America. Just as IMEX Frankfurt was a catalyst for industry growth in Europe after the 2003 recession, so too will IMEX America advance the current recovery and spur new growth."
Bloom added that, from 2011, MPI will not be organizing its marketplaceat the annual World Education Conference but will encourage exhibitors to participate in IMEX America.
Of course, networking is still central to MPI's mission. "There will always be a marketplace experience at MPI live events," MacMillan says. "Just as we have moved away from a traditional trade show at MeetDifferent 2010 based on member feedback, we will also continue to evolve our WEC marketplace experience to be reflective of member needs at the time. With the economy recovering we need to create more marketplace opportunities for our members not less."
Emphasizing that the show will target association buyers as well as corporate and incentive planners, Bloom noted that ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) & The Center for Association Leadership will participate by organizing dedicated, association-led education the day before the show. Other industry associations also have shown their support. Site (formerly the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives) has planned its 2011 Annual Conference for October 13–15 in Las Vegas, immediately following IMEX America. And the International Congress & Convention Association, Destination Marketing Association International, International Association of Congress Centres, and European Cities Marketing will all add their support through a number of marketing and educational initiatives, according to IMEX, which expects to announce additional partnerships in the coming months.
IMEX America will feature a hosted-buyer program, where top meetings and incentives buyers from across the United States and the world will travel and stay free as IMEX guests. “We will have the largest hosted-buyer program ever held in North America,” Bloom said. "I have committed to 1,500 hosted buyers in the first year, with 80 percent from North America and 20 percent from the rest of the world. We know we can easily achieve that. We bring in 3,700 at IMEX in Europe." The hosted buyers, he added, "are the foundation. But we expect to attract several thousand other visitors as well." Hotel and air packages, as well as the attractiveness of Las Vegas as a destination, he believes, will ensure large attendance at the show.
IMEX America will open an operations office in Chicago by year's end, says Kimberly Meyer, the newly named president of IMEX America. Meyer will continue to serve in an advisory capacity for Meetings Analytics, the consultancy she co-founded in Chicago, but is jumping right into her full-time position with IMEX America by traveling to meet with the IMEX Frankfurt team and learn from their experience. She will be hiring a small team to work with her in Chicago. Meyer has experience with large-scale events: Prior to founding Meetings Analytics, she worked on Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games.
"Ray and I have known each other for many years, we've spoken together at industry conferences," Meyer says. "There are very few things that could take me away from Meetings Analytics. The opportunity to work with Ray and IMEX is one of them."
IMEX America is not the only brand-new mega trade show with a hosted-buyer program focused on the meetings and incentives industry. Earlier this month, Reed Travel Exhibitions reaffirmed its intention to move ahead with the inaugural Americas Incentive Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition, set for June 21–23, 2011, in Baltimore. AIBTM is the latest in the company’s portfolio of “IBTM” exhibitions, which serve the global meetings industry marketplace. That portfolio also includes EIBTM in Barcelona, Spain; GIBTM in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and CIBTM in Beijing.
Both new shows offer competition for the Incentive Travel & Meeting Executives show, part of The Motivation Show, held annually in Chicago. Pete Erickson, managing director of The Motivation Show, believes the new events are a plus for the industry as a whole and will not affect Mo Show attendance, "We don't anticipate much impact to our audience of corporate end-users and resellers of incentive travel and motivational meetings," he says. "Less than 8 percent of our current audience comes from the Pacific and Mountain region in the West. Overall, this announcement is good news for our marketplace, since it provides corporate America with yet another opportunity to meet face to face with suppliers from this market, in addition to IT&ME, AIBTM, Incentive Travel Exchange, Elite Meetings Alliance, and all the rest. The market potential is so great here in the U.S., that any event that advances the message that motivational experiences are a powerful business tool to achieve corporate objectives will help all of us grow the incentive and recognition marketplace."
IMEX Chairman Bloom now heads off to spread the word about IMEX America at the 2009 Site International Conference in Aruba and 2009 ICCA Congress & Exhibition in Florence, Italy. "The immediate response has been extremely strong," Bloom said. "There is a great deal of excitement in the air."