IMEX—The Worldwide Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings, and Events—celebrated its 10th anniversary last week in Frankfurt, Germany, with an appropriate amount of nostalgia but not a huge amount of fanfare. It was a fitting way for the quiet but enormously successful show organizer, IMEX Group, to note the milestone.

Welcoming roughly 9,000 visitors and exhibitors, including some 4,000 hosted buyers—Ray Bloom, chairman of IMEX Group, said at the opening ceremony that he launched IMEX shortly after the “millennium bug” was supposed to cause global computer chaos. He also had the new show’s plans well in the works before the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in the United States, but he persevered, as did the entire meetings industry.

Acknowledging that the industry was coming through another period of economic uncertainty, Bloom said at the opening, “I believe we are at a crossroads. If the industry is ever to be recognized as a truly global player, a genuine machine for economic growth, then we must aim to rise above the short-term effect of economic cycles. We must continue to act collectively, to speak with one voice on issues that affect us all, and to push assertively for recognition and greater understanding. The desire is there, the will is there, and the momentum is growing.”

Bloom perfected the hosted-buyer idea more than 20 years ago—offering qualified buyers complimentary air and hotel to attend— when he first launched EIBTM (later acquired by Reed Exhibitions). There were more hosted-buyer groups this year, he noted, particularly from the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries. He announced a 21 percent rise in the number of individual-buyer appointments with exhibitors during the show. Co-organized with the German Convention Bureau since 2003, IMEX drew meeting pros and exhibitors from more than 150 countries.

IMEX’s strides to convince governmental powers of the importance of events started years ago with its Politicians Forum, an event during the fair in which tourist boards, convention and visitors bureaus, and convention centers bring their local politicians to a discussion format that showcases successful partnerships between government and the business events sector and emphasizes the economic importance meetings bring to a destination. This year a member of the British parliament attended, as did the Minister of Tourism for Mexico.

Innovation continued to dominate IMEX, with bite-sized educational offerings, sprinkled throughout the day, many on the show floor. IMEX has many educational partners, including the Convention Industry Council, which hosted the Inspiration Centre; and the Green Meeting Industry Council, which hosted the Sustainability Centre. “Tech Tap,” coordinated by the Meeting Support Institute, drew the newest technologies for events, including a product launch from industry stalwart SpotMe.

IMEX reorganized its Association Day on Monday, the day before the show opened, drawing some 300 association executives to three different tracks. 
Bloom announced a new dedicated education program for corporate buyers next year. “The model will be similar to Association Day, although smaller in scope, and will enable us to bring in more high-quality corporate buyers from leading markets around the world.” The Gala Awards

The gala celebration on Wednesday night, which is traditionally the evening where IMEX recognizes its “academy award” winners as well as a slew of sustainability awards, also showcased awards from Meeting Professionals International, Site, and the Professional Convention Management Association.

Perhaps most touching was the IMEX Academy Award: The Americas, bestowed on Jonathan Walker, president and CEO, Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau, who had no idea he was receiving the award. He came back from the stage to his table to be greeted by his wife—whom IMEX had flown secretly to Frankfurt—sitting at the table to congratulate him. He is retiring to spend more time with her.

The U.S. Green Building Council took home the prize in the large meeting category of the IMEX Green Meeting Awards, awarded in conjunction with the Green Meeting Industry Council, recognizing its Greenbuild International Conference and Expo 2011. USGBC is a record four-time IMEX Award winner, having won previously in 2004, 2006, and 2009.

Taking the award in the small- to medium-size meeting category was KPMG LLP, the U.S. audit, tax, and advisory firm, for its Climate Change and Sustainability Global Summit, which was held in New York City in February 2012. 

In the Commitment to Community category, Footprint Management Systems, MeetGreen, and QuickMobile won for their pro bono co-development of a mobile game called “Get Your Green On” for Event Camp Vancouver last November. The GYGO game encouraged delegates to undertake fun and inspiring “Acts of Green,” each of which scored points. In turn, each completed action triggered a $1 contribution to the BC Cancer Foundation in Vancouver.

Cape Town International Convention Centre received the IMEX 2012 Green Supplier Award, and Caesars Entertainment won the Silver Award. The Green Supplier Awards recognize environmental excellence and innovation within the meetings industry and represent the highest accolade for environmental responsibility among meeting suppliers. The Stuttgart Convention Bureau was presented with the Green Exhibitor Award.

Allison Summers, managing director of Site and Site International Foundation, awarded the 2012 Site Master Motivator Award to Fukuo “Lucky” Morimoto, owner and president of Event Services Inc. in Tokyo.

A new PCMA Global Meetings Executive of the Year Award was presented to Ping He, director, global sourcing and partner relations for Experient, by Sherrif Karamat, CAE, chief operating officer of PCMA.

Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO of MPI, gave the MPI Foundation Student Scholarship Award to Shannan Scott of Ryerson University, following success earlier in the day in the Future Leaders Forum International University Challenge.

IMEX America takes place in Las Vegas, October 9–11.