The first IMEX in Frankfurt since 2019 proved to be a momentous occasion for the global meetings, events and incentive travel industry this week. It was marked by an outpouring of camaraderie, celebration and, most importantly, business.
After an enforced break of three years due to the pandemic, this IMEX show was always going to feel special. The question was, how special? Feedback from exhibitors and buyers made that abundantly clear. Day one saw Messe Frankfurt land two unexpected contracts, an endorsement of the team’s decision to exhibit on their own stand for the first time in 20 years and to promote their venue more assertively.
Daniel Reid, Assistant VP of Global Sales Europe for Shangri-La Group was delighted with the quality of business leads: “For example, we had six really strong enquiries from big brands for large groups. They include Google, Herbalife and a big telecoms company. Those enquiries span London, Abu Dhabi, Tokyo and Dubai. I’d sum it up as serious business from serious buyers,” he said.
Christine Spitzenberg, Senior Sales Manager at Messe Frankfurt who were exhibiting on their own stand for the first time, said: “This is my 17th IMEX, and the best IMEX in years. My first appointment on Tuesday was a direct enquiry with a new client for a medical congress for 5,500 people with 15,000 sqm of exhibition space for 2028 or 2030.”
Similarly positive feedback came from Lourdes Bizarro, Meetings & Bids Manager, Los Cabos Tourism Board: “This is our first IMEX and it’s been fantastic to meet planners and to educate them on Los Cabos because our destination isn’t famous for business events. We’ve had more than 180 appointments and pre-IMEX we established alliances with MPI and Site to run events with them to help raise our profile.”
Throughout the IMEX education programme, many presentations focused on future trends, current behaviours and changes to ‘industry norms’. Shorter sales cycles; an emphasis on sustainability; niche, highly targeted events plus shorter meetings and events are all forecast, and desired by attendees. Wellness is now front and centre, with a change in the story: an end-to-end duty of care to attendees, including consideration for their mental health, rather than a traditional focus on smoothies for breakfast or morning yoga, although both are expected too.
A change in the story
Corporate planners attending Exclusively Corporate on Monday 31 May, confirmed that, although some destinations are offering financial incentives of up to 100 Euros per delegate to attract events, buyers’ current top priority is how well that destination has managed Covid. Many agreed that financial incentives are helpful (if ethics policies allow) but proof of consistent and ongoing health management is more important, coupled with strong partnership values.
IMEX saw an excellent attendance of around 9000 in the halls this week, including close to 3000 buyers, of which the majority were hosted. Exhibiting companies numbered 2300.
Show experience – unexpected touches good for the soul
Over in Hall 9, IMEX’s focus on an improved show experience was impossible to miss, leaving many attendees gasping ‘wow’ as they entered the hall. A feast for the eyes with its colourful rainbow road, grassy Central Park surrounded by cabin-style food trucks, trees and abundant live plants, Hall 9 expressed the IMEX team’s commitment to biophilia (our innate human affinity with the natural world). The design team at suppliers, Fair Services, together with IMEX’s inhouse design studio succeeded in making a huge hall feel homely, comforting, accessible and ‘good for the soul.’ Attendees commented on the level of investment and care that had gone into crafting this special space, which included three branded education theatres, Forest, Ocean and Canyon; the hosted buyer lounge; food court, private ‘nook’ pods, Media Zone and more. For the first time, MPI and ICCA also offered education and a series of hot topic meetups in Hall 9.
Speaking after the closing press conference, IMEX Group CEO, Carina Bauer said: “It’s clearly been a great week for our global industry. The show was imbued with a sense of camaraderie and celebration, and it felt good to be back together in the same room - that’s the feeling our industry thrives on and is motivated by. We’ve heard about some huge contracts being signed and masses of business deals being done. All the indicators suggest that 2023 and 2024 are going to be very good years for our industry. However, we can’t deny the challenges of a new business reality – labour shortages, travel disruptions, supply chain issues. However, planners are resourceful, adaptable and determined by nature. They’ve learned a lot and I sense a strong determination to rebuild, but on new foundations. Equally, suppliers are doing their level best to flex and respond. The future looks bright.”