Buyers and exhibitors find a new sense of camaraderie, optimism and fortitude as IMEX marks its 20th anniversary in Frankfurt.

The first IMEX in Frankfurt since 2019 proved to be a momentous occasion for the global meetings, events and incentive travel industry. Held from 31 May to 2 June 2022, the trade show was marked by an outpouring of camaraderie, celebration and, most importantly, business.

After an enforced break of three years due to the pandemic, the 2022 IMEX show was always going to feel special. Feedback from exhibitors and buyers made that abundantly clear, all eager to come out of their booths to share their experiences.

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.

Christine Spitzenberg, Senior Sales Manager at Messe Frankfurt, who was 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.”

Daniel Reid, Assistant VP of Global Sales Europe for Shangri-La Group, received six 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.

Carina Bauer, IMEX Group’s CEO, shared that similar positive feedback came from all parts of the world. Lourdes Bizarro, Meetings & Bids Manager, Los Cabos Tourism Board, said: “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.”

Bauer added that 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 were all forecasted and desired by attendees.

Wellness also became front and centre of the show, focusing on an end-to-end duty of care to attendees, including consideration for their mental health.

A change in the narrative

Corporate planners who attended Exclusively Corporate on Monday, 31 May, revealed that although some destinations offered financial incentives of up to 100 Euros per delegate to attract events, buyers’ current top priority is how well that destination has managed the pandemic. 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 attendance of around 9,000 in the halls, including close to 3,000 buyers, most of whom were hosted. Exhibiting companies numbered 2,300.

Soul-touching show experiences

In Hall 9, IMEX’s focus on an improved show experience was 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 Fair Services, together with IMEX’s in-house design studio, made 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 that special space, which included three branded education theatres: Forest, Ocean and Canyon, the hosted buyer lounge, food court, private ‘nook’ pods, the media zone, and more. For the first time, MPI and ICCA also offered education and a series of hot-topic meetups in Hall 9.

The next IMEX trade show is set to take place in Las Vegas, Nevada, from 11-13 October 2022. Bauer says attendees can expect a larger show with more exhibitors and buyers from around the globe, along with a redesigned education experience and tracks that will be easier for attendees to navigate.

Interested parties can register for IMEX America here.

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El Kwang

Author El Kwang

Recognised in his global network as an ideas man who sees opportunities in every encounter. He looks for ways to connect dynamic people from across disciplines to unearth the potential for great ideas to become outstanding. With more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality, tourism and business events industry, both as a content strategist and a designer of immersive experiences around the globe, El established BEAM and built a team of Engagers committed to playing a vital part in ensuring that the world continues to move forward with innovation, growth and positivity.

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