A projected 3,700 hosted buyers will join over 8,700 trade visitors to do business with 157 countries and their representative suppliers at IMEX number seven, which opens today at Messe Frankfurt, May 26. An extensive and dynamic IMEX 2009 proves that the economic challenges of the past year have not quelled the appetite of the international meetings, event, and incentive travel industry to meet face to face in order to network, undertake professional education, and, importantly, to conduct business.

This year’s international trade show will showcase hundreds of new exhibiting companies and offers visitors opportunities to improve their professional knowledge and skills by attending the largest number yet of educational events and forums – 70 – plus 14 New Vision industry initiatives. Together they mark IMEX 2009 out as a show with more influence, innovation, and scope for new business than ever before.

Increase in hosted buyers, as announced last year, IMEX has committed to continuously build and extend its hosted buyer program, with the specfic aim of delivering more qualified and high-quality buyers across Europe, as well as from important and emerging long-haul destinations. As a result more groups from the US, Brazil, South Africa, China, and India are at Messe Frankfurt than before, with strong numbers also from Australia, Canada, the Middle East, parts of South America, Asia, and Russia. The majority of US buyers are attending the trade show for three full days. They are joined by thousands of buyers from Europe, as well as trade visitors from Germany where IMEX has undertaken its largest ever marketing program.

Global corporations from Adidas to Sony Association meeting planners are also out in force at IMEX, reinforcing the trade show’s growing reputation as the marketplace of choice for this economically-resilient sector. A total of 800 association buyers are expected over the next three days. They account for approximately 12 percent of all hosted buyers at IMEX. Over 270 of them have already attended one of IMEX’s flagship events, Association Day and Evening, which took place yesterday (May 25). Also amongst the buyers present are hundreds from the strong pharmaceutical sector, as well as meeting planners from brands including Adidas, American Express, Amgen, Banks Sadler, Barclays, British American Tobacco, CASIO, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Ernst Young, IBM, KPMG, L’Oreal, Nike, Porsche, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Roche Diagnostics, SAP, Siemens, and Sony.

New exhibitors – proof of market hunger

IMEX 2009 welcomed hundreds of new exhibitiing companies attending for the first time. They include El Salvador, Lebanon, Anchorage CVB, Convention Centre Sudtirol, Lago Maggiore, PRA Destination Management, Hard Rock International, Excellent Tours China, and Compagnie du Ponant. In addition, exhibitors representing 157 countries will be present at IMEX this week, including new destinations such as Madagascar, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and the Cook Islands. Their presence is proof that new destinations and services remain keen to enter the meetings market, both from emerging destinations and expanding territories. The 2009 show also features 40 new stands including Valencia Convention Bureau, Armenian Event, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and TA DMC.

Making welcome returns to IMEX 2009 are Boston CVB, Qatar Tourism Exhibitions Authority, Jumeirah Hotels Resorts, and Kenya. An additional 43 stands have increased their stand space, while IMEX’s reputation for delivering strong business leads for the hotel sector is reinforced by an even stronger turnout from independent hotels and hotel groups from all over the world this year.

Continuous improvement

Much of IMEX’s year-on-year success is down to its continous improvement approach. Online features in particular have been dramatically enhanced over the past 12 months with the aim of turning IMEX into a perpetual and highly-effective business industry information exchange. These include a new messaging service, which allows buyers and exhibitors to message each other via the online diary system and a “matching” service, which provides exhibitors with a list of prospective buyers tailored to their own criteria. IMEX has also introduced a host of improvements to its Virtual Exhibition, making it easier to search for suitable suppliers and find precise results quickly.

This year IMEX’s professional education program will also be the largest ever, with a total of 70 seminars, workshops, and forums taking place in both English and German. The GCB German Convention Bureau will be running 15 German seminars this year under a new brand – “Innovision – Learning More Effective Meetings Events” – in which Vok Dams, Germany’s leading live-events agency, participates for the first time, as well as medal-winning cyclist Joey Kelly. Other IMEX speakers include US futurist and international learning trends analyst and researcher Elliott Masie and meetings industry trends expert, Rohit Talwar.

The newly-named Professional Development and Innovation Pavilion (the PDIP sponsored by the Convention Industry Council) will also offer more fast-track, drop-in sessions this year.

New meetings measurement and lobbying initiatives

As part of its effort to drive the international meetings industry forward, providing thought leadership and best practice insight, IMEX has developed two new initiatives for different audiences in 2009. “Meetings Under the Microscope” on the PDIP will address the needs of meetings planners with a series of free workshops designed to help them maximize return on investment. In addition, a new partnership with the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC) sees IMEX launching a new lobbying platform – “Meetings for Success.” This project aims to consolidate and intensify the industry’s approach to lobbying senior business directors about the positive impact of meetings, incentive travel, and live events on the corporate bottom line. Meetings for Success compliments the lobbying work already undertaken by IMEX and its partners through its increasingly influential annual Politicians Forum.

As IMEX chairman, Ray Bloom, explains: “Because of its position within the industry, IMEX has become an axis and an engine for change. Through initiatives such as Meetings Under the Microscope and Meetings for Success they aim to provide leadership and coherent focus on key issues throughout the year, allowing all those involved to build momentum, maintain communication, and push for positive change all year long, not just during the week of the show.”

Environmental IMEX

IMEX continues to set new environmental standards for a global exhibition in the meetings and incentive travel industry. This year IMEX will add to its track record by introducing new green workshops twice a day in its Corporate Responsibility Centre. The Convention Industry Council will also be holding its first ever European APEX City Discussion group on green meeting standards at the show. Winners of the prestigious Green Meetings, Green Exhibitor, Green Supplier, and Commitment to the Community Awards will all be announced during the show at the IMEX Gala Dinner on Wednesday May 27.

Chairman’s comments

IMEX chairman, Ray Bloom, commented: “IMEX continues to go from strength to strength as we develop more initiatives for an ever wider variety of international audiences, all designed to build value, skills, and knowledge and, ultimately, to support the industry’s progress and profitable growth. Association Day is an excellent example of how these initiatives develop over time, becoming true drivers of business. Some of the largest associations in the world have participated this year, for example the International AIDS Society and the Global Wind Energy Association. As our recent Quarterly IMEX Barometer of Business Tourism Confidence discovered, the underlying market is strong, and there is everything to play for. In IMEX 2009, we believe we have created the ideal platform for that business hunger to be fulfilled.”