Results from the annual IMEX Post Show Survey of buyers and trade visitors show an optimistic and positive meetings industry outlook despite economic uncertainty in some parts of the world. A significant number of respondents testify to sustained demand, especially in the BRICS markets (Brazil, Russia, India and China) where globalization continues to build momentum, while many UK, German and US buyers are reporting “business as usual.”
The results echo the findings of an earlier IMEX Quarterly Barometer (April 2008) which showed that the meetings and incentive travel sector was ‘still confident’ in the face of economic fluctuations and that many predicted at least modest growth over the next 12 months.
The IMEX Post Show Survey posed two main questions to a total of 515 respondents representing corporate buyers, agencies, association leaders, suppliers and other relevant industry professionals from 46 countries.
In answer to “How do you think the current economic climate will affect the corporate/association meetings sector,” comments ranged from “It will stay the same – very steady business,” and “The sector will grow further and become more important in the future” from Austrian and German respondents to “Not much difference – businesses will still have to meet in order to get things done” and “Have not seen any impact just yet,” from several US participants.
Commenting on the findings, IMEX chairman, Ray Bloom, said, “These results show that the meetings industry is not only holding steady but also has good reason to be positive about its future prospects. Our findings show this is evident across a variety of global markets, too. Many commentators within the meetings and incentive travel markets argue that this industry incorporates many ‘recession-proof qualities’ because executives need to confer and talk, and because corporate productivity is measurably improved by using motivational strategies. These latest findings seem to confirm that this belief still holds true.”
The second question related to whether respondents still believe that challenging economic times benefit the incentive travel market because motivational programs are essential for achieving corporate performance targets.
Responses varied between those who uphold the theory but admit it doesn’t always happen in practice, and a significant proportion who anticipate only positives arising from the shifting economic climate. Of those, many suggested that enlightened companies appreciate the need to entice their top performers into maintaining existing business levels. Anecdotal comments also testify to companies using travel as more of a loyalty device than an incentive reward. One commented, “I have clients who say they are taking clients and staff to more exotic locations as a thank you for sticking with them during hard times.”
An overview of IMEX’s achievements against a number of key performance objectives shows the award-winning trade show has significantly increased both trade visitor and hosted buyer numbers over the past two years.
Trade visitors have grown by nearly 1,000 since 2006, representing an increase of 21%, mostly due to strong marketing efforts within Germany. Hosted buyer numbers have also increased with a particular emphasis on buyers from long-haul markets. The number of groups from Argentina, Asia, Brazil, Israel, South Africa and the Middle East more than doubled this year. In addition, US groups increased by 28 per cent, with HelmsBriscoe International – a leading international site selection agency – accounting for a further 70 hosted buyers from across the world.
Visitor data analysis shows that each hosted buyer spent an average of between 12 and 16 hours at IMEX, visiting between 10 and 25 exhibition stands, with a further 30% visiting up to 40 stands during their visit. Trade visitors typically spent between four and eight hours visiting between 10 and 25 stands. Further analysis reveals growing interest in the issue of corporate social responsibility. Both German and “rest of the world” visitors rated the IMEX Corporate Social Responsibility stand their most popular New Vision exhibit.
IMEX organizers were also successful in reducing the show’s environmental impact. A campaign to encourage German visitors and European-hosted buyers to make better use of rail travel was warmly received and widely used. A similar effort to reduce waste resulted in a 24 percent reduction in total waste volumes, suggesting that exhibitors and contractors are recycling or reusing more materials than ever before. This was in addition to the exhibition using recyclable paper badges, sustainable visitor bags and green energy for the first time.
Other highlights of 2008 included the IMEX Politicians’ Forum, where more than 100 industry professionals met with 24 high level politicians, including first-time representatives from South Africa, Australia and Canada. The Future Leaders Forum program, which is jointly run by IMEX and MPI (Meeting Professionals International), also welcomed 155 students to Frankfurt and is set to expand to 14 different Forums in various geographical regions by early 2009.
IMEX 2009 will take place on 26th – 29th May. www.imex-frankfurt.com