IMEX America 2021: An Industry 'Homecoming' Sets the Stage for Business, Education and Inspiration

September 7, 2021

Event professionals and suppliers have happily descended upon Las Vegas since 2011 for IMEX America, but this year is shaping up to be an even more joyful experience for everyone involved, as they join with peers in-person again after a long and challenging hiatus due to the pandemic.

IMEX America 2021, billed as a “homecoming for the global events community,” is the 10th edition of the show. IMEX Group is marking the milestone with plenty of unique opportunities to conduct business, connect, learn and grow Nov. 9-11 at its new home: Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

“We can’t wait to see the return of IMEX America and bring together our business events community,” said Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group. “For many in the industry, the show plays a key part in their business recovery and represents a unique opportunity to meet with colleagues and partners who they have not seen in almost two years.”

Bauer added that IMEX Group carefully crafted a show that has business at its core, while delivering top-notch learning and memorable moments and ensuring a safe event experience that’s fit for the times. IMEX Group is working with the city of Las Vegas and the GBAC Star-certified Mandalay Bay Convention Center to meet the latest health and safety requirements and keep attendee safety a priority.

"Our mission is to create a show that’s underpinned by secure safety measures while delivering the classic IMEX touch of fun, soul and heart that we know our community craves right now,” Bauer said. 

Proof of Vaccination Required

Following a recent trend in North America for event organizers to produce COVID-safe events to an "unofficial gold standard," IMEX America will require all attendees to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to gain entry to the show.

IMEX will be using the CLEAR Health Pass app for all North American attendees and a different process for international attendees. CLEAR is used for identity verification at airports throughout the U.S. and has partnered with many of the largest venues in Las Vegas, including Mandalay Bay, and event organizers across the country for vaccine verification.

The CLEAR app offers validated, onscreen proof of full vaccination status against the World Health Organization’s list of approved vaccines. IMEX will not have access to the personal health records of attendees as that data remains anonymous and private. International attendees will be able to submit their vaccine status to an equally secure portal prior to the event to gain vaccine certification.

IMEX America will also feature a specialized onsite health clinic, together with access to testing stations for homeward-bound international travelers whose travel providers require them to show a negative test before departure. 

Strong Buyer and Supplier Demand

IMEX America 2021 is expected to draw buyers and suppliers from 155 countries, with 3,500 exhibitors on the trade show floor offerings a plethora of opportunities for event professionals to meet through IMEX America’s pre-arranged appointment system.

According to IMEX officials, registration for the show has had a robust start, with hosted buyer demand higher one month after registration opened than at the same point in 2019. More than 3,000 buyers have so far registered to attend IMEX America from across the planner community—event agencies, corporate planners, associations and independents—all with business to place and many at a senior level.

There has also been strong demand from suppliers since the git-go, with both North American and international exhibitors returning to the show in force, as well as major hotel groups.  

North American destinations including Atlanta, Boston, Canada, Detroit, Hawaii, Indianapolis, Los Cabos, Memphis, Santa Barbara, Santa Fe, Puerto Rico and Vancouver are confirmed so far. International representation currently includes Argentina, Australia, Brussels, Dubai, Dubrovnik, Italy, Jamaica, Korea, Panama, Singapore, St. Petersburg, Switzerland and Vienna.

Hotels were among the first to book, with Associated Luxury Hotels International, Four Seasons, Hilton, Hyatt, Mandarin Oriental, Radisson, Sonesta and Wyndham among those who have committed.

Education, Inspiration and Networking

Beyond the trade show, IMEX America 2021 will offer brilliant speakers, fresh ideas and opportunities to connect at 180-plus educational sessions and networking events.

The inspiring learning program running throughout the show begins on Smart Monday, powered by MPI, taking place on Nov. 8, the day before IMEX America begins. Dr Shimi Kang from the University of British Columbia will deliver the Smart Monday keynote, showcasing the latest research-based methods for adaptability, innovation, collaboration and lasting business success.

Dedicated sessions for various industry groups will allow attendees to personalize their Smart Monday experience. The Executive Meeting Forum is designed for senior-level corporate executives from Fortune 2000 companies, and the new Corporate Focus is open to event professionals from corporations at all levels. Participants can expect in-depth discussions on topics such as meeting design, effective communication with remote team workers, and mental health and wellness.

Association leaders can connect and learn with their peers at the Association Leadership Forum, created by ASAE. In a new workshop format for 2021, the forum takes a direct look at the changed business climate in which associations now operate. The forum will explore how to tackle the fundamental changes accelerated by the pandemic, namely higher member expectations, increased member diversity, differing generational values and accelerated advances in technology.

Championing diversity in the business events industry is IMEX America’s She Means Business initiative. The joint event by IMEX and TW magazine, supported by MPI, brings together a panel of female leaders from within and outside the industry to share their stories and advice. Ambition, Action and Accountability: Strategic Goal Setting for Women in Events is a practical session with tips on how to achieve a “big vision,” delivered by Juliet Tripp, deputy head of global events for Chemical Watch. Meanwhile, Michelle Mason, President and CEO of ASAE, and Courtney Stanley of Courtney Stanley Consulting will invite two men to join the diversity dialogue in the Diversity and Gender Equality—Women Seek Conversations with Men session.

Each day of IMEX America will begin with an MPI keynote. Movers and shakers from outside the business events industry will each bring their unique world view to the show. Attendees can expect an award-winning Harvard-trained doctor, one of the “most likeable authors in the world,” an intrepid wilderness explorer, author and nature photographer, and the founder of a global dance movement and community, among others.

The Inspiration Hub will deliver a packed scheduled of learning opportunities curated into new tracks designed to address the business needs of late 2021: creativity in communication, diversity and accessibility, innovation and tech, professional development and upskilling, purposeful recovery, and sustainability and nature.

Brand-New Experiences

A few unexpected experiences are also in store for attendees.

“We’re working closely with our new venue, Mandalay Bay, to deliver a show that’s rooted in business opportunities as well as delivering top notch learning and memorable moments,” Bauer said. “We’re making creative use of our new location, and attendees can expect some unusual new elements.”

Included is the new People & Planet Village, a focal point for sustainability, diversity, social impact and giving back. It will feature an educational campfire area dedicated to sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion as well as the chance to take part in activities that support the Las Vegas community. The village will also be where attendees can help build the KLH Clubhouse, a special play space for the kindergarten class of Luna, a local child with pediatric cancer.

Health and well-being will be top of mind at IMEX America 2021. Attendees can take advantage of the popular meditation and mindfulness sessions at the Be Well Lounge, which will be located at Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef, housing 2,000 sea creatures, including sharks, giant rays and green sea turtles, and fitness options such as the IMEX 5k Run and Caesars Forum Walking Challenge by Heka Health. Educational sessions spotlighting ways to incorporate wellness into events will also be featured.

Meanwhile, social events will be plentiful, with offerings such as an extensive culinary tour of Vegas hotspots with Lip-Smacking Foodie Tours and evening events such as the SITE North America dinner and the MPI Foundation Rendezvous.

Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE and engage with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram!

Add new comment

Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.