IMEX Frankfurt Marks 20th Anniversary With a Show of Industry Camaraderie, Optimism and Fortitude
The first IMEX Frankfurt since 2019 proved to be a momentous occasion for the global meetings and events industry, as professionals gathered with colleagues to celebrate the return of events, reconnect, learn from industry peers and conduct business.
The show, held May 31 to June 2 at Messe Frankfurt, drew approximately 9,000 attendees, including nearly 3,000 buyers, and 2,300 exhibiting companies.
“It’s clearly been a great week for our global industry,” said Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group. “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.”
Feedback from exhibitors made it abundantly clear that the show was special indeed, following a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
Messe Frankfurt reported that it landed two unexpected contracts, a testament to 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, said it was her 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 square meters of exhibition space for 2028 or 2030,” she said.
Daniel Reid, assistant vice president of Global Sales Europe for Shangri-La Group was delighted with the quality of business leads, with very strong enquiries from big brands for large groups.
“They include Google, Herbalife and a big telecoms company,” he said. “Those enquiries span London, Abu Dhabi, Tokyo and Dubai. I’d sum it up as serious business from serious buyers.”
Similarly positive feedback came from Lourdes Bizarro, meetings and bids manager of the Los Cabos Tourism Board.
“It’s been fantastic to meet [organizers] and educate them on Los Cabos because our destination isn’t famous for business events,” he said. “We’ve had more than 180 appointments.”
Throughout the IMEX Frankfurt education program, many presentations focused on future trends, current behaviors and changes to industry norms. Shorter sales cycle, an emphasis on sustainability, niche, highly targeted events and shorter meetings and events are all forecast and desired by attendees. Meanwhile, wellness continues to be front and center, 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 features such as smoothies for breakfast or morning yoga, although both are expected as well.
Importance of Ongoing Health and Safety Protocols
Many attendees confirmed that while some destinations are offering financial incentives to attract events, buyers’ current top priority is how well destinations have managed the COVID-19 pandemic. Many agreed that financial incentives are helpful (if ethics policies allow), but proof of consistent and ongoing health and safety management is more important, coupled with strong partnership values.
Pleasantly Surprising Show Touches
In Hall 9, IMEX’s focus on an improved show experience was readily apparent, wowing many attendees as they entered. A feast for the eyes with its colorful rainbow road, grassy Central Park surrounded by cabin-style food trucks, trees and abundant live plants, Hall 9 aimed to express the IMEX team’s commitment to biophilia (our innate human affinity with the natural world). The design team succeeded in making a huge hall feel homey, comforting, accessible and “good for the soul.” Attendees commented on the level of investment and care that had gone into crafting the special space, which included three branded education theatres, Forest, Ocean and Canyon; the hosted buyer lounge; a food court, private nook pods and more. For the first time, MPI and the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), also offered education and a series of hot topic meetups in Hall 9.
With all positive feedback about massive amounts of business deals made, excellent and timely education, and impressive show features, all indicators at IMEX Frankfurt this year suggested that 2023 and 2024 are going to be very good years for the industry, according to Bauer.
“However, we can’t deny the challenges of a new business reality—labor shortages, travel disruptions, supply chain issues,” she said, adding that even so, event professionals are resourceful, adaptable and determined by nature. “They’ve learned a lot, and I sense a strong determination to rebuild but on new foundations.”
Bauer added, “Equally, suppliers are doing their best to flex and respond. The future looks bright.”