Exhibitors from USA increasing IMEX presence

IMEX 2008 will be held in Hall 8, Messe Frankfurt, from April 22 to 24. RAY BLOOM chairman of IMEX, spoke to SHALU CHANDRAN
Last year saw 3,400 exhibitor companies

How big was IMEX 2007?  What are your estimates for 2008?
Last year was the fifth and biggest IMEX to date. We welcomed 3,400 exhibiting companies from a total of 150 countries.

In 2007 we hosted 3,592 buyers from 57 global markets to Messe Frankfurt. A further 4,800 trade visitors from 97 countries also attended exhibition. In 2008, we expect growth across the exhibition – from exhibitors to hosted buyers and trade visitors.

What kind of exhibitor growth have you seen for 2008? What percentage of exhibitors is from the MENA region?
We have seen excellent exhibitor growth from all corners of the world for IMEX 2008. The demand for extra stand space has been high from both new and existing exhibitors with more than 80 main stand holders increasing their presence. The MENA region is strongly represented at IMEX, accounting for approximately 13 per cent of the exhibitors at the show, with Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai, Egypt, Jordan and Oman all taking sizeable stands.
In addition, North African exhibitors – Morocco and Tunisia – have both increased their presence at IMEX 2008, as well as Emirates Airlines. We are also delighted to welcome the Qatar National Convention Centre to IMEX for the first time. 
From other parts of the world, notable increases have been seen from Australia, Japan, Macau and Singapore. Bulgaria returns with a 76 per cent larger stand, while Croatia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Slovakia,  Argentina, France, Costa Rica, Germany, Greece, Malta, Norway, South Africa and Spain are all increasing their presence.

Which exhibitors will be making their debut at the IMEX this year?
The US in particular will make a strong showing this year. Las Vegas, Texas Tourism, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, California Tourism and Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau are all new exhibitors at IMEX 2008 who join an established IMEX US line up including New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City and Florida in a new centralised US quarter.
Growth amongst leading hotel groups has also been strong with up to eight new hotel groups including Capella Hotels & Resorts, Preferred Hotel Group and Prestige Hotels now joining the more than 40 hotel groups at IMEX. Among other exhibitors appearing for the first time are Indonesia, Discovery Tours, Uzbekistan, World of DMCs, South Africa and IndoChina Services.

What has been the growth strategy for IMEX over the years?
Our policy has always been to concentrate on delivering genuine new business opportunities and high quality buyers in addition to carefully considered professional education. As a result, over the past three years in particular we have extended our network of intermediaries from across the world, with whom we work very closely to ensure that their buying groups are active and have the potential to place the right kind of business with our exhibitors. We have also developed our long-haul hosted buyer groups. This year we will welcome 22 such groups from the US, five from China, three from Brazil and four from South Africa among others. From the Middle East we will be welcoming six groups of buyers.
One particular highlight of our approach in 2008 has been a strong push to deliver more buyers from the German outbound market. Working with our strategic partner, the German Convention Bureau (GCB), IMEX has increased its marketing push within Germany, with several campaigns that acknowledge the growing influence of German marketing managers and directors on meetings and events planning and budgets.
IMEX has also put a strong emphasis on attracting business travel managers to Frankfurt with recent trends showing that they too have more buying influence on the outbound meetings and events market than ever before.

What can exhibitors and delegates look forward to this year? What are the seminar programmes lined up for IMEX 2008?
Our seminar and workshop programme now provides 60 different professional education opportunities so there really is something for everyone. 30 minute ‘speed’ mentoring sessions will be available on the CIC (Convention Industry Council)-sponsored professional development pavilion. A total of 18 different workshops will also be on offer there, including Future Trends and Challenges with Rohit Talwar.  More widely, we continue to offer selected sessions such as the women’s forum, future leaders forum and dedicated corporate responsibility and multi-cultural education sessions which this year will be focussing on conducting business successfully in the Middle East.

What will be the key initiatives at the show this year?
One major development this year is the expansion of our corporate programme to include buyers from markets outside the UK. This programme will provide an innovative educational session – The Event Brain - led by Eventology and Eventia. This will take the form of a traditional and interactive “Oxbridge” debate focussing on the reasons why people buy event services and what process their brain goes through in making these decisions.
The IMEX Association Day is also due to highlight new meeting techniques with the World Café and Wiki Workshops introducing a fresh format and increased dialogue for the hundreds of association buyers who attend. In addition, the IMEX Politicians Forum has seen unprecedented demand this year and will welcome ministers from across the world, including Australia, Canada, Poland, Thailand and the UK.

IMEX 2008 once again will reinforce green issues. How important has this become today?
Green issues are enormously important to IMEX and we continue to take a strong lead on environmental best practice wherever possible. We are helped in having a very knowledgeable partner in Messe Frankfurt. Our strong tradition of innovation will continue in 2008, with IMEX being the first trade show organisers at Messe Frankfurt to use green energy. The locally sourced hydroelectric power will be used throughout the week, including build-up and break-down, for all electricity needs.
IMEX also launched a new Future Leaders Forum alongside the Green Meetings Industry Council’s (GMIC) annual conference in Vancouver in February. GMIC will also be helping to run the IMEX Corporate Responsibility Pavilion during the show, as well as a seminar on the Wednesday morning.

Do you see the ME region emerging as a major tourism destination?
The Middle East and North Africa has developed and continues to develop at an outstanding pace – evidence of its continued rise as a major tourism destination. In addition, as evidenced by the strength of its presence at IMEX, it is clear that the region continues to emerge as one of the key players in the meetings and incentive travel market. The success of a region in the MICE market is due to many factors such as innovation, creativeness, good value and outstanding service. The MENA region is clearly able to deliver these key success factors; as well as providing truly outstanding infrastructure and facilities.

With an increased focus on the German market, how much has Germany as a destination, helped IMEX succeed in terms of exhibitors?
The German outbound buyer market is the largest in Europe (together with the UK) and as such is of key importance to IMEX exhibitors. By delivering thousands of buyers from this market, together with 3,500 hosted buyers from over 50 world markets, IMEX is able to offer a unique set of business opportunities to suppliers.
The destination of Frankfurt and Germany is also excellent due to its outstanding transport and communication links; with Frankfurt airport the largest and busiest airport in continental Europe. Through our partnership with Lufthansa Airlines, we are able to offer buyers and exhibitors hundreds of worldwide gateways direct into Frankfurt.
This year our partnership with the Deutsche Bahn rail network is also allowing us to bring more buyers in at discounted rates from across continental Europe. Other partnerships within Germany have also be key to the success of the exhibition, including the support of the GCB German Convention Bureau, who each year presents up to 150 individual exhibitors on a magnificent two-storey exhibition stand.