IMEX forum asks planners for action
More than 2,400 buyers from North America and 43 other countries participated in the second annual IMEX America at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas, Oct. 9-11. Taking advantage of the high number of participants, the U.S. Travel Association organized a political advocacy forum during the event. Speakers focused on industry struggles and encouraged attendees to think about the value of meetings. Roger Dow, president and CEO of the association, laid out specific actions industry members can take to raise awareness of the importance of meetings. Dow encouraged members to strengthen relationships with government officials by inviting them behind the scenes of local conventions and meetings and continuously giving them updated meetings data. “Our industry was caught on its heels in 2008 and 2009. As a group, we didn’t have the [industry’s economic impact] numbers,” said Dow. “Our top priorities have been to keep America meeting and to make sure our industry is not left defenseless again.” Dow urged attendees to come to the U.S. Travel Association when they faced challenges on visas, security, transportation and custom issues, so the concerns could be relayed to Washington. He also encouraged the audience to join the Power of Travel Coalition, the association’s grassroots advocacy program.
Other features of the event included the Inspiration Center, sponsored by the Convention Industry Council, which had short drop-in workshops, campfires—intimate sessions led by industry experts that addressed topics such as RFPS, productivity tools and cultural profiling— and lightning learning labs, where exhibitors were able to attend education sessions in between appointments. The number of participants at the three-day meeting and incentive trade show increased 20 percent from the inaugural event last year. The number of individual appointments also increased from 25,000 in 2011 to almost 40,000 this year. IMEX Chairman Ray Bloom says the show will move to bigger space next year at the center, which will likely host the event for the next seven years.