The 11th edition of Imex America closes today following four days of business and networking that heralded a welcome return to form for the global meetings, events and incentive travel industry. Speaking in the show’s closing press conference at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Imex Chairman, Ray Bloom, announced overall participation of 12,000 people, of whom over 4,000 were buyers, 3,300 of these attended on the show’s hallmark hosted-buyer program.

Bloom explained that the 2022 edition was 45 per cent bigger than last year due to an easing of travel restrictions plus 40 per cent of returning exhibitors taking more booth space. “We’ve certainly all got our steps in this week,” he joked.

Across the board, international exhibitors returned in strong numbers. Of those who doubled the size of their booths, 24 per cent were from North America, 23 per cent were hotel groups, 15 per cent were European and 12 per cent were from Asia. Latin America and tech exhibitors also showed significant increases.

Bloom continued, “The size of this year’s show is obviously a function of many in the industry being able to travel and plan meetings again and to do so with certainty. It’s been a long time coming and, although we produced a great show last year, this week felt like the big come-back we’ve all been waiting for.”

“That’s not to deny that challenges remain. Equally, it seems buyers are being more discerning,” he said. “We’ve heard they’re preparing RFPs in more detail and being more rigorous in their selection criteria.”

Bloom explained that exhibitors had reported long pipelines, with business being placed as far out as 2028. Early today Tourism Ireland announced they’d confirmed business to the value of €10 million during the show, while Destination DC landed a large event for the American Distilling Association in 2026.

Representation from all corners of the industry

Having welcomed the largest group of faculty members in the world to Imex America this week, Bloom reminded his audience that Imex purposefully gathers every corner of the global industry together. “We’re not just talking about buyers and suppliers from all corners of the world. Hundreds of students, our future leaders, have been here, learning and experiencing the industry first-hand and seeing it in full colour. And Imex together with IAEE invite faculty here too, delivering a program tailored specifically for them.”

Sustainability, belonging and freedom of choice

Some of the big themes percolating through from corridor conversations and speakers this week included: service levels, contracts, well-being and mental health; the pros and cons of distributed workforces; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEI+B) and sustainability, both personal and environmental.

Carina Bauer, Imex Group CEO, explained that, aside from being awarded MeetGreen’s Visionary status and the TSE (Trade Show Executive) Grand Award for Most Commendable Green Initiatives for the 2021 show, Imex America has achieved the Events Industry Council’s Sustainable Event Standards Platinum Certification.

“The juddering, global halt of the pandemic may be behind us, but its lessons live on. And, having talked about disruption as a tool for business transformation for so long, we’re now seeing what that really means. Many of these lessons are positive, innovative and long overdue. From our A Voice for All program on Smart Monday, to Google Experience Institute’s Neu Project, we’re all invited to understand that events, and event designs, have excluded too many people for too long.

“Two concepts I take from this week are belonging and freedom of choice. The first is about making sure everyone feels welcome – that they genuinely belong at our events and that our designs include them. The second is a call for planners to let go. To break free of over-scheduling and a ‘more is more’ approach. We need to put people first, give them more choices and pay more attention to what makes us all human. At its most basic, this means prioritizing healthy nutritious food, clean water, time for rest, space for unscheduled connection and plenty of daylight. Google’s Megan Henshall put it best: ‘Not only does the data show that belonging is good for business, but as designers we also need to do a better job of not asking people to leave their lived experience at the doors when they come to our events,” Carina Bauer concluded.

The press conference audience also heard updates from MPI’s Chief Brand Officer, Drew Holmgreen, who spoke about the success of Smart Monday, funds raised at MPI Foundation’s Rendezvous and the association’s 50th-anniversary celebrations. Steve Hill, CEO and President of the LVCVA (Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority) together with Stephanie Glanzer, Chief Sales Officer & Senior Vice President at MGM Resorts International both spoke about the ongoing importance of Imex America to the city.