IBTM Americas welcomes meeting pros back to Mexico City

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IBTM Americas welcomes meeting pros back to Mexico City

By Rich Luna | Aug 20, 2021

Finally, some good news for the business meeting and event industry in Mexico and Latin America.

IBTM Americas 2021 returned to the Centro Citibanamex in Mexico City this week, reviving and reconnecting meeting professionals and an industry lagging from the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The event had established itself for the last decade as an annual staple known for its vibrant education and engaging tradeshow, closing out its May 2019 show with record attendance, exhibitors and hosted buyer appointments.

The global pandemic wiped out the face-to-face show in 2020 as the industry in Mexico and Latin America was brought to a standstill, stymied by COVID cases and the lack of vaccines compared with its North American neighbors.

But with improving conditions and a commitment to duty-of-care protocols, the 11th edition of IBTM Americas returned this week behind a theme of “Humanizing Events,” becoming the first event at Mexico City’s Centro Citibanamex since it served as a hospital for COVID patients.

“I am most proud of the support of the meeting industry,” said a jubilant and exhausted event director David Hidalgo. “The feeling and energy on the floor is amazing. They were all betting on our show. We did this under difficult conditions, the unstable conditions we are living with, and the people who came were very brave. They came knowing the risks, but the people of this industry are demonstrating the value of the industry. We want to move ahead and get our business going for the future.”

Hidalgo said there were about 2,000 trade show visitors including 400 hosted buyers who conducted nearly 8,000 appointments over the show’s two days. There were 350 exhibitor and co-exhibitor companies with a stand or pavilion, including 18 international destinations, primarily from North America, Mexico, Latin America, as well as Europe and Asia. There were several first-time exhibitors, including Spain and Nicaragua. Argentina, Korea, and Japan were in attendance along with several US destinations. Panama, Colombia and Cuba returned to the event, with Peru serving as the official guest country.


The numbers were about half of the 2019 show, but that did not deter Hidalgo’s excitement.

“We wanted to celebrate, we needed to celebrate IBTM Americas,” he said. “We’ve had two years without activity and business. You can see the industry needs to reconnect; the industry needs to make business.”

While business meetings have embarked on a path to recovery in the U.S., mostly due to the availability of vaccines (the latest delta variant notwithstanding), the situation has been more unpredictable in Mexico and Latin America.

“The vaccinations are a little slow (to be available) and companies are having difficult times,” Hidalgo said. “Activity has been complicated. The recovery in Latin America is mixed. Mexico is different. Colombia is different. Brazil, Argentina, and the [other] destinations all have had different scenarios.”

Hidalgo and his team were committed to duty of care and protocols that included multiple temperature checks from the time attendees boarded busses to when they entered the convention center. Education sessions were socially distanced and closely monitored to control attendance. Face masks were mandatory at all times. There was an on-site COVID testing center and extra time was built into the schedule to allow for deep cleaning of education areas between sessions.

“The commitment was to demonstrate that we can safely have events, congresses and conventions in Latin America,” Hidalgo said. “This was the first goal and the message we wanted to share was that we can do this.”

The education program included 40 education sessions and seven congresses including the third MPI International Hispanic Forum, a half-day of education organized by MPI chapters and clubs in Latin America.

The MPI program was hybrid, with 15 countries in attendance. Sessions covered topics such as the revival of events in a hybrid world; the new, young industry leaders; health passports; and new technology to attract and retain hybrid audiences.

“We wanted to talk about important issues,” said Ricardo Magaña, president of the MPI Mexico Chapter. “By using the hybrid format, we were able to bring in colleagues from Spain and other Latin American countries.”

Magaña organized all the MPI Latin American chapters and clubs—Mexico, Caribe Mexicano, Colombia, Bajio Occidente, Ecuador, Panama, Chile and the Dominican Republic—to build the education while also having a presence on the show floor with an MPI stand.

He said it was important for MPI to be able to meet face-to-face with other meeting professionals given the challenging conditions in Mexico and Latin America for the recovery of meetings and events.

“Everyone wants to see faces again,” he said. “We don’t need as much reactivation as we need to start executing our business. We need to be here for guidance and to show the way to go forward. We can’t be afraid. We have to just go do it. We have the passion; we love what we are doing.”

The event’s opening conference was led by María Scherer, a renowned writer, journalist, analyst and lecturer. As the director of Proceso magazine, collaborator and host of El Financiero TV, Scherer presented a talk entitled “Today’s Political Mexico: Understanding the Present to Imagine the Future.” Steven Paganelli, director of Destinations, Hotels and OTAs, Americas region at TripAdvisor, spoke on managing consumers emotions; Gabe Zichermann, entrepreneur, author, mentor of startups, discussed gamification; while the closing lectures included Luis Fernando Tena, renowned former coach of the Mexican Soccer Team, gold medal winner at the 2012 Olympic Games, and Andrés Aguilar, lecturer and consultant on contentment strategy.

All the education will be available on-demand after the event.



Rich Luna

Rich Luna is Director of Publishing for MPI and Editor-in-chief of The Meeting Professional.