IMEX in Frankfurt 2021 Canceled Due to Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

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IMEX in Frankfurt 2021 Canceled Due to Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

By Rich Luna | Jan 11, 2021

IMEX in Frankfurt, the annual meeting and incentive travel exhibition event, has been canceled for the second straight year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the IMEX Group announced Monday.

“We know the timing of our announcement comes as a blow so early in 2021,” Ray Bloom, chair of the IMEX Group, and Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, said in a joint statement. “More than anything, and like you, we’re eager to deliver some good news and mark a fresh start.

“When we were compelled to cancel IMEX in Frankfurt and IMEX America last year, we hoped 2021 would see the early recovery of the industry and the IMEX shows. We still believe wholeheartedly that a resurgence will come, but sadly we do not believe it will happen in time for us to deliver a strong and successful event in May.”

The cancelation of IMEX, which was scheduled for May 25-27 at Messe Frankfurt, marks the second year the IMEX Group has had to cancel its major European event due to COVID. While Bloom and Bauer said it was with regret that they had to cancel, they remain optimistic that IMEX America, scheduled for November in Las Vegas, along with next year’s 20th edition of IMEX in Frankfurt, will happen as COVID vaccines becomes more widely distributed.

“The vaccine rollout and improvements in rapid testing programs give us great confidence for the prospects of our industry and of travel in general,” Bloom and Bauer said. “The IMEX team is already working hard with our partners in both locations to create and deliver successful shows that will drive the future growth and prosperity of our industry.

“We are genuinely positive about the future.”

“All that said, we are genuinely positive about the future.”

Darren L. Temple, chief operations officer for Meeting Professionals International, the IMEX Group’s largest strategic partner, said MPI was saddened to learn the news that the IMEX Group would not be hosting IMEX Frankfurt in 2021.

“The fact that the pandemic continues to place a sustained and downward pressure on our industry in 2021 is disappointing and frustrating,” Temple said. “IMEX Frankfurt represents a robust marketplace where business events are done, innovation and industry collaboration occur and, more importantly today, a place where industry professionals come to engage. The IMEX Group is an important part pf the MPI family and we stand by their side during these difficult times and work together towards a better tomorrow.”

MPI has not announced how it will restructure its signature European Meetings and Events Conference (EMEC), which was to have aligned with IMEX Frankfurt this year. Originally scheduled for February in Brighton, England, the 25th anniversary edition of EMEC was to co-locate with IMEX Frankfurt in late May and become a hybrid conference, featuring in-person and digital experiences utilizing a hub-and-spoke format with Frankfurt serving as the hub while the association’s 11 European chapters would provide regional in-person and digital engagement.

The two organizations had previously announced that EMEC 2022 will return to Brighton, home of the IMEX Group.

Annette Gregg, senior vice president for MPI, said that in light of Monday’s announcement, MPI will be consulting its European Advisory Council to discuss a plan for EMEC.

The loss of a second straight IMEX in Frankfurt, along with the canceled IMEX America in 2020, has to be extremely disappointing for Bloom and Baur, two of the meeting and event industry’s staunchest supporters and advocates.

“We’ll be working with industry partners on digital activations and experiences that deliver on our mission of uniting and advancing the business events industry.”

Their success has been evident with the annual events in Frankfurt and Las Vegas. The Frankfurt event, which would have been the 19th this year, and the U.S. event, which would have celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020, each attract about 15,000 industry professionals, the two largest global events for the meeting and incentive travel industry. The shows bring in representatives from more than 150 countries and 3,500 exhibitors.

Another key component is the hosted buyer program, and in 2019, there were a combined more than 146,000 individual and group appointments.

“IMEX in Frankfurt is a hugely global event,” Bloom and Bauer said in their statement, “and we are, therefore, reliant on international travel routes being open in the coming weeks to allow our buyers and exhibitors from across the world to confirm their participation.”

But with COVID cases continuing to rise in many parts of the globe, travel restrictions and government protocols continue to make travel difficult.

While the live show has been canceled, IMEX will continue to explore opportunities to engage with meeting professionals. Last year, the IMEX Group debuted PlanetIMEX, a virtual platform designed to allow visitors to get education, explore content and network. The platform was created in just five weeks.

The IMEX Group also continued to offer financial support to its partners. For example, Bauer said since the launch of IMEX, the organization has contributed more than $1 million per year into the industry by supporting associations, certifications, research and industry foundations. IMEX donated $250,000 to MPI in 2020 to provide support to meeting professionals facing distressed financial situations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the donation was offered as a grant to the MPI Foundation, which will direct funds to distressed members. Additional funding was dedicated to supporting MPI’s 11 European chapters for initiatives to sustain education and country-specific programs that can re-engage industry awareness and commence recovery.

Bloom and Baur said they remain “committed to value creation.”

“We’ll be working with industry partners on digital activations and experiences that deliver on our mission of uniting and advancing the business events industry, doing everything we can to educate, innovate and help you to make powerful connections with the right people,” they said. “We remain at the service of the industry and cannot wait to see all our industry friends again in person. When we do deliver another IMEX show, you can count on it being one worth waiting for.”



Rich Luna

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