Honorable Mention Chapter Award
Honorable Mention Chapter Award

IMEX America prepares for a triumphant return to Las Vegas

Oct 7, 2021, 18:06 PM by Blair Potter
The 10th edition of the signature gathering for meeting industry professionals returns for the first time since 2019.

They may shed a few tears. There will be smiles and, certainly, a sense of relief. When the doors open at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino for the largest U.S. exhibition for incentive travel, meetings and events, all those emotions will give way to a determination and gusto that has been two years in the making.

IMEX America is back!

“It’s going to be quite emotional for our whole team, to be honest, to see a whole industry just being built up again,” says Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group. “It’s just going to be quite momentous for us. Hearing that buzz on that first morning of bringing people together—ultimately, that’s what we do, and our whole team is going to be quite emotional.”

Bauer expects that Ray Bloom, the chair and founder of IMEX, might event get a bit emotional, too.

“It will be a big moment for him, but he might not show it. He’s still very British,” she says with a laugh.

“It’s going to be quite emotional for our whole team, to be honest, to see a whole industry just being built up again.”

The 10th edition of the signature gathering for meeting industry professionals returns for the first time since 2019, shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic that has devastated the industry. Meetings are back, safely taking place on a daily basis across the U.S. and increasingly around the globe, and IMEX America will not only close out a year in which recovery has commenced, but also help inspire momentum for 2022.

IMEX America has proven to be a catapult for education, business and networking, both with its U.S. show and its European edition, IMEX in Frankfurt, which is scheduled to return in 2022, also for the first time since 2019.

The Las Vegas event, at Mandalay Bay for the first time, reported nearly 76,000 pre-scheduled appointments between buyers and exhibitors in 2019, along with more than 14,000 attendees. While registrations continue to increase for this year’s event, Bauer expects around 6,500 attendees.

The industry has aggressively addressed safety protocols, demonstrating efficient and effective ways to keep attendees safe and healthy while acknowledging the continuing effects of the pandemic.

All attendees must provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to gain entry to the show and currently masks will be required in all indoor public spaces. IMEX will make a final decision on masks before the show starts, based on the most up-to-date guidance and local mandates.

Smart Monday, powered by MPI. Complimentary education and professional development are provided to all IMEX America buyers and sellers.

IMEX will also provide a specialized health clinic onsite, together with access to testing stations for homeward bound international travelers whose travel providers require them to show a negative test before departure. Learn more.

The U.S. has announced it will ease travel restrictions in November for international visitors who are vaccinated. The date has not been announced, but IMEX is hopeful there will be time for international meeting professionals to make the decision to attend. IMEX will provide a daily broadcast to allow those unable to attend to participate in the event.

Bauer says the response to the proof of vaccination decision has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“That's not to say that there aren’t some people who are not in favor and we do regret that that’s the case and we understand it,” she says. “But once you do put it in place, it’s important to carry it through properly. At the end of the day, we made that decision because we could see talking to exhibitors and intermediaries being used by groups that this was what would give people the most comfort and confidence in coming to the show.

“We know that our industry is highly vaccinated as well and we could (also) see that was the direction of travel. We feel really confident that we can—not create a 100% safe environment, as nothing ever is—but as safe as possible an environment within the sort of scale of the show that we do.”

The proof of vaccine requirement, which is being incorporated into more meetings and events of all kinds, will also apply to attendees at Smart Monday powered by MPI on Nov. 8 at Mandalay Bay, a full day of education and networking.

MPI is the largest strategic partner for IMEX, a relationship that dates back 20 years.

“We are thrilled that IMEX America is coming back so powerfully,” says Annette Gregg, senior vice president for experience at MPI. “The healthy registration numbers signal that people have been waiting for face-to-face connections, and this will be a powerful example to the rest of our industry on how to hold a large-scale event safely.

“We’re proud of our 20-year partnership with IMEX. To celebrate the return of an in-person IMEX America, we’ve curated a collection of sessions to inspire connection and provide practical tools for recovery.”

Bauer and the IMEX team have used the time away from doing live events to explore and test new features for the show. The hybrid broadcast show is one example. Another is the People and Planet Village, focused on sustainability, diversity, social impact and giving back, which will also include the KLH Clubhouse, a special play space for the kindergarten class of Luna, a local child suffering from cancer. The Be Well Lounge will be located at Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef, housing 2,000 sea creatures, including sharks, giant rays and green sea turtles.

“We didn’t believe that thousands of years of human nature was going to be undone by a virus.”

Bauer is calling the 10th IMEX show in Las Vegas a homecoming event.

“It’s been a very challenging year-and-a-half now for the whole industry,” she says. “We all in a way are closer to each other because we know the challenges that we’ve all faced. When I look back on the past two years, because we haven’t had a show in two years, in some ways it feels very quick and in other ways it feels like a decade of time.

“There were points that we actually felt we were maybe against the curve. But you know, ultimately what we do in the industry is bring people together to motivate people, to drive business connections, to improve outcomes and business objectives, to share ideas and research and to inspire people—some of which can be done online. But ultimately, we didn’t believe that thousands of years of human nature was going to be undone by a virus. And while we all have to adapt and change, and while we’ve learned that some things can be done online, it’s far more valuable, efficient, interesting, motivating and inspiring to be in a room full of people. We always had an absolute belief in the industry.”

MPI activations at IMEX America

Smart Monday powered by MPI, Nov. 8

Sessions will focus on professional development, diversity, advocacy, current industry topics and trends and networking opportunities. Highlights include the following.

·      She Means Business initiative keynote, a joint event with IMEX and TW magazine, with a follow-up session in the She Means Business Knowledge Café, Leadership Lessons from Women Leaders led by Juliet Tripp, Chemical Watch; Meg Fasy, EventsGIG; Nisha Khare, Human Biography; Tracy Stuckrath, thrive! meetings & events; and Ashley Balding, Associated Luxury Hotels International.

·      Ladies Choice: Conversations on Diversity and Gender Equality led by Courtney Stanley, CS Consulting, and Michelle Mason, president and CEO of ASAE

·      Guidance and Resources from the Events Industry Council’s APEX COVID-19 Business Recovery Task Force led by the group’s Mariela McIlwraith.

MPI Booth, Nov.  9-11

Engaging education will be featured each day at the MPI booth on the IMEX America show floor. Attendees can take a complimentary professional headshot in the MPI booth area. MPI will also launch a celebration of its 50th anniversary, which takes place in 2022.

MPI Foundation’s Rendezvous, sponsored by Caesars Entertainment, Nov. 10

Join fellow attendees at Drai’s Beachclub and Nightclub to support industry scholarship and research.

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