In an industry where presence is everything, key destinations conspicuously duck out of IBTM World as parent company RX shifts its gaze to the tantalizing markets of Asia Pacific.
The 2023 edition of IBTM World closed today in Barcelona, Spain. The show was led by Claudia Hall, a new event director announced in November, RX as the new event director for IBTM World. She replaced David Thompson, who departed from the role in September after five years.
The mood was upbeat, with Culture Creators, the show’s new campaign, presented as a replacement for the term “event profs.” The IBTM World Trends Report 2023 also provided plenty of food for thought for what lies ahead, not only for meetings and events but for the global business world.
The big news at the show was the new announcement of IBTM Asia Pacific, which will take place in Hong Kong in 2025. Organizers RX Global are partnering with the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) after what they referred to as an extensive and competitive bid process.
Notable Absences at IBTM World
The show floor was filled with exhibitors from all over the world, but some destinations were notably absent. Several destinations that regularly participate in other shows had no country-wide booths, albeit some properties and destination management companies from these countries were present.
Asia Pacific heavyweights, including Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan, had no official presence. Both Australia and New Zealand took part in the show last year. The 2024 edition has not been included in Tourism New Zealand’s event calendar for 2024. Business Events Australia currently lists its participation in ibtm World 2024 as “to be confirmed if Business Events Australia is attending.”
Sweden, India and Oman were also missing from this year’s shows. The Scandinavian country currently has no official meetings-focused country-wide representation. Equally, several major U.S. convention destinations, including Orlando, Nashville, San Diego, and Chicago, were nowhere to be seen.
The absence of some essential destinations could be the early signs of a shift to a more regional approach for exhibitors considering RX’s IBTM portfolio. By 2025, the company will have four events in key regions and may consider making the Barcelona show more European-focused. For now, IBTM World remains a much larger show than the others, but with China’s incredible potential, this will be worth revisiting once the first IBTM Asia Pacific takes place.
Refocusing on Asia Pacific
RX initially announced an IBTM Asia Pacific in June 2019, a collaboration with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB). The show was set to take place in Singapore in April 2020 but was later canceled due to the Covid pandemic. In addition, RX announced a second launch for 2022, which never took place.
The new show adds to RX’s IBTM series, which includes its flagship event, IBTM World, along with IBTM Americas and IBTM Africa. The exhibition giant also organizes multiple editions of the WTM (World Travel Market) and the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) shows.
RX Global previously ran AIME, the region’s most significant meetings industry trade show, in partnership with the owner, the Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB). The companies parted ways in 2018, with the show now being managed by Talk2 Media & Events. This year’s show occurred in February, the second since the Covid pandemic.
A Gateway to China
The lure of Hong Kong is undoubtedly connected to the vast potential of the Chinese market, which is quickly recovering from the Covid pandemic.
Vasyl Zhygalo, portfolio director, IBTM, commented: “The Asia Pacific market is among the fastest growing in the world.” He added, “We were impressed by the significant investment into the already world-class infrastructure, as well as support by local government, which makes placing business in the Greater Bay Area – and the wider Asia Pacific region, easy.”
The 18th edition of UFI’s The Trade Fair Industry in Asia report suggests a solid recovery to come in 2023 for the exhibition sector in the region. By far the largest market, China was almost completely shut down in 2022. However, the report suggests it will surpass 2019 levels by 5%-10% in 2023 and grow a further 5% the following year.
The HKTB is a natural and capable partner, with the city having a strong meetings product and featuring among the top 20 cities in Asia Pacific in the latest ICCA ranking.
“Hong Kong, as a leading tourism hub connecting Mainland China and the world, provides an ideal platform for IBTM Asia Pacific 2025 to converge international and regional suppliers and buyers and grow its presence in this region,” said Kenneth Wong, general manager, MICE & cruise and regional director, Europe, HKTB.
Competition with IMEX
The 2023 edition of IBTM World, a long-standing global show for the meetings and events industry, promoted an overall attendance of 12,000, including 2,650 hosted buyers. A total of 2,237 exhibiting companies were listed in the exhibitor directory.
Overall numbers are similar to competitor IMEX Frankfurt, which hosted just 3,059 buyers this year and had a total attendance of 11,764. IMEX Frankfurt’s location attracts more buyers from Germany, while IBTM World features more UK-based buyers perhaps drawn to sunny Barcelona. Both shows are now dwarfed by IMEX America, which focuses on North American buyers.
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