Record attendance and buyer numbers are positive signs for an industry looking beyond recovery and towards sustained growth.
Business Events are back! There is little doubt about that, and the 12th edition of IMEX America may be the point where we stop talking about recovery and start talking about growth.
IMEX confirmed almost 15,000 attended the show in Vegas that concluded yesterday in Las Vegas. While not quite the 17,500 that was rumored, which may have represented total registrations. The previous record stood at 14,000 in 2019, with IMEX CEO Carina Bauer confirming that last year’s attendance was around 12,800. The jump to 15,000 in just twelve months represents a 17% increase and a 7% increase compared to the 2019 high water mark.
More important than just attendance numbers is the record number of buyers. IMEX America 2023 attracted 5,000 buyers, including 4,200 hosted buyers, with at least 1,000 being corporate buyers. Bauer shared that buyer growth outpaced exhibitor growth this year.
Feedback from exhibitors was extremely positive across all sectors. Around 3,400 exhibiting companies spread over 360 booths that came to Las Vegas from 100 countries to battle for the attention of buyers. Exhibitors reported that traffic on Tuesday was particularly strong, with Wednesday not far behind. The fact that there were 30% to 40% of newcomers also bodes well for an industry in need of new blood.
“I’m delighted the industry turned out in such strong numbers from across the globe this week and that IMEX America once again provided a carefully designed platform for everyone to come together for business, building better human connections around the world, growing and learning from each other,” said Bauer. “This was our biggest show ever, which was clear from the fact you can’t see the edges anymore!”
Industry Looking Inwards
Several IMEX America exhibitors shared success stories with individual properties booking for 2024, 2025, and 2026—destinations booking out even further. Budget challenges appear not to have much impact on bookings, leading to questions about how sustainable this business boom is in the long term.
The strength of the show is a testament to the strength of the U.S. meetings market. Geopolitical challenges in the Middle East and Ukraine are likely shifting focus away from international travel. Just yesterday, the U.S. Department of State issued a worldwide caution travel advisory.
Technology Supports Growth
IMEX tracked 80,000 pre-scheduled meetings through its new system in partnership with ExpoPlatform, of which 73,000 were 1-2-1s with exhibitors. This was the first use by many exhibitors who were not at IMEX Frankfurt in May. Feedback was mixed. Those who were used to a spray-and-pray approach for inviting buyers to meet were frustrated by the lack of this functionality. Inversely, many who invested time in finding buyers with interest in their products filled their calendars.
IMEX America 2023 featured a new show floor navigation using Bluetooth beacon technology supported by CrowdConnected. The system worked well, and IMEX will be using position data to improve the show further. The complex three-way integration needed meant that IMEX only released the app five days before the show.
This year’s app brought with it additional functionality, including the ability to scan badges at no additional cost to exhibitors, where they would have previously had to rent a separate scanner. IMEX shared that 124,000 contacts were scanned in the app. The app also allowed meeting booking on the go during the show, with 3,000 meetings booked this way.
Photo credit: IMEX America / Press photos