Business News

IMEX Reinforces Prospects of Event Industry Recovery

Skift Take

IMEX in Frankfurt concluded on Thursday with show organizers releasing encouraging attendance numbers. Anecdotes of deals taking place on the show floor reflect growing confidence in a full industry recovery.

IMEX in Frankfurt is back after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic. Organizers reported 9,000 attendees, including close to 3,000 buyers, and 2,300 exhibiting companies taking part, making it the largest event industry trade show to take place since the start of the Covid pandemic.

The attendance numbers reflect this. IMEX America 2021 reported a total of 8,605 attendees, itbm world 2021 reported 7,000 reported attendees. The high watermark of 2019 sits at 14,031 attendees for IMEX in Frankfurt 2019.

This is the first major international event industry show for many. Restrictions to entering the U.S. were only lifted the day before the start of IMEX America 2019 preventing many non-U.S. residents from attending, and there were significant concerns over the Omicron variant at the time when ibtm world 2021 was held.

All the indicators suggest that 2023 and 2024 are going to be very good years for our industry. However, we can’t deny the challenges of a new business reality – labor shortages, travel disruptions, supply chain issues. However, planners are resourceful, adaptable and determined by nature. They’ve learned a lot and I sense a strong determination to rebuild, but on new foundations. Equally, suppliers are doing their level best to flex and respond. The future looks bright.”

Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX

There was clearly a feeling of relief and joy of being back together, particularly among regular attendees. The show is a key date in the calendar for many; an important vehicle for promotion for exhibitors and a handy opportunity for sourcing venues and destinations for buyers.

Messe Frankfurt, host of the show, were one of the exhibitors sharing business results.

“My first appointment on Tuesday was a direct enquiry with a new client for a medical congress for 5,500 people with 15,000 sqm of exhibition space for 2028 or 2030.”

Christine Spitzenberg, senior sales Manager at Messe Frankfurt.

With all Covid related event restrictions dropped on April 2, the show felt normal. Masks were optional and used only by a minority on the show floor. Hand sanitizing stations and some social distancing measures were in place. The on-site Covid test center was a handy addition, particularly for those requiring negative tests to travel back to the U.S. 

Among the attendees there were multiple stories shared about the challenges with service levels starting at Frankfurt airport and continuing through to many of the hotels and short-term rental accommodations.

The IMEX team presented innovations that were three years in the making. Among these was the Inspiration Hub, the show’s main education space that featured three education theaters themed after spaces in nature: Forest, Ocean and Canyon. These spaces were decorated according to the themes and used scents to deliver an immersive sensory experience.

The Maritz Global Events Sustainability Challenge gamified IMEX in Frankfurt sustainability initiatives using an app and a leaderboard. 

Unlike previous editions, this year’s show did not feature an open education program on Monday. Invite-only events for specific audiences went ahead. Association Focus for association professionals, Exclusively Corporate for corporate executives, Agency Directors Forum for senior management of event agencies, the diversity, gender equality and female empowerment focused She Means Business and IMEX’s Policy Forum for politicians and policy makers were all hailed a success.

Next year’s IMEX in Frankfurt will take place May 22 – 25.