May 18, 2017
The 15th annual IMEX Gala Dinner honored outstanding achievement at all levels of the global meetings industry, as the IMEX Academy Awards were given out in 12 categories. The event was held at the Alte Oper, a concert hall and former opera house in Frankfurt, Germany.

Diane DiMaggio, business development director at Northstar Meetings Group, Successful Meetings' parent company, won the IMEX Academy Award for the Americas for outstanding service to the industry. DiMaggio has helping grow the MICE industry worldwide for more than 30 years, starting as international advertising director at Nielsen Business Media. Representing Successful Meetings, Diane has helped destinations, hoteliers and meetings services companies on every continent grow their businesses. Her portfolio also now includes Meetings & Conventions and Incentive in North America, as well as the company's newest brands, M&C Asia and M&C China.

Other awards handed out last night included the MPI Student Scholarship Award, given to Kazzandra Grove from North West University in Mahikeng, South Africa, who participated in the IMEX-MPI-MCI Future Leaders Forum International University Challenge. The final of the challenge was held this week at IMEX, as regional winners competed for the grand prize, sponsored by the MPI Foundation and Marriott International.

The DMAI Destination Leadership Award went to Ana Maria Gallego, general manager from the Medellin Convention & Visitors Bureau in Colombia. The Tarsus Group, an international media company, won the IAEE International Excellence Award for creating, launching and managing an international event.

The Driving Excellence Innovation Award from the International Association of Professional Congress Organisers, which honors a high-achieving young staffer at an IAPCO member company was given to Elizabeth Winter of African Agenda, and the PCMA Global Meetings Executive of the Year Award went to Roberta Kravitz, executive director of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. The Master Motivator Award 2017 from the Society of Incentive Travel Executives was taken home by marketing, PR and social-media expert Patrick Patridge.

The IMEX-GMIC Innovation in Sustainability Award, a new category, recognizes not only the meeting or project owner, but also other stakeholders such as the planner, the venue, and other key suppliers. Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group won the honor for its Blu Planet water conservation project.

Joining DiMaggio for the regional IMEX Academy Awards were Olivier Lépine, general manager at Biarritz Tourisme, for Europe; Jeannie Lim, executive director at the Singapore Tourism Board, for Asia Pacific, and Karim El Minabawy, president of Egypt-based Emeco Travel, for Africa and the Middle East.

Ray Bloom, IMEX Group chairman, was the winner of this year's Unity Award from the Joint Meetings Industry Council, recognizing Bloom's contributions to the advancement of the meetings industry.

"Ray's credentials are second to none," said Joachim König, director of the Hannover Congress Centrum in Hanover, Germany, and president of the JMIC, who presented the award to Bloom. "As founder and developer of a leading show in our sector, he has worked consistently over many years to address some of the most important issues by facilitating and supporting industry action. Throughout all of this, he has focused on supporting and encouraging others in their endeavors, providing the resources needed to do so. In this respect, Ray particularly exemplifies the purpose of the 2017 Unity Award and we are delighted and honored to present it to him."