IMEX America Shows Meetings Are Back

An upbeat meetings industry was on display at the largest North America group travel trade show


The fifth annual IMEX America group travel trade show wrapped up another record-setting year yesterday, bringing more than 3,000 hosted meetings, incentives, conventions, and events buyers to the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas.

The premiere American MICE travel trade show connected those hosted buyers and some 2,000 non-hosted buyers with more than 3,100 exhibitors representing hotels, destination marketing organizations and other suppliers from more than 150 countries, according to IMEX CEO Ray Bloom. There were 66,000 meetings scheduled between Tuesday and Thursday, he added. 

But the biggest success of IMEX America 2015 was really the upbeat mood of nearly everyone on the show floor, as the economy strengthens and companies expand meetings budgets. This was best exemplified by the release of the American Express Meetings & Events 2016 Global Business Forecast at the show. While the forecast predicted strong if conservative growth in budgets -- 1.9 percent in North America, 2.1 percent in Asia Pacific, 1.8 percent in Europe, and 1.4 percent in Central and South America -- the improving "economy is really translating into more meetings," said Issa Jouaneh, senior Vice President and general manager of American Express Meetings & Events. "In 2015, the mantra was how to do more with less. For 2016, it's how to do more with a little bit more." 

Beyond the growth in IMEX America attendees, some 900 meetings professionals participated in the more than 30 Smart Monday education sessions overseen by Meeting Professionals International (MPI), IMEX America's major education partner. Other industry associations that provided Smart Monday learning sessions included IAPCO, ICCA, ASAE, PCMA, HSMAI, DMAI, SITE, GBTA, GMIC, and ECM.

As usual, one of the best networking events of the show was the MPI Rendezvous party held Wednesday, in support of the MPI Foundation and its research and education mission. More than 2,000 guests attended the event at one of the most spectacular outdoor venues on the Strip, Drai's Beach Club at The Cromwell hotel, a center-Strip boutique property owned by Caesars Entertainment. More than $335,000 was raised for the MPI Foundation. 

Of course, there is one problem IMEX America is facing going forward, Bloom admitted. With 80 new exhibitors and 56 expanded booths this year, the trade show has pretty much maxed out its hall in the Sands Expo, and won't really have a lot of room for exhibitors to expand until 2018, when it can move into a larger space at Sands Expo.