IMEX Chairman Bloom Sets Stage For Las Vegas Show

Chairman of the IMEX Group Ray Bloom spoke with MeetingNews editor-in-chief David Meyer this month, providing further insight into his plans for importing to Las Vegas in October 2011 the model that has worked successfully for the seven-year-old IMEX trade show in Frankfurt, Germany. To make that a reality, Bloom said that he has hired as president of IMEX America Kimberly Meyer, who will build a staff of 10 in Chicago.

IMEX America's Meyer, founder of Meetings Analytics, which provides consulting services to Fortune 500 companies, previously served as vice president of corporate development for BCD Meetings & Incentives' predecessor, WorldTravel Meetings & Incentives, and worked for Mellon Financial Corp.

A key element of the IMEX model is the hosted buyer program, a concept Bloom pioneered in the meetings industry when founding the long-running Geneva-based IBTM trade show.

MeetingNews: I understand that you are planning to bring about 1,500 hosted buyers to the IMEX America show.

Ray Bloom: It will be a minimum of 1,500 hosted buyers, all of whom have to place international business, and we'll accommodate buyers who only do business in the United States as well. Those are just the hosted buyers. Already on the feedback I've received, we're going to easily make the 1,500 hosted buyers.

We'll have a major marketing campaign to bring in a few thousand non-hosted buyers, using special packages to make it attractive to those who are paying their own way.

MN: Are these hosted buyers only corporate and association employees, or do you include third parties?

Bloom: Definitely all of them. The third parties are representing the corporate and association market. They place a great deal of business and are an extremely important ingredient of this market. I have already met with some of the major third parties—or intermediaries, as I call them—and some of them already have agreed to work with us.

MN: Will you host buyers from the three groups in equal number?

Bloom: The association side is different than the rest. Whether it's meetings or incentives, all the rest are corporate. Therefore we have to define very closely the association side, so we want to make sure a good proportion of the 1,500 are association meeting planners.

I'm not setting any other numbers on that. However, the action we're taking already is that we're working with the American Society of Association Executives, which will have an education day before the show. We're also in very serious discussions with Professional Convention Management Association, who we already work with in Frankfurt.

The evening before the show, we'll do as we do in Frankfurt, which is hold an association meeting of all the hosted association buyers with the suppliers participating in the show. That's a kind of curtain raiser, and it's been very successful. With Meeting Professionals International being the strategic partner in this, we'll be working closely with them. Site also is booking their conference alongside IMEX America 2011—the show closes on Thursday and that evening will be the opening reception for the international Site conference.

MN: When did you get into this business?

Bloom: In 1983, I already was in the incentive business, and a partner of mine and I started by creating the Incentive show in the United Kingdom, which was premium incentives without travel. That was a great success. We decided to do something in travel and make it pan-European, so we went to Geneva where we found the halls to launch IBTM.

MN: When did you first start using a hosted buyer program?

Bloom: About seven months out from launching IBTM in 1988, I had been working the databases and realized no one was going to come to the show. We came up with an idea that was really based on readers' offers that you get in consumer publications. We contacted all the trade magazines in Europe and said, we would like you to bring your readers to the show and we'll pay for it. They all said yes.

MN: How will the IMEX America hosted buyer program differ from the one in Frankfurt?

Bloom: In Frankfurt, we have more than 3,700 hosted buyers, and 85 percent come from Europe. Here with 1,500, we expect 20 percent will be international, and containing that demand will be the issue, I think.

MN: Are you concerned about Reed Travel Exhibitions' plan to launch its Americas Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition in June 2011?

Bloom: I know what we are focusing on and all we need is to concentrate on what we're doing. That applies to all shows. Good luck to them, but we're focused on re creating IMEX here in the United States, adapted to this market. We see a need that we'd like to fill, and that's it.

Originally published Dec. 21, 2009