by Loren G. Edelstein, Lisa A. Grimaldi, Michael C. Lowe | November 01, 2011

IMEX America in Las VegasIMEX America, the new meeting and incentive trade show held at the Sands in Las Vegas, Oct. 11-13, hosted 2,000 buyers, 1,700 attendees and nearly 2,000 exhibitors for its inaugural event. In a closing press conference, IMEX group chairman Ray Bloom, in praising the Sands Convention Center, said that though the show contract with the facility ran through 2014, "we intend to be here at the Sands indefinitely."
Among the major news released at the event:

Industry news
• Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, gave an overview on the state of the U.S. travel industry and an update on the Meetings Mean Business campaign. Among the issues Dow addressed was the 30 percent drop in U.S. inbound travel between 2000 and 2010. He attributed the decline to extended visa waits (more than 100 days) that travelers and delegates from countries like Brazil and China are subjected to. The industry's goal, said Dow, is to get the visa wait process to under 10 days. Geoff Freeman, U.S. Travel's executive vice president, discussed the growing hassle factor associated with travel and suggested that the industry look at matters from the customers' perspective and come together to effect and embrace change.

• Preliminary findings of a joint study by the Site International Foundation and the MPI Foundation reveal that 37 percent of respondents are now planning other events (either meetings or incentives) in addition to their primary roles. Of that group, two-thirds predict there will be more role convergence in the next year. When asked if the next year would see a change in the inclusion of business meetings and similar components in incentive programs, 62 percent do expect an increase. Full findings will be released next month.

• American Express Meetings and Events has released a tool to help clients obtain green hotel data to measure the effectiveness of their environmental initiatives. Two clients currently are using the program for meetings metrics, including Johnson Controls as well as a pharmaceutical client. The program is based on the Carbon Accounting Co.'s Green Hotels Global initiative. Companies now have access to analytics both in the meeting planning and post-meeting evaluation stages. "Johnson Controls is very serious about reducing its environmental footprint," said Karen Lynch, CMP, global lead, meetings and events, for the global technology and industrial firm. "We were looking for a way to pioneer in the travel and meetings space, and Green Hotels Global gives us real metrics for carbon, water and waste for each individual property. No estimates or guesstimates." The program now covers Johnson Control's top 50 hotels for meetings and business travel, according to Issa Jouaneh, American Express Business Travel's vice president/general manager, meetings and events.

In other news, American Express Meetings and Events also announced two new collaborations with integrated event marking and production firms in Europe. Partnerships were inked with Le Public Système in France and WRG Creative Communication in the United Kingdom. American Express Meetings and Events now employs a total of more than 1,000 meeting and event professionals.

U.S. Destinations
•Disney introduced a new private dining room at Kouzzina by Cat Cora at Disney's Boardwalk in Orlando. The new Coranation Room accommodates up to 24 people for sit-down events and provides a rustic kitchen atmosphere, featuring massive wooden doors inlaid with ornate glass windows.

• A revamp at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif., will be completed on Nov. 21. Renovations include the refurbishing of all 969 guest rooms, the redevelopment of the courtyard, which includes a new water-recreation area and poolside restaurant and bar, and the addition of several new themed suites. Additionally, the property features two new outdoor event areas: the 12,500-square-foot Fantasy Lawn with a permanent stage, and the Frontier Lawn, which can accommodate up to 60 people for receptions.

• Disney Cruise Line is on target to expand its fleet with the Disney Fantasy, which will set sail March 31, 2012. Similar to the Disney Dream, the Fantasy weighs 122,000 tons and has 1,250 staterooms, which give it the capacity for 4,000 passengers.

• Other news included the opening of the 840-room Aulani in Hawaii; plans to bring the world of Avatar to Disney's Animal Kingdom; and a Magic Kingdom Fantasyland expansion that will include the Little Mermaid attraction and several private event venues.

Washington, D.C.
• Massive developments now in construction are bolstering the appeal of the nation's capital for groups,  according to Ronnie Burt, vice president of sales and services for Destination DC, the area's destination marketing organization. CityCenterDC, a $700 million complex at the site of the old convention center, is on target to open in phases beginning in 2013. The project will include retail, restaurants, residential and office space, as well as a 400-room hotel. The property, not yet flagged, is expected to be a boutique brand, said Burt. Meanwhile, the $500 million Washington Marriott Marquis is poised to open in the second quarter of 2014. The mammoth property, with 1,175 guest rooms and 100,000 square feet of meeting space, will be connected to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center via underground pedestrian walkway. "All this new development is in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in existing property renovations now taking place throughout the district," Burt added.

International destinations

Sydney, Australia
• Business Events Sydney (BESydney) released the second phase of its "Beyond Tourism Benefits: Measuring the Social Legacies of Business Events" research. The study examines "the extensive social, innovation and knowledge benefits of business events." Undertaken by the University of Technology, Sydney, on behalf of BESydney, the study revealed that more than 90 percent of surveyed delegates believed that congresses had "facilitated the dissemination of new knowledge, ideas, techniques, materials and technologies," and 85 percent said they applied those new insights to their professional practices. Additionally, 95 percent of respondents agreed that business events promoted networking that led to the sharing of knowledge and ideas, while nearly 58 percent said events acted as a catalyst for research collaboration and 57 percent said they resulted in business relationships.
   For exhibitors and sponsors, 90 percent said they not only gained product exposure and awareness, but also obtained leads for future business, while 73 percent agreed their participation in a business event contributed to the development of the sector as a whole.
   As a destination, BESydney had several major projects to discuss:
• The Sydney International Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct is a new $900 million project that will span 30 acres surrounding the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. When complete, the project will include the largest convention space in the country with a total of 430,000 square feet of space, able to support sporting and entertainment events for up to 12,000 people. Construction is expected to be complete in 2016. Current facilities offer about 300,000 square feet of exhibit space.

• Construction is expected to start before the end of 2011 on the Barangaroo harborside precinct, which will comprise more than 5.4 million square feet of commercial, residential, tourism, retail and community space. The project is expected to be completed in 2019.

• The Star, Sydney's only casino, is undergoing an $850 million renovation that will result in a new hotel, 20 restaurants and bars, a high-end retail collection, a 2,000-seat theater, a 3,000-seat events center, a nightclub and a casino. The new 171-room Darling hotel will complement the existing 480-room property and will include a spa, a gym and a pool. The Darling is scheduled to open this month, with the rest of the project expected in 2013.

Several major developments are on target in Singapore.
• The first phase of the Gardens by the Bay is scheduled for completion in 2012. Set on 250 acres in the heart of the Marina Bay district, the project will feature three separate areas, each with its own horticultural themes. The first to open will be Bay South, the largest of the three gardens at 133 acres. It will include a conservatory complex with a cloud-forest ecosystem, a Mediterranean environment biome and a grove of 180-foot-tall "supertrees," or vertical gardens, which will be connected by aerial walkways.

• The River Safari, which is expected to open in early 2012, will be a new river-themed animal park aimed to increase awareness of freshwater habitat conservation.

• The new International Cruise Terminal is expected to open by the end of this year and will double Singapore's berth capacity from two to four.

• Scheduled to open in early 2012, the MAX Atria @ Singapore EXPO expansion will add 86,000 square feet of meeting and prefunction space to the 1.3 million-square-foot Singapore Expo Convention and Exhibition Center. The venue will feature 32 meeting rooms and a 5,380-square-foot rooftop event space, and will be accessible from the Changi International Airport by a five-minute subway ride.

International Update Series – Singapore
M&C meets with Melissa Ow, assistant chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board, to discuss the republic's new developments and initiatives.

• The German Convention Bureau has named Laura d'Elsa regional director, USA/Canada.

International Update Series – Germany
M&C meets with Laura d'Elsa, the newly-appointed regional director, USA/Canada, for the German Convention Bureau, to talk about the top meeting news in her country.

• Italy has launched Convention Bureau Italia to promote meetings and conventions. The organization is based in Rome.

Destination management companies

• Ovation Global DMC has added 10 new strategic partners: Lidia Tours in Bulgaria, Iceland Congress, Eshet Incentives Congresses in Israel, The J Team Co. Ltd. in Japan, Informed in Lebanon, Luxembourg and More, Terra Nova Tours in Namibia, Enjoy Slovakia DMC and Golden Isles Travel Ltd. in Sri Lanka. Additionally, Ovation Canada has been launched to provide DMC services in Western Canada.

• Allied International has changed its name to AlliedPRA Destination Management.

• Incentive and motivation firm Carlson Marketing has been rebranded as Aimia along with its parent company, Groupe Aeroplan.

Fay Beauchine Discusses Carlson Marketing's New Name
M&C meets with Fay Beauchine, president, business loyalty, of newly minted Aimia, to discuss the rebranding of Carlson Marketing.

• According to preliminary findings of a joint survey by the Site International Foundation and the Incentive Travel Council, 78 percent of incentive program participants (both qualifiers and nonqualifiers) are motivated by incentive travel. Full details of the study of 1,003 participants will be available next month.

More videos from IMEX America
International Update Series - London
M&C sits down with Chloe Couchman, head of communications, business and major events, for London & Partners, to discuss meeting and incentive initiatives in the British capital.

Dave Peckinpaugh's New Role Leading Maritz Travel
Industry veteran Dave Peckinpaugh discusses his first 90 days at the helm of Maritz Travel and future direction of company.