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by Lisa A. Grimaldi | May 01, 2012

Last month, Maritz Travel, the Fenton, Mo.-based meeting and incentive travel firm, acquired Experient, a major provider of meeting and event services to associations, trade shows and the U.S. government.

"As a result of this deal, Maritz Travel will lead the industry in four key areas -- corporate, association, trade show and strategic meetings management," said Maritz president David Peckinpaugh, who took over the helm of the company last May. "Coming together this way will fuel our shared objective to grow in the markets we serve.

"By combining, we will expand the capabilities we bring to clients beyond what either of us might offer independently," Peckinpaugh added. "The event industry has had to evolve as a result of a volatile business environment. Spend is returning to pre-recession levels, and together Maritz Travel and Experient are leading the market in delivering the flexibility and range of services organizations need to achieve growing and increasingly aggressive business results."

According to Maritz, the combined business of the two firms last year represented more than 11,500 events; 6 million guest rooms booked, sourced or contracted; and $2 billion in spending.

Experient will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Maritz Travel, and its CEO, Jeff Price, will step down. The merged company now has more than 12 locations and a network of sales offices across the United States. Currently, Maritz has 823 employees and Experient has 540.

A spokesperson for Maritz told M&C that Maxvantage, the strategic meetings management firm jointly run by Maritz and American Express, will "continue to be a strategic alliance between Maritz Travel and American Express Business Travel."

Industry insiders see the move as a smart one on Maritz's part. "The merger seems to be a very positive move for both organizations and follows the general 'new economy' trend of organizations determining the best ways to both expand and guard against future recession," said Melissa Van Dyke, president of the St. Louis-based Incentive Research Foundation. "Experient's focus on associations and trade shows seem to complement Maritz's focus on corporate and incentive travel quite well."

Steve LaManna, director of national accounts for eTech, an Orlando-based firm that supplies technology solutions to the event industry, agrees. "Maritz is not the same company it was five or 10 years ago," he said. "It's still successful, but acquisition is sometimes quicker than development, and Maritz surely sees value in offering their services to the meetings management clients of Experient."