by Lisa Grimaldi | January 01, 2005
When IMEX, the Worldwide Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings & Events, was launched in 2003 by Ray Bloom as a rival to EIBTM, the show he had founded and sold to Reed Travel Exhibitions, the industry wondered if the marketplace could support two European incentive trade shows.
    But now that EIBTM has moved from Geneva in May to Barcelona in late autumn, while IMEX is held in Frankfurt each spring, it appears both shows can effectively co-exist for the foreseeable future, according to insiders.
In terms of attendance, the two shows were comparable last year: In November, EIBTM reported 2,400 hosted planners and an additional 3,300 trade visitors and buyers in 2004, while IMEX had 2,600 hosted buyers and 3,000 additional planners. As for exhibitors, IMEX had 2,500 and EIBTM reported 2,600.
    A number of dual-show exhibitors M&C spoke with at EIBTM said business at the latter show was good but very similar in scope to IMEX. As Michele Scherrer, North American manager for meetings and incentives for the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau, said, “It’s too early to say if one will be better than the other.”
    According to Martin Sirk, CEO of  the International Congress & Convention Association in Amsterdam, “The split between Frankfurt and Barcelona and the seasons the shows are offered have the potential to become very attractive for those buyers who want to alternate, as there is no space in the market for two such shows in close geographical proximity or close in time of year.
    “For the market as a whole, a degree of competition is an excellent thing,” Sirk added. “Both shows try very hard to outdo each other and are constantly looking for innovative edges. IMEX and EIBTM each have strengths and areas for improvement, and the existence of some competition means complacency is never a danger.”
    After attending both shows and talking to attendees, Brenda Anderson, executive director of the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives in Chicago, said, “The question is no longer which show will survive; it’s now ‘Which one will you attend?’ ”