The meetings trade show marketplace is poised for some dramatic changes. Two new hosted-buyer trade shows are coming to the United States: AIBTM, the Americas Meetings & Events Exhibitions, to be held June 21-23, 2011, in Baltimore; and IMEX America, slated for Oct. 11-13, 2011, in Las Vegas.
At the same time, Meeting Professionals International will not offer a trade show at its next World Education Congress, July 23-26 in Orlando, and has aligned with IMEX America as a partner. The 2011 WEC will, however, offer hosted-buyer appointments.
"We are migrating our live marketplace to IMEX America," said Didier Scaillet, vice president of global development for the association. He added that MPI will provide the bulk of IMEX America's session content.
IMEX America intends to host 2,000 buyers, according to Ray Bloom, chairman of the IMEX Group, 80 percent of whom will originate from North America. Planners must hold programs outside the U.S. in order to qualify as hosted buyers, he added.
In a "town hall" meeting to discuss the partnership during MPI's recent conference in Vancouver, Scaillet admitted, "Regardless of the relationship we had with [IMEX America], this show was coming here. We had a decision to make: Are we going to retain a trade show with declining exhibitor attendance and declining satisfaction, or are we going to create a partnership?" Scaillet said that MPI had not done any research beyond "a few focus groups" to determine how the decision would impact attendance at next year's WEC.
As the WEC came to a close on July 28, AIBTM, which originally planned to host 500 buyers, announced its intent to up that number to 2,000. "AIBTM hosted buyers do not have to plan both international and domestic events," project manager Steve Knight told M&C. "Domestic buyers will have to demonstrate business outside of their home state." Both new shows also expect to attract as many as 1,000 buyers who will pay to attend.
While Scaillet said he does not necessarily expect future WEC attendance to decline due to the lack of a trade show, attendees at this year's WEC were skeptical. Several suppliers and meeting planners noted that they can attend only one meetings industry show per year.
"I absolutely do use the trade show to make business connections, primarily with sites, so I do view it as a loss," said Mindy Moore, events manager of the International Association of Privacy Professionals. "It will certainly be a factor in my deciding to attend in the future. However, the education is still what is most important for me. If the educational offerings are fairly equal, then the availability of a trade show might become a factor in choosing one."