Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX exhibitions, talks to Sydney PauldenCarina Bauer is in a very good position to give a comprehensive view of the global MICE scene. The two exhibitions in her control are IMEX, going strong in Frankfurt since 2002, and IMEX America, which has been building a great reputation in Las Vegas since 2011.
And, yes, she has become aware of ‘cautious optimism’ not just on both sides of the Atlantic, but worldwide.
‘We are global shows’, she points out. ‘Our exhibitors include countries from every part of the world and their partners on their stands are suppliers to the world MICE industry. Yes, there have been cutbacks to budgets through the years of recession, but business tourism is one of the most important channels for national economies to gain strength. Attracting events is a lifeline that cannot be neglected. We all know how much an international event can contribute to the economy when all the exhibitors and their visitors come to town.’
She emphasises that destinations, venues and MICE services cannot afford to lose market share. In addition, there are the new big players who are making big efforts to gain a high profile; countries such as Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Thailand, for example, who are taking steps to ensure that they are considered for international events.
Carina also points out that IMEX America was launched during the current economic downturn and so it is responding very well to signs of improvement. ‘Things seem to be getting better more noticeably in the States’, she adds.
Is there noticeable differences when staging MICE shows in the two entirely separate regions? ‘Yes, there are differences,’ she suggests, ‘but the core elements are the same. However, the innovations created in one area feed improvements into the other area, so that both of the IMEX shows have a beneficial effect on each other.
‘In the USA’, she goes on, ‘there is a much greater emphasis on education and qualifications in the MICE sector. People are more keen to obtain professional qualifications. And those qualifications can require constant updating and refreshing, so that our show visitors find it valuable to gain accreditations through participation in the educational components of the IMEX shows.’
At IMEX America, which takes place annually in Las Vegas in October, the day before the opening is called Smart Monday. ‘This is a major attraction’, says Carina. ‘Over one thousand hosted buyers, trade visitors and suppliers attend to take part in a full day of education powered by MPI. It is one of the highlights of the meetings and incentives year.’
Asked about the apparent proliferation of exhibitions in the field in many countries, Carina suggests that there have always been very many of a regional nature. In a way, we agree, they are like the nurseries that introduce more suppliers and visitors to the scene, who then, in their turn, graduate to the bigger MICE world and participate in the IMEX global shows.