I just got back from IMEX America, and wow, what an emotional show.
Sure, it featured the bustling exhibit floor, premier educational offerings of Smart Monday, innovative features and formats such as the Inspiration Hub and the Be Well Lounge, along with all of the usual networking receptions ad hoc and scheduled, but the main takeaway was the pure, palpable feeling of the event, coming a little more than a week after the horrific Las Vegas mass shooting on Sunday, Oct. 1.
Even the Strip seemed to give way to the atmosphere, going dark at 10:05 p.m. the night before the show to mark the one-week anniversary of the heart-wrenching attack.
A sense of solemnity and resilience hung in the air throughout the event. During the Opening Keynote of Smart Monday, MPI President & CEO Paul Van Deventer was joined by IMEX Group CEO Carina Bauer for statements addressing the tragedy, along with expressions of solidarity with their meetings and tourism industry colleagues, including a moment of silence for everyone to collect their thoughts.
On Tuesday a press conference seemed to materialize out of nowhere and featured industry leaders sharing heartfelt thoughts and reflections on the incident and the city’s unwavering resolve.
Especially poignant were the emotional stories about how concertgoers and those nearby rushed in to help the wounded and even put themselves in harm’s way to shield loved ones. Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, seemed almost defiant in his steadfastness, and Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, touched everyone by speaking of how proud he was of his MGM co-workers and others in the local tourism industry, who sprang into action during and after the shooting to lend their help.
It was IMEX Group Founder Ray Bloom who really made me think, though, saying that while the world sees Vegas as a “city of lights,” it also is a village.
It’s people, from all walks of life and who come from Las Vegas and beyond to earn a living to support their families, that truly define “The Entertainment Capital of the World,” and we should all remember them first and foremost in our thoughts and future meetings plans.