Recap: IMEX America Returns to Las Vegas, Reunites Meetings Industry

November 11, 2021

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic—the last major IMEX exhibition of any type was held in 2019—IMEX America 2021 filled attendees with the warm fuzzies as it lit up the Las Vegas Strip with thousands of stories of industry relationships rekindled.

"It's amazing to be back on this stage and just say, 'Welcome to IMEX America 2021,'" said IMEX Group CEO Carina Bauer, extending salutations to attendees gathered for November 8’s Smart Monday, the education-focused pre-exhibition event that kicked off the November 9-11 show at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

Although preliminary, Bauer released some key statistics from IMEX America 2021 following her long-delayed greeting:

  • 2,015 exhibitors
  • 3,000 buyers
  • 9,000-10,000 total attendees
  • 25% of exhibitors represented international suppliers
  • 50,000 hosted-buyer appointments were scheduled
  • 200 education sessions
IMEX 2021
IMEX 2021 show floor. Credit: Tyler Davidson

AmEx Study Reveals Positive Picture

With the COVID-19 pandemic delivering a major blow to the meetings and events industry, all eyes were on predictions for a recovery. American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) used the industry’s leading exhibition as an opportunity to release findings from its 2022 Global Meetings and Events Forecast.

Key results, delivered November 9 by Gerardo Tejado, GBT’s senior vice president of value development and general manager of meetings and events, included the following highlights from GBT:

  • Two-thirds (67%) of respondents believe in-person meeting levels will return to pre-pandemic numbers within one to two years.
  • In-person meetings and events are projected to grow in 2022, with 81% of events expected to have an in-person element.
  • 64% of respondents cited increased budgets for next year, a further indicator of industry growth.
  • Internal meetings and training are expected to have the largest growth in 2022, reflecting increasing recognition of the value of these in-person meetings to organizations.
  • Despite the rise of in-person meetings and events, virtual and hybrid formats will continue to play a key role in reaching wider audiences, creating a built-in virtual contingency plan, and increasing return on investment.
  • The environment will be a priority for most meetings and events programs in 2022: 83% of respondents said their organizations take sustainability into account when planning meetings and events.

The 11th edition of the annual forecast also garners planner perspectives on virtual and hybrid meetings, how they think their budgets will fare, the cost of key components and the relevance of issues such as sustainability and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion).

[Related: American Express Business Travel Forecast Reflects Positive Meetings Outlook]

Visit California Launches Marketing Blitz

In a first for the state tourism marketing organization, Visit California announced the launch of a $4.5 million campaign to promote meetings and events in the Golden State. Funding for the campaign will come from an approximately $95 million stimulus from the state to boost the recovery of California’s tourism economy.

While large marketing expenditures are nothing new for the state tourism marketing organization, the announcement marks the first time such a sizable amount of funds are dedicated to the MICE market. Visit California mainly promotes the leisure tourism lures of the state.

IMEX 2021 poppies
Some friendly poppies helped promote Visit California. Credit: Tyler Davidson

The “Meet What’s Possible” campaign will promote the 12 major tourism regions of the state, with a key focus on what is called its gateway cities: Los Angeles, San Diego, Anaheim and San Francisco.

MPI Announces WEC Location, Ups Van Deventer Contract

MPI staff at IMEX 2021.
MPI leaders at IMEX America 2021 press conference

MPI formally announced the location of its 2023 World Education Congress (WEC) after St. Louis had to postpone to 2024 its role as host due to the pandemic delaying the completion of a massive renovation of its America's Center Convention Complex.

The 2023 WEC will be held in June 2023 at Barcelo Maya Riviera resort in Mexico's Riviera Maya, with an opening night at the Xcaret nature park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In other MPI news from IMEX America, the association announced the extension of President & CEO Paul Van Deventer's contract for seven years.

Atlantic City Reinvests for Success

Buoyed by Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Ocean Casino Resort and Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Atlantic City’s upscale appeal is taking a major step forward with more than $500 million in reinvestment over the next three years.

“These investments will rebalance and uplift the entire Atlantic City market,” noted Caesars Entertainment Chief Sales Officer Michael Massari during a media briefing at IMEX America 2021.

With Bally’s Atlantic City $100 million renovation underway, Caesars Entertainment has committed $400 million in upgrades to its three properties in Atlantic City. Master plan highlights include expanding its partnership with Nobu Hospitality by bringing a Nobu hotel and restaurant to Caesars Palace Atlantic City.

Listen Next: IMEX 2021: MeetingPlay's Joe Schwinger on the Future of Events

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Tyler Davidson | Editor, Vice President & Chief Content Director

Tyler Davidson has covered the travel trade for nearly 30 years. In his current role with Meetings Today, Tyler leads the editorial team on its mission to provide the best meetings content in the industry.

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Jeff Heilman | Senior Contributor

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based independent journalist Jeff Heilman has been a Meetings Today contributor since 2004, including writing our annual Texas and Las Vegas supplements since inception. Jeff is also an accomplished ghostwriter specializing in legal, business and Diversity & Inclusion content.