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Winner of IMEX-EIC Innovation in Sustainability Award Announced

“A unique and innovative approach to driving sustainability through competition – and with potential beyond the industry.” This is what judges had to say about the winning entry to the IMEX-EIC Innovation in Sustainability Award.

The Award was given to GDS-Index, the world’s leading benchmarking and performance improvement programme for business tourism and events destinations. The judges scored the programme highly for collaboration and commitment to continuous improvement. The GDS-Index produces a performance improvement report for each destination it surveys as well as sharing best practice through whitepapers. The vision of the GDS-Index is to engage, inspire and enable destinations to become more regenerative and sustainable places to visit, meet and thrive in, and it has grown – now implemented in 58 cities around the world.

The IMEX-EIC Innovation in Sustainability Award is presented annually by IMEX Group and the Events Industry Council. It was independently judged by Amy Spatrisano, President, AZano; Chance Thompson, ASM Global, Salt Palace Convention Center – Senior Manager, Sustainability and Public Relations / Green Team Committee Chairperson; Courtney Lohmann, CMP, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at PRA Business Events; Jan Peter Bergkvist from sustainable business advisors SleepWell and Roger Simons, Associate Director of Sustainability at Marina Bay Sands Pte Ltd. Guy Bigwood, Managing Director of GDS-Movement, was scheduled to receive the Award at IMEX in Frankfurt earlier this year, but he will now be honoured at the Gala dinner at next year’s show in May 2021. 

“The IMEX-EIC Innovation in Sustainability Awards are the Oscars of the Sustainable Event world,” Guy says. “It’s a real honour to receive this recognition for all the amazing work that the team, the partners and all the destinations have been doing over the last four years. Together we have catalysed change and are extremely proud of the work we are doing inspiring and enabling DMOs to create more resilient, sustainable and regenerative destinations to visit, meet in and live in.”

Guy is an expert in the circular economy and is leading IMEX’s current ‘NATURE’ research project, which is exclusively sponsored by Marriott International. He is set to discuss his findings as part of a panel session on PlanetIMEX  during its October edition, taking place 12 – 16 October.

PlanetIMEX Countdown

On 6 May IMEX will launch two of three PlanetIMEX islands. Islands where you can reconnect, talk future business and continue learning in the company of friends and colleagues from the global business events community.

Community Island – live 6 May

News, views, research and insights from our business events world – it’s all here on Community Island. Plus, this is the place to kick back and enjoy some downtime PlanetIMEX style from #imexstillrunning to laid-back island music mixes.

Education Island – live 6 May
Explore our full programme of education, designed to continue our commitment to provide high quality professional development to our industry.

  • EduMonday Live will be taking place on 11 May, where you’ll have the opportunity to register for a full day of education and interactive content. Also, hear from Ray Bloom and Carina Bauer as we embark on a new exploration into the virtual world of PlanetIMEX.
  • Don’t miss the keynote with Guy Bigwood, Managing Director, Global Destination Sustainability Index, he’ll be discussingThe big pivot: Towards a regenerative events industry’.  Futurist Rohit Talwar will present ‘The Future of Events – Three Scenarios’ and guide us towards five survival strategies for the future.
  • Be sure to join the She Means Business debate with a panel including Julia Brewing, Head of Marketing DACH at Facebook and Gabriela Suhoschi, Director of World Water Week, where they’ll be discussing the tough decisions women in business and events are making today. A joint event by IMEX and TW Magazine supported by MPI.
  • On Tuesday 12 May, our Community Day will bring together education from industry partners and associations including EIC, ADMEI, GCB, IAEE, IAPCO, ICCA, ZEUS and more.
  • The Education island is also home to our Sustainability Village and our Nature Talking Point.

Networking Island – live 14 May
Explore potential new business relationships and spark up one-to-one conversations with our global business events community.
Joining instructions coming soon…

Best wishes,

Your PlanetIMEX Team

IMEX launches new online experience – PlanetIMEX

In its desire to give back to the international business events, meetings and incentive travel industry following the massive outpouring of support since IMEX in Frankfurt was cancelled, the IMEX team have created a brand-new virtual experience, due to launch 6 May and run for several months.

PlanetIMEX has been designed as a destination in its own right and will feature 3D, interactive islands, each created using principles borrowed from the world of online gaming. 

Visitors to PlanetIMEX will be granted unlimited, free access to a variety of content and activities on three islands: A beach-themed Community Island; A forest-inspired Education Island and a Networking Island characterised by canyons, mountains and valleys.  

Although the execution is light-hearted, each island has a serious purpose. The intention is to keep the spirit of IMEX alive by allowing visitors to explore, reconnect, talk future business and continue learning in the company of friends and colleagues from the global business events community. 

Says Carina Bauer, IMEX Group CEO, “We decided early on that we wanted to gift something back to the industry we love while continuing our commitment to providing high quality education, business and networking value. Rather than switch to a one-off online event, in true IMEX fashion we opted for innovation through transformation! Instinctively we looked to our Nature Talking Point for inspiration.

“PlanetIMEX is therefore a fresh and original concept with a visual charm that pays tribute to the exhibitors who always make our shows look so appealing. We’ve combined education, community, and business introductions with wellbeing, including some old favourites such as #imexstillrunning. All of this takes place in a new ‘magical place and space’ which we hope the industry will appreciate and value. That said, like many others in our industry, this has been – and remains – a learning curve. We’ve jumped right in to try something new and we’re excited to learn, refine and enrich it over time.” 

PlanetIMEX goes live on 6 May when both Community Island and Education Island open to industry visitors. Education programming starts on EduMonday 11 May with a day of education and interactive content, starting with a keynote by Guy Bigwood, Managing Director of the Global Destination Sustainability Index. Bigwood is also the lead on the IMEX Nature Talking Point research, supported exclusively by Marriott International, and set to be launched later this year.  

Tuesday 12 May will be IMEX Community Day, with content delivered by a range of IMEX’s association and other partners. It will also include the IMEX-MPI Future Leaders Forum. 

On Thursday 14 May IMEX Introductions will encourage industry buyers and suppliers to explore potential new business relationships and spark up one-to-one conversations.

The following week on Monday 18 May, PlanetIMEX will provide specialist content aimed at specific buyer communities, including a new interpretation of Exclusively Corporate, the Agency Directors Forum and Association Focus.  

The education platform on PlanetIMEX has been generously designed and developed by sponsors, Cvent.

Patrick Smith, CMO of Cvent, the market-leading meetings, events, and hospitality technology provider, explained, “All of us at Cvent are incredibly proud to be partnering with IMEX to help them bring this extraordinary online experience to life. As longtime leaders in the meetings and events space, IMEX Group is dedicated to helping everyone in the industry make connections that matter. While the in-person experience at IMEX in Frankfurt will be greatly missed this year, our teams have collaborated to create a unique and deeply engaging virtual environment. While nothing can replace meeting face-to-face, it’s important that as industry leaders, we make the best of this current situation, and to be able to help IMEX deliver their great content to their global audience in an interactive, compelling way is really exciting.”

Over time the IMEX Group plans to expand the content, programmes and engagement opportunities on PlanetIMEX. Access is free although registration is required for both education content and IMEX Introductions.  

United. Resilient. Proud.

The IMEX Group has launched a campaign to inspire some positivity during these uncertain times. Here is the message that accompanies the above graphic:

To the global business events industry, our extended family…

Remember who you are and what you represent.

We are an industry that contributes $1.5 trillion of GDP to the global economy. As we’ve demonstrated many times before, we will be part of the solution to drive recovery, growth and social impact that will transform the world.

Ray Bloom & Carina Bauer


IMEX in Frankfurt Cancels

[The following letter has been released from Ray Bloom and Carina Bauer, IMEX Group Chairman and CEO:

It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we announce the cancellation of this year’s IMEX in Frankfurt (due to take place 12-14 May).

We know that this will come as an enormous disappointment, not only to the exhibitors, buyers and industry professionals who were due to attend the show, but also to the global business events community.

This is not a decision we have taken lightly and there are two overriding concerns that have caused us to make this decision at this time. 

First is the uncertainty caused by the fact that the German health minister has recently called for the ban on events with over 1,000 people which some German states have already endorsed, including the state of Hesse where Frankfurt is located. This announcement makes the probability of factors outside our control forcing us to cancel the show at the last minute much higher. 

Second, our primary concern is always the responsibility we feel towards our exhibitors and partners, who fund the show – not only by purchasing stand space but also in the considerable additional investment they make in everything from the build of stunning stands to the hosting of buyer events.

Whilst only a short time ago we felt optimistic that May was far enough away to confidently proceed with our plans, as it stands today [11 March] we cannot guarantee the one thing that our exhibitors trust us above all else to deliver – namely a large-scale, high quality hosted buyer programme.

In an ideal world we would wait and see. But we are in the real world and we cannot, in all good conscience, ask our exhibitors to continue to invest money against which they may not get a return. 

Both of these factors – uncertainty around whether IMEX will be allowed to proceed, as well as doubts as to the number of buyers who will be able to attend – have led us to the conclusion that we now have no option but to cancel IMEX in Frankfurt.

A decision based on facts

We want to make it very clear that we have made this decision based purely on the facts as we know them today and, importantly for the whole IMEX team, based on the responsibility and genuine care we feel for all our clients and the global business events community. 

IMEX is our family business and the business events community is the only community we serve. 

We have tried today to take the best decision for the industry and we are so thankful for the support that has already been shown to us. Quite rightly many of you see yourselves as friends and members of the extended IMEX family.  This is precisely why we’ve thought long and hard in the past few days, consulting in depth with partners and stakeholders across the industry before making this announcement. Our strapline “We Are All Connected” has never felt more true, nor more important.

Committed to serving the industry

Despite the disappointment and impact we know you will feel, we want you to know that we’re fully committed to serving this industry that we love. We’re already working hard in the background to deliver value and service above and beyond the trade show you were looking forward to and will announce these plans in the near future. 

We intend to keep morale high and, together with leaders around the world, to focus on collective efforts to rebuild confidence and advocate for the power of business events to aid economic recovery once this situation is over. 

The IMEX team will also be working hard to deliver a successful IMEX America (15-17 September) with plans to recognise the 10th Anniversary of the show already in full swing. We hope that the business events world will join us in Las Vegas to celebrate our great industry.

Once again, we thank the whole industry for the support that has been shown to us and we are here to support others in the industry as we all work through these difficult times.

Ray and Carina

‘For 2020, we’re looking on the bright side of life’ says Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group

“It’s been a turbulent year for the world in general and for so many of our exhibitors. In the past few years we’ve observed trends that, even though they eventually led to innovation, were essentially disruptive and extremely challenging, so coming into 2020 we’re focusing ‘on the bright side of life’.” says Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group

“This shift towards the positive has been inspired by the creativity and resilience of individuals and companies in our industry and, in the wider world – projects such as David Byrne’s ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’, for example. So, we’ve chosen to highlight trends which we believe are going to change the world, our industry and the way we work for the better in 2020.

“These are all positive developments that we expect to see grow faster.  Some are steps in the right direction, a turnaround from years in the opposite direction, others are new ideas that can enhance our environment and our wellbeing. 

“Sustainability, health and wellness, diversity, inclusivity, collaboration, AI, VR, legacy, bleisure and mindfulness are all prominent at virtually every industry conference and in every trade publication. Campaigns to reduce food waste and single use plastics are widespread and well-established. That’s great to see.”

But what’s next? Looking to the future, here are four positive trends that the IMEX team expect – and want – to see more of in 2020 and beyond.

1. The Circular Economy

‘As an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose), in a circular economy we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life’.

WRAP, an organisation dedicated to improving resource efficiency, has clearly captured the essence of the circular economy.

‘Sustainability consciousness’ has contributed enormously to changing attitudes and behaviours for the better – stopping practices like single use plastics that harm the planet and its inhabitants; to reducing waste and encouraging recycling.

The next positive step is to create business models based on the circular economy in which the principles of zero waste, maximising product life and the reuse and recycling of materials are intrinsic to their design. 

An eye-catching story of the circular economy in practice came from the World Economic Forum with ‘Your next pair of sneakers could be made from coffee’.  It’s a great, mind-expanding example of what can be done.

How far can it go? The World Economic Forum again gave a decisive answer and captured attention worldwide with the headline ‘How the circular economy could change the world by 2030’.

2. Taking up the challenge of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

“Producing sustainable events is the only way to ensure that your business will continue to exist. It’s not an addition – it’s the only option.” 

Miguel Naranjo, program officer for the UN Framework Convention Goals, expressed this challenging opinion during a press conference at IMEX America 2019 to announce the Event Industry Council’s (EIC) Centre for Sustainable Events. The IMEX Group is one of the Centre’s sponsors.

The Centre has been created to align the industry with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which are increasingly becoming the ‘point of reference’ for businesses in all industries. This major initiative by the EIC, with the support of many leading industry organisations, follows the launch of the EIC’s Sustainable Event Standards, and together they have provided a new focus and raised the profile and urgency of this topic even further.

The annual IMEX-EIC Innovation in Sustainability Award has been generating great interest and is highly effective in encouraging the industry to create and celebrate new initiatives. The deadline for submissions is 20 January 2020.

3. Health & wellbeing; more focus on mental health

The sudden unprecedented avalanche of media coverage and activity around World Mental Health Day 10 October, in the events industry and the world at large, was testimony to a paradigm shift about mental health.  

According to the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease, about 13 per cent of the global population – some 971 million people – suffer from some kind of mental disorder. According to Arianna Huffington of Thrive Global, 300 million people suffer from depression, making it ‘the world’s leading cause of disability.’ Millions more now suffer from anxiety, stress or dementia. 

The big change is first that the historic stigma attached to admitting to mental illness is being removed with so many campaigns that say ‘It’s OK not to be OK’. And second, there is more action, not only to provide greater help but also to reduce root causes. There are now many apps to help with everything from wellness to sleep quality and many employers have trained mental health first aiders who can identify and help staff. More employers are also taking steps to minimise the causes of stress and anxiety at work by, for instance, providing flexible working hours and places where staff can find peace and quiet away from their desks.

4. How AI can make travelling a more pleasant and less stressful experience

It’s no surprise that according to research from the University of Montreal commutes of 20 minutes or more can lead to chronic stress and burnout. So it’s great to find that real-time emotion detection and artificial intelligence (AI) are being used to combat stress and bring a sense of wellbeing and calm to travel environments.

First, across the Stockholm metro system, for two weeks this year, advertising space provider Clear Channel Sweden created the Emotional Art Gallery to help calm travellers. It synthesised real-time, publicly available data from Google searches, social media, news articles and traffic information to determine the mood of the city.

The data was used to select and display artwork meant to combat commuter stress and anxiety across 250 of Clear Channel’s connected screens. Six artists contributed to the exhibition, with bespoke pieces created to induce feelings of energy, love, peacefulness, calm, happiness, comfort and safety.

Emotion detection robots can be deployed for the benefit of travellers in airports as well. Istanbul New Airport is to use them to improve travellers’ experiences. Nely, a social robot from Turkey-based Human Age Technology, can provide information to travellers about traffic, gates and weather forecasts all while reading users’ emotions and reacting accordingly. The hope is that having the robot respond to emotions, interactions will be more useful and enjoyable for people and will decrease travel stress.

The idea is also being applied to car drivers. At the CES exhibition in January 2019 South Korean automotive company Kia showed its Real-time Emotion Adaptive Driving (R.E.A.D.) system designed to reduce stress levels. The system monitors the driver’s emotions using bio-signal recognition technology. The AI-based technology analyses facial expressions, heart rate and electrodermal activity to determine emotional state and then adjusts the interior of the car – such as lighting or music – to improve the driver’s state of mind.

“We’re looking forward to these trends making 2020 a year of positive changes,” Carina Bauer concludes.