As EIBTM prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Event Planner Spain has spoken to the exhibition’s director Graeme Barnett about the next edition, scheduled to be held from 27-29 November 2012 at Barcelona’s Fira Gran Via.
How would you summarize the most important features and goals of the next edition of EIBTM? "Last year, EIBTM (www.eibtm.com) saw record attendance, record numbers of meetings, and a real buzz of confidence from the show floor. So, for 2012, we have a lot to do to ensure we help keep this confidence in the minds of the industry by producing a show that delivers on all of its promises. EIBTM also celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, so there will be some fun as well as business – watch out for the details to be revealed over the coming months. This year, as always, we have to make sure that whatever we deliver achieves the goals and objectives of our exhibitors, hosted buyers, and trade visitors, through delivering contacts, content and business communities with the power to transform businesses. Over the next six months, we will be announcing some new initiatives as part of the evolution of the event, but for now, watch this space and keep an eye out on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and of course www.eibtm.com."
As to early-bird registrations, what has been the reaction so far from the European countries hardest hit by the crisis? "The early-bird exhibitor rate is something that we sell each year and so far the reaction has been good. Clearly the Eurozone is headlined in the media on a regular basis as being hard hit by various economic crises, but those who understand that business must go on choose EIBTM because it delivers on its promises. A great example of why EIBTM will deliver a solution to the crisis comes from Visit London in 2009, when the world was at its economic worst. Visit London (now London & Partners) said: ’Best EIBTM ever, we expect to exceed last year’s figure of £52-million-worth of business enquiries. We have organised three fam trips with North American, South American and Norwegian buyers. EIBTM plays an absolutely crucial role in our marketing strategy.’ Exhibiting during a recession is a powerful sign that a company is determined to make the most of every business opportunity – conversely, those that don’t exhibit face negative consequences where a lapse of visibility can send its own message and that vital opportunity for personal contact has been lost."
On the subject of the double-dip crisis, with a number of European countries entering what is hoped to be a "mild" second recession, how do you see this financial and economic turmoil from the point of view of the MICE industry? "We believe that the industry is as resilient today as it was when the crisis started in 2008. The picture that has emerged has shown that meetings and events still need to take place, as they drive economies and are vital to the long-term solution for success. Barcelona Convention Bureau has recently released figures confirming that Barcelona experienced a 6.8% increase in the number of professional meetings held in 2011, compared to 2010."
"As an exhibition, we are a bellwether for the industry, proof that those who have the determination to ride out the storm can win in the long-term. At EIBTM 2011, the event closed with the highest number of attendees, the most pre-scheduled appointments and even the most education sessions, but it was the comments from the show floor that proved business was buoyant, and we hope that this is the case for 2012 despite the doom and gloom."
Are any of the features of EIBTM 2012 especially geared to combating the current adverse economic climate, and if so, how would you describe them in a few words? "Business and education is the key. The Hosted Buyer Programme is driven by its pre-scheduled appointment system, where each of the pre-qualified buyers creates their own diary of appointments with exhibitors of their choice. This means that every meeting is potentially a real source of business."
"Last year had the most PSA’s to date, 64,950, across the three days of the show – another testament to the need for business between buyers and suppliers. But business doesn’t just come from these appointments; there are thousands of trade visitors who plan their own schedule, plus there is the opportunity of meeting up with potential opportunities during the various networking events."
"Education is also the key. The importance of knowledge development in a recession will come as no surprise as the most valuable asset for any business is the knowledge of its employees, and competent, confident employees are the foundation for a successful business. EIBTM has a world class education programme aimed at all levels of the industry. It delivers the opportunity to form opinions, share knowledge, gain expertise, and learn for the future. It’s planned to inspire and the sessions are delivered by some of the world’s leading commentators to help with the development of the industry and its community."
"As part of the IBTM Portfolio, EIBTM is dedicated to meetings industry research in order to help attendees to understand business trends and the economic climate in which we are living. In the current circumstances, the value of research has never been more vital. With new countries and regions rapidly becoming major players in the meetings market it is of critical importance that we monitor these trends and use this information to assist the meetings industry towards making the most impactful decision when formulating their marketing strategies and assigning budgets."
Corporate events and incentives have been especially hard hit by the crisis – in contrast to association meetings – with heavy budget cuts or, simply, cancellations. Do you expect to see signs of recuperation in this segment in the short- or medium-term? "Of course there is cause for concern for the industry when so much focus is on the economies of the Eurozone. However, in most instances those we speak to are determined that there will be signs of a reversal over the coming months, with things picking up in the third quarter. It’s true that companies are sitting on budgets and waiting, but many feel that they will spend eventually. Since 2008, the need to prove the value of meetings has been on the top of the agenda and that includes corporate events and incentives. Some say that incentives are back – they are, though not organised in isolation of a conference, but as a part of a reason to meet for the sake of the business. Whether incentives are there in a different guise, or blatantly part of a marketing strategy, the destinations that feature as exhibitors at EIBTM have proven success stories from the show and they are sticking to their success stories!"
Moving away from the general situation in Europe to focus on Spain as the host country, does the number of Spanish exhibitors registering for EIBTM 2012 reflect the stark reality of the country’s meetings and event industry, which has been particularly hard hit by the drastic drop in domestic events, or is it business as usual? "Well, the good news recently is that the annual ICCA rankings are now released for 2011 and Spain is in the top three of the world’s countries for association meetings, with 463 featuring last year. Barcelona and Madrid feature in the top 10 and Spain is the only country to have two cities in that ranking! The reality is that the country needs to keep itself in front of the industry and that means attending EIBTM. By having the world’s leading event on its doorstep, this brings international and domestic buyers by the thousands so it is like a big ’fam trip’ – priceless for promotion, awareness and branding, so anyone from Spain who wants to meet and do business with the leading buyers and planners absolutely needs to be there."
In your opinion, are European governments doing enough to promote their MICE industries and to facilitate the organization of international events, or are there certain aspects that need to be improved so as to continue to drum up business? "Again, looking at the ICCA rankings, Europe dominates the association sector for the number of meetings held in a country with 10 of the 20 named. Even more positive, 15 out of the world’s top cities for meetings are all European. So, yes, I think that speaks volumes about how serious the industry is in representing itself on the global stage."
Related to the question above, despite the fact that a number of European countries and cities continue to top the rankings, new destinations emerge every year. Are there any that we should keep an eye out for? "Apart from Eastern Europe there really aren’t any ’new’ destinations, as the meetings industry is dominated by those countries and destinations that have the infrastructure and economy to generate meetings and events – having said that, South Africa is no longer in ICCA’s top 20. Perhaps the one to watch is South America, in addition to the (BRIC) countries, which we expect will feature more prominently in the coming years."
Taking into account the progression of EIBTM, which has consolidated itself as one of the world’s leading MICE events in its 25-year history, how would you summarize the show’s strategy for the next five years? "The team that creates EIBTM is charged with delivering the best value and experience for buyers and exhibitors, part of the on-going commitment to ensure that the world’s leading event continues to innovate, evolve and exceed market expectations."
"On the back of the best ever EIBTM in 2011 and as one of Reed Travel Exhibitions’ largest events, it is critical that we continually seek to meet and surpass the needs of customers, the markets and the industries that it serves. Part of creating a strategy that will evolve the event’s education, business and networking is to meet regularly with the event’s Advisory Board, which was recently expanded to increase the richness and diversity of the membership group to provide a greater depth of insight and knowledge. This board acts as a ’critical friend’, providing advice and support on purpose, vision and planning, plus our members are also a sounding board for new ideas and developments that will lead to growth."
To end with, a few words of encouragement for meetings and event professionals at a particularly hard time? "We believe that the industry is as resilient today as it was when the crisis started in 2008. Each EIBTM since then has grown and we hope that those who have taken part have benefitted from using the event as a real business opportunity. It is well documented that brands that increase their awareness during a recession, when others may try to cut back, can improve market share and return on investment at a lower cost than during the good economic times. It’s also time to meet face-to-face, where negotiation and discussion can be more valuable than correspondence by email. So EIBTM is a solution to the problem, it’s the place to focus on doing business, maximize the opportunities available, plan the diary in advance, prepare for every meeting and ride the storm."
Graeme Barnett, Reed Travel Exhibitions, Exhibition Director of EIBTM
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