Business in Barca: IBTM World 2018 Review

This Just In

Despite fears of political disruption caused by the Catalan independence movement, the show took place in its usual host city of Barcelona. Eager to ensure this longstanding show remains fresh and relevant — in a climate where visitors are increasingly reluctant to attend due to security and time pressures as well as a myriad of alternative networking and information sources — Reed International announced a slew of new initiatives and developments in the weeks prior to the event.

There’s no doubt that efforts to deliver improved results for exhibitors, visitors, and hosted buyers were well intentioned and ambitious, but did they hit the right note?

Clearly, this was an important edition for the IBTM brand. Pre-show announcements informed registrants that this was its largest show ever, with a bigger and more selective hosted-buyer programme designed to be more effective.

There was an increased focus on technology in the industry with a technology zone, the Tech Watch Awards, and speaker sessions in the keynote programme that gave delegates the opportunity to experience, learn about, and interact with new and emerging event-tech solutions.

A revamped knowledge programme introduced big keynote sessions that all attendees — exhibitors and visitors alike — had the opportunity to join. Expert speakers from within and outside of the industry shared the stage, including Dame Stella Rimington, author and first female director general of MI5, the U.K. Security Service, and Yancey Strickler, co-founder and CEO of crowdfunding website Kickstarter.

Early feedback from the show organisers, exhibitors, and delegates suggests that IBTM World 2018 hit the mark. That’s not to say that there weren’t some unforeseeable hiccups. For example, a city-wide taxi strike on the second day of the show resulted in MPI’s Rendezvous event greeting just 200 rather than 4,000 guests,

In total, 3,000 companies from 150-plus countries exhibited and 3,463 buyers were in attendance, which includes all those on the hosted-buyer programme. The organisers forecast that more than 15,000 elite international and domestic MICE delegates would attend the show, but seem to be keeping final visitor numbers under wraps for now. They have reported, however, that more than 74,000 appointments took place, up 23 per cent compared to 2016.

Key for the success of the show, especially from the point of view of exhibitors, was the hosted-buyer programme, and from various accounts, it seems the changes made this year had a positive effect.

“We’ve had an amazing number of appointments — close to 1,000 have taken place over the three days,” said Steen Jakobsen, director, Dubai Business Events & City Operations.

Shyla Gardiner, from Hyatt Mexico, said: “This is my fourth year at the show and 60 per cent of my appointments have requested proposals already. This is the first time that, in addition to groups, I have closed proposals with travel managers. In short there is more business.”

Sandrine Camia, director of Monaco Convention Bureau said that the hosted-buyer-programme process seemed to run more smoothly this year. “The appointment system has been much better,” she said. “The improvements made have enabled us to have more qualified appointments and as a result, more qualified leads”

Hosted buyers were equally positive. Aurora Maris Travel’s Srdan Elakovic, commenting while on the show floor, said the event was “going very well — the contacts are good and high quality. Excellent.”

For Ricardo Gomes, Dynamize Experiences & Events, this year marked his first time as a hosted buyer, although he said he has been attending the show since it was held in Geneva. “The show is different this year,” he said, “and has been re-imagined well.”

The show had barely concluded and IBTM Portfolio Director Kerry Prince was already planning next year’s event. “It has been fantastic to see first-hand the positive impact of the changes we’ve made,” she said. “Of course, we’re always looking to the future and we’re committed to remaining on the cutting edge of the industry. There will be more innovations to come next year, including the introduction of a third keynote speaker session, following the success of this year’s programme.”

IBTM World 2018 will return to Barcelona next November 27–29.

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