The bulletin to all hosted buyers at IMEX Frankfurt went out at 5:49 a.m. on Tuesday, May 24, after reports that falling ash from an eruption of a volcano in Iceland on Monday threatened flights in and out of the northern United Kingdom. Association Day had already concluded, drawing some 300 international association execs for an afternoon of education, and the exhibition hall at Messe Frankfurt was set to open at 10 a.m.
In the statement, IMEX organizers assured buyers that a contingency plan was in place for all of its gateways. “We are committed to ensuring the safe and timely arrival and departure of all our buyers into and out of Frankfurt. IMEX will take full responsibility for ensuring that buyers are able to travel into and out of Frankfurt by road, rail, or ferry should air travel be disrupted in any way. We are also in close contact with air charter companies should it be necessary to charter aircraft. In addition, we will remain fully responsible for buyers' hotel accommodation should they need to stay in Germany for additional nights,” the e-mail communication read.
Despite some buyers canceling on Tuesday, and some early departures on Tuesday and Wednesday (the three-day trade show ended on Thursday, May 26), the vast majority of visitors arrived and departed as scheduled and it “was business as usual,” according to Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group. Some feared a repeat of the disruption to European travel that took place last April as a result of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano. But by Wednesday afternoon, all affected airports in the U.K. and Germany were reopened and most flights were on schedule.
Meanwhile, the mood at the ninth annual IMEX, the exhibition that represents the worldwide meetings, events, and incentive travel industry, was ebullient, attracting nearly 3,900 hosted buyers and 9,000 total delegates. More than 57,000 pre-set appointments were scheduled between buyers and exhibitors. “Business is on a gradual upswing,” said Ray Bloom, chairman of IMEX Group at the opening ceremony on Tuesday. He and others cited a recent Meeting Professionals International Business Barometer report showing that while the meetings industry continues its recovery, it has some new challenges, including high fuel prices and increasing air costs, which worry U.S. planners. Their European peers see economic improve¬ments, but fear repercussions from the natural disasters in Japan.
Some 90 seminars in English and German helped make the Frankfurt event a must-attend for global meeting professionals. The week included the first Women’s Leadership Forum, a quality-driven show floor dedicated to doing business, and popular evening networking events, including Association Evening, Site Nite, and FRESH Dinner (hosted by Maarten Vanneste, creator of the meeting architecture discipline). The annual IMEX Gala Awards capped the week honoring a variety of industry achievements. Visit our IMEX photo gallery on MeetingsNet.