More than 3,500 meeting and incentive buyers came to Fira Gran Via Exhibition Centre in Barcelona, Spain earlier this week to meet with nearly 3,000 exhibitors from 150 nations as well as to attend educational sessions, at Reed Exhibitions' annual IBTM World show.
This year, The IBTM World Trends Watch Report, which presents critical business factors by region and even by country, also contains a chapter on the effect that advancing technologies are having on the events industry. In particular, virtual reality and augmented reality are cited as prime enhancers of educational and entertainment opportunities, while sensory tracking is allowing for more accurate session analysis and data capture that will benefit the future planning of each event.
In total, the trends report uses more than 25 key sources of existing industry data plus interviews with industry leaders. The overarching theme: Most nations that focus on drawing business events did especially well in 2018, and should fare about as well in 2019 provided unforeseen issues do not flare up, such as political turmoil. The full report is available for download here.
One group of first-time attendees at the show comprised members of the United Nations who are focused on environmental and other types of sustainability initiatives across all industries. Their goal at IBTM World was twofold: To educate planners at some of the hourly mini-sessions on the trade show floor that addressed various aspects of sustainability; and to learn more from attendees so that within the next few years, they can have a universal blueprint for planning and executing events that comply with the U.N.'s sustainable development goals. Those goals relate to poverty, hunger, equality, and other issues, in addition to carbon emissions, plastic usage, and other environmental concerns. The U.N. delegation's visit to the show was facilitated by Manchester, U.K.-based nonprofit group Positive Impact, which recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with several United Nations bodies to formalize the creation a sustainable events industry.
"With sustainability being such an important issue for our industry, giving our U.N. visitors the opportunity to learn directly from some of the leaders in this field is of vital importance," said David Thompson, exhibition director for IBTM World. One such visitor, Dennis Winkler, leader of the Sustainable Organization of U.N. Climate Change Conferences, added that the show "is a good opportunity to see and hear what is happening throughout the industry and exchange good practices for the sustainable organization of conferences.”
Fiona Pelham, CEO of Positive Impact, hopes that U.N. personnel attending a major meetings and events industry show is not a one-time occurrence; she'd like to get some U.N. personnel to attend IMEX America in Las Vegas in September 2019. "At IBTM World we're ensuring there is opportunity for our industry to be having conversations about what our next action steps in sustainability could be, and how this all makes business sense," she said. "But we don't want this effort to appear as if it is just a European thing. It is a global initiative." On the other hand, "the goal is not to have the U.N. going to our industry events forever—it is to get the industry to coalesce behind a roadmap we can present to the U.N. in about 18 months to achieve those sustainable development goals, and then have the U.N. reference that roadmap when dealing with other industries."
To continue the momentum behind this effort, Positive Impact launched at IBTM World its latest sustainability report, which highlights the importance of collaboration and taking action to understand each event's specific sustainability challenges as the first step in making optimal business decisions. The report is titled "Telling the Story of the Power of Events: How Events Can Be Used to Achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and What This Means for the Global Event Industry." It can be found here.