It kicked off with a record attendance at Education Day with a keynote from J. Walker Smith one of the leading U.S. analysts on consumer trends, addressing nearly 1,000 attendees in a packed auditorium on the value of face-to-face meetings in the kinship economy. Just one of 35 sessions, and workshops over the day on trends and topics for industry education that ranged from the art of social networking for your career to the role that colorful nutrient-dense food plays in helping the body and brain thrive and from technology to ways to set up successful partnerships. Over 3,700 attended the Education Day with sessions supported by the industry's leading global associations and offered attendees over 30 CEU accreditation hours.
This year AIBTM attracted close to 1,000 regional and international Hosted Buyers (subject to an independent ABC audit) with a high percentage who had applied to attend for the first time, a 31% increase over 2012. With over 50 new exhibitors included in a total of 707 main stand holders and exhibiting partners, the show was the largest to date. With a pre-scheduled appointment system that also hit new highs, it is anticipated that some 15,000 business meetings took place with Hosted Buyers who had proven budgets of more than $10.7 billion.
At this year's Market Focus on Europe session, Robert Hatfield of Origin Event Planning said; "At AIBTM I have got an idea of what's going on in Europe without travelling there. I am seeking new locations and opportunities".
Patrick S. Madden of High Line Planning returned this year as a buyer saying; "I am looking for new DMC partners in new countries - this market focus is a great networking opportunity for me to get all the information I need ". Two other Market Focus sessions also took place for Asia and Latin America.
Hosted Buyers came from not only the local Chicago area but from across the Americas and beyond representing Agencies, Corporates, Association, Government and Business Travel. This year saw an exponential 165% increase in Corporate Buyers over 2012, and a 15% increase in Incentive Buyers. At the same time, trade visitors also increased (subject to audit) by close to 40% adding to the business opportunities on the trade show floor. In total more than 3000 industry professionals took part in the first AIBTM Chicago.
Hosted Buyer, Catherine Hunter of SmithBucklin, Chicago was delighted with her visit. “This is my first AIBTM show. It is a good opportunity to meet people and plan business in a foreign country. The face-to-face aspect of meeting at the show helps later when I am planning my meetings”.
Praising this year’s show, exhibitors talked about the many business opportunities they had achieved. Bryan Churchill, VP of Hotel Sales for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Bureau said; “The appointments based component is always great. It’s been very dynamic, with truly interested meeting planners and buyers. And with the destination presentations, we are able to touch those who aren’t as familiar with our destination. It’s been dynamite. The traffic has been incredible”.
Daniel Schwartz, Dubai Tourism Office North America added “We’ve been with AIBTM from the beginning. It has been a positive experience and the appointments have been valuable. We’ve had a range from people with a new interest in Dubai to people who have visited 50 times”.
Verena Jandak, Marketing Manager, Vienna Convention Bureau talked about the value of the Hosted Buyer program on the opening day. “We have been here for just 45 minutes and already made 3 strong business leads. It is amazing how much critical information you can exchange with buyers in a number of minutes.”
Michael Lyons AIBTM Exhibition Director reflected on this year’s show. "AIBTM has combined business with a whole range of new industry talking points that affect us, from brain food to neuro-marketing, future events experiences to meeting design, social engagement and content marketing, to the collision of the generation gap. The interaction of our debates, education sessions and crowd sourcing has given us insight into how we will build on the theme of defining the future of meetings together when we take AIBTM to Orlando next year. We have some solid blocks from which to start this process in a few week’s time!
“We also want Americas Meetings Week to provide content for everyone in the industry not just here in the US but globally, that is not just available for a few days but creates a valuable knowledge base that the industry can tap into at anytime, anywhere. So we have brought the show to the world online. Almost every aspect of AIBTM from education to interviews with key industry figureheads, exhibitor views, buyer opinions, and the thoughts of the experts, is now all on www.aibtm.com”.