IMEX Group this morning announced cancellation of IMEX America 2020, originally planned for September 15-17 at Sands Expo in Las Vegas. The globally fueled summit of exhibitions, education and collaboration for all branches of the vast events and meetings industry would have celebrated a landmark tenth anniversary this year, as well as its last year at the Sands venue.

Three Reasons for Cancellation

IMEX leadership explained in a press release that the cancellation became necessary due to three primary issues in preparation and planning.

First, with countries across the globe in vastly different modes of maintenance, from total shutdowns to phased re-openings, IMEX leadership concluded that it could not guarantee return on investment for its exhibitors, which was said to be the foremost priority.

Second was the issue of timing. IMEX said it couldn’t expect the necessary commitments for investment required now—from the industry supply chain to exhibitors—to produce the show in the fall.

Lastly, a third of attendees at the huge gathering are typically from outside the United States. With no way to accurately forecast travel restrictions or the safety of international travel, it could prove impossible for many of the buyers, exhibitors and key industry professionals to commit to participating. Overall attendance would also be unpredictable and perhaps drastically reduced.

“It’s therefore important that we make this decision at a time when we’re still able to reduce the risk and exposure for our exhibitors, partners and suppliers,” said Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group.

Looking Back at IMEX 2019 for Inspiration

IMEX America 2019, which garnered record-breaking attendance, had the theme of imagination in event planning—a focus that rings poignantly in light of the current industry situation.

At last year’s event, Bauer stressed the importance of expanding the can’t-miss, physical draw of live events. “Attendees increasingly look for and remember interesting experiential elements—they make it imperative to be on site at an event, rather than just sitting in front of a computer or watching it virtually from their desks.”

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Nonetheless, with the meetings industry almost entirely relegated to sitting in front of glowing rectangles for the time being, IMEX also said it would forge ahead with a virtual presence that heeds Bauer’s call for imagination. “We’ll continue to work on [our] virtual platform [PlanetIMEX], and the industry can expect to see innovations and plenty of fresh activity online during September and beyond,” Bauer said.

And Looking Forward

The theme for 2020—and still, potentially, for 2021—was to be focused on nature. “We’ll be exploring what nature can do for us and what we can do for nature, and we’ll be running this theme over two years to give it the traction it deserves,” said Ray Bloom, chairman of IMEX Group, at last year’s event.

Bloom and Bauer conveyed their confidence in the resilience of the industry, their thanks for the support and understanding of friends and partners, and their passion to ready for IMEX Frankfurt and IMEX America 2021—where, they affirmed, they eagerly await meeting face-to-face again.