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This year at IMEX America, convention bureaus and travel destinations gathered to educate and entice attendees to consider their cities when planning meetings. The “city of cities,” as the show floor is often called, provided a venue for far away places to really show what they have to offer the meetings industry.

Among the destinations represented were several countries from Europe. England, for example, had a lot of good news to share with attendees, including the preparation plans for the London Olympics in 2012.

England is a country with an unrivalled reputation for innovation and creativity, at the cutting edge of new developments in science, engineering, fashion and design,” said Simon Gidman, head of business visits and events at VisitEngland. “With a number of major sporting and business events taking place in England over the coming years, including the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we are leading the way in hosting events of all types.”

Liverpool, England, has been expanding its meeting facilities, having recently started construction on the Arena and Convention Center. This new facility will hold over 85,000 square feet of available space and is projected to be finished by September 2014.

Announcements from Denmark and Holland were also made at this year’s IMEX America. Denmark, located between Germany and Sweden, announced that the meetings industry is working toward being a leader in sustainable meetings. The Danish Sustainable Events Initiative (DSEI) project aims to ensure that Denmark remains a competitive leader in sustainable meetings development.

“The Danish Sustainable Events Initiative will include technology showcases and the implementation of the MPI Sustainability Measurement System (SEMT) on a national level,” said Jonathan Cohen, international sales manager for VisitDenmark. “We will also produce an event sustainability report following the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) framework and develop a web portal containing relevant information including videos, case studies and interviews with sustainability leaders.”

Denmark also announced that the country will host the Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the first part of 2012. This means that the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in conjunction with VisitDenmark, will organize and plan over 100 meetings for a group of over 15,000 people.

Moving over to Holland, representatives announced that Amsterdam RAI, a 900,000 square-foot meeting space, underwent some renovations during the summer. There were 57 building projects, including renovations to the Grand Café, several entrances, and an updated electric and water system.

Thailand was another country who made their presence known at IMEX America. Thailand has 10 meeting locations throughout the country and six international airports. Upon kickoff of the Thailand Convention and Exhibitors Bureau’s (TCEB) new Believe in Thailand campaign, the country is expecting to welcome over 51,000 U.S. visitors in 2011.

Thailand’s Meeting Incentive Convention & Exhibition (MICE) industry is also projected to play an increasingly important role in the country’s overall economy,” said Akapol Sorasuchart, TCEB’s president. “Today, the MICE industry represents only 9.13 percent of total tourism revenues for 2011, but this share is expected to rise to 18.35 percent by 2016, with revenues of US $4.36 billion.”

Along with the stats given at Thailand’s meeting was the announcement of the TCEB’s big for the World Expo 2020.

“TCEB is also playing a central role in coordinating Thailand’s bid to host this mega-event in Thailand’s ancient capital of Ayuthaya,” said Sorasuchart. “Our preparations are well underway, and we have already conducted a series of events to build public awareness, support and unity among Thai people from all walks of life in supporting our bid.”

Another city that is doing a lot in terms of expansion and marketing is Sydney, Australia.

“There are many exciting developments, refurbishments and renovations on the drawing board, underway or recently completed in Sydney,” said Lyn Lewis-Smith, Business Events Sydney’s (BESydney) acting CEO. “These include the announcement of a new 12-hectacre Sydney International Convention, Exhibition and Entertainment Precinct, the much discussed Barangaroo waterfront development, and the refurbishment of The Star.”

The renovations to Sydney’s tourism structure totals more than $10 billion in new projects. BESydney has already secured several events up to 2018.

BESydney also debuted the second group of findings from an ongoing research project to examine the benefits of business events. Beyond Tourism Benefits, undertaken by the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) demonstrates that most international benchmarks that evaluate the meetings business overlook valuable qualities in the industry.

“If we don’t measure the multiple, long-term benefits, such as the ability to increase professional knowledge, improve local education offerings and career opportunities, disseminate the latest technical practices and forge international networking, research and business collaborations, we are undervaluing our industry,” said Lewis-Smith. “The research highlights that business events offer much more to our destinations, economies and global community than tourism dollars alone.”

Global companies were also getting in on the action at IMEX America. Disney, for example, demonstrated that they are not only a corporation that builds massive theme parks, but that they are available to help other companies grow their business by creating unforgettable meetings.

“We really believe that what we’re doing is creating experiences for our meetings and our guests,” said George Aguel, senior vice president of the Walt Disney Company. “We like to think we do things differently.”

Disney revealed several new international developments, including the ongoing development of a new Disneyland in Shanghai, China, the opening of a new resort and spa in Hawaii, and laying the keel of a new cruise ship, Fantasy.

Aguel also pointed out that the new World of Color show, which plays nightly at the California Adventure park in Anaheim, Calif., is a great U.S.-based place for large groups. The seating area can accommodate up to 9,000 people.

“We were intrigued with how groups might enjoy it,” he said. “We can even let an organization buy it out and put their logos on it and have it projected onto the water. It’s longer than a football field and the water streams are four stories high.”

Created with flickr slideshow.
Photos by Devanny Novak.

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