Budgets key challenge for ibtm world, says Graeme Barnett

C&IT talks to ibtm world's director Graeme Barnett about the impact of budget challenges and the Lufthansa strike on show attendance.

Graeme Barnett
Graeme Barnett

Is the show smaller than last year?

Destinations around the world have reasons to exhibit or not exhibit. This year for example, we lost Abu Dhabi. The Middle East is going through a challenging time at the moment so Abu Dhabi was not able to exhibit. Having said that, the Italian National Convention Bureau has increased its stand size from 75sqm last year to 350sqm this year. Most trade shows have ups and downs especially this year, with budget challenges meaning that some destinations have pulled back. It’s certainly not on a global basis. This year it’s probably a couple of hundred metres smaller, but there’s lots of fun things happening and some really good examples of customer service. Hosted buyer numbers are pretty much the same. We did have an issue with the Lufthansa strike, but we worked with Lufthansa to rebook the flights and all but five buyers who decided they couldn’t attend were still able to come.

What sort of feedback have you received about this year’s show?

Overwhelmingly positive. This is my 46th trade show that I’ve organise in my career and in my experience 95% of feedback will be positive. You will always get a few people who haven’t had the greatest experience, even though the vast majority have. The quality of appointments has been really high and that’s what we focus on. I’m not interested in numbers, it’s much better to have quality over quantity. This year we have the Inspiration Hub, the Innovation Zone, the ACS Knowledge Theatre. The quality of the knowledge programme has been highly regarded. All in all we can leave Barcelona with a sense of satisfaction and achievement. For us the main thing is that our customers are satisfied.

There have been a few comments that this year has been slow - what’s your response to that?

In 2007 the global tourism industry was at its highest- trade shows were booming and everyone was investing. Abu Dhabi was only just emerging as a destination, Etihad Airways was only just launching. 2007 was my biggest show and there was a lot of money in the industry at that time. The 2008 global crash really dented that and it’s taking a while to build up. The incentive industry was decimated. In 2016 for the first time the incentive is back, people are planning more incentives this year than they have for many years and this is forecast to continue into 2017. We will judge the show based on our exhibitors and buyers responses.

What has the highlight of the show been for you this year?

Hosting our Meetings and Industry Summit on Monday evening at Camp Nou, the Barcelona football club. In the six years I’ve been leading this show I’ve been desperate to host an event there and this year we finally did it. We gave 220 industry leaders to go behind the scenes at the biggest football club in the world. They could go into the changing rooms, walk out on the side of the pitch and go to the museum. We also auctioned off a signed Messi shirt. Our industry is all about memorable experiences. We are very fortunate to go to places that a lot of people never get the opportunity to visit and host events in a great city like Barcelona to give people the experience of a lifetime. Plus I’m a big football fan, so that’s a personal highlight!


See more ibtm world 2016:

In pictures: ibtm world 2016- part 1

In pictures: ibtm world 2016- part 2

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