The Challenge: Family-owned business IMEX Group organises worldwide events for the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) industry, hosting thousands of attendees to its trade shows in Europe and the US every year. Its own team needs to travel to the shows’ locations for face-to-face meetings with clients and industry suppliers. However, over the last couple of years, the logistics of getting to the shows were confronted with challenges ranging from border closures to increased flight fares.
The Solution: When global travel is the key to a business’ success, working with an event agency that shares its values and delivers a high-touch service is the key to meeting those challenges head on.
IMEX Frankfurt, which takes place every May, is Europe’s largest MICE trade show. Launched in 2003, this year’s show welcomed more than 11,000 total participants, including 3,000 hosted buyers from 84 countries. Its sister show, IMEX America, launched in 2011 and runs every October in Las Vegas.
Events of this scale require a full team presence. And, as its team had grown from 15 to more than 80 since the show’s inception, IMEX Group required an agency that understood the different dynamics and requirements for each trade show.
TACKLING CHALLENGES TOGETHER
“We began working with Reed & Mackay for our business travel in 2020 and, in November 2021, was introduced to the Groups team in Reed & Mackay Events,” IMEX Group Travel Manager and PA to the Chairman Sarah Shepherd says. “At that time we were due to hold IMEX America; borders were still closed because of COVID and it was really stressful to change travel arrangements. Having Reed & Mackay Events on board, with its knowledge and understanding of what we could and couldn’t do, was a game changer.”
This was IMEX Group’s first group booking coming out of the pandemic and it was critical to the business that at least 20 of its staff were in Las Vegas to execute the build-up for the show. “This is where IMEX Group and Reed & Mackay Events pivoted our plans; working together on this really elevated our relationship,” Shepherd adds.
The IMEX Group team stayed in Vancouver for two weeks prior to the show. When borders opened shortly before the show’s start date, Reed & Mackay Events was able to get its staff to Las Vegas in time.
STRONG SUPPLIER RELATIONSHIPS
Although global travel costs have recently been higher than they were pre-pandemic, it remained important to IMEX Group to find the best value for the business. This is where Reed & Mackay’s strong relationships with suppliers has played a vital role.
For IMEX America 2022, the team needed group blocks booked for the trade show’s staff, on flights over the five days leading up to the event. A rapid return to travel post pandemic and the knock-on effect of cancelled or delayed flights, married with airlines experiencing labour and resource shortages, had pushed up airline fares. “It was a challenge to find the right flights for the team within a budget,” Shepherd admits. “In the past we would have flown premium but we made the choice to fly economy outward and premier return on this occasion.”
Fortunately, Reed & Mackay negotiated with the carrier to obtain added value on those tickets. When booking flights, the team negotiated two pieces of luggage per person for both legs of the journey. This was an added value that, Shepherd says, was hugely appreciated.
BUILDING SOLID FOUNDATIONS
Understanding and empathising with how a client works – and vice versa – has underpinned the continuing successful partnership with IMEX Group. Reed & Mackay Events Travel Manager Emma Kennedy shines the spotlight on how both client and agency worked together in the run up to this year’s IMEX Frankfurt.
“We had briefing calls with IMEX Group around seven months before the event, which gave us ample time to understand what was required and time do our research,” Kennedy explains. “Sarah Shepherd gives us honest timeframes, which is really important for our busy department.
“We had to get around 70 staff members to Frankfurt from London and this is where our industry and supplier knowledge was integral. We know the flexibility we have with each airline; if we want to negotiate a better fare, that takes time with the airline, and Sarah understands we might get back with those new fares in two to three days rather than the minute they’re requested.”
Sustainable travel was also at the heart of getting the team to IMEX Frankfurt. “Sustainability is important for us as a business, so a group of our staff travelled to Frankfurt by train, which Reed & Mackay Events organised. Flexibility in travel arrangements is also crucial; our staff have the chance to extend their trip if they wish to, so a few stayed on and visited Berlin, travelling back from there instead of Frankfurt,” Shepherd adds.
DELIVERING EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE
Going above and beyond is an ethos that runs through Reed & Mackay – and it was evident at this year’s IMEX Frankfurt. Shepherd explains further. “One of the IMEX team had a terrible migraine and wanted to leave early to get back to the UK. The challenge was he was already checked in to his original flight and I couldn’t get through to the airline. I asked Reed & Mackay Event Travel Manager Lex Little to help – and she had everything sorted within 10 minutes. I was happy, my colleague was happy; that’s the service you want from your agency.”
This example of exceptional service complements the open and honest relationship IMEX Group has built with Reed & Mackay Events over the last two years. “When I work with Reed & Mackay Events, they become part of my team,” Shepherd says. “They ensure my team is happy, which makes my job easier. I feel like I have them by my side and that allows me to do my job as a travel manager.”
Reed & Mackay Head of Event Travel Scott Blondel agrees that building an authentic partnership with the client is central to delivering their objectives.
“We’ve witnessed IMEX’s success over the years and recognise the impact it has on the MICE industry. It gives us a unique opportunity to be part of growing the industry we work in and it’s a privilege to work with IMEX Group,” he says. “As with any group booking, we don’t treat anyone like a number. Everyone has individual travel requirements; we know it’s not one size fits all and IMEX requires a bespoke service. That’s why we ensure we offer added value. We do whatever we can to make all journeys as seamless as possible for clients.”
Every IMEX show is different from the last and the logistics are also affected by the evolving global travel landscape. “However, working with Reed & Mackay Events, we know we can rely on plans to pivot if needed,” Shepherd adds. “Getting the organisers to IMEX is crucial and needs to be as seamless as the trips are for our hosted buyers and exhibitors. I believe Reed & Mackay has the same core values as IMEX Group; collaboration is at the heart of the business, as is the resilience to grow the brand. And that makes our partnership work.”