Let’s say you produce a show in Frankfurt, Germany, and want to produce a similar show, in Las Vegas. You want them to be comparable from a sustainability perspective. Is it feasible to expect the U.S. show to meet the same level as Germany? What might you have to do to make it so? This is a tale about those two cities, how they are different and how a sustainable show is produced in each. IMEX in Frankfurt (May 21-23) and IMEX America (Oct. 15-17) are both hosted buyer-led shows and the perfect case study here.
A little history
The IMEX Group launched IMEX in Frankfurt in 2003. The trade show is designed as a hosted-buyer event, in which qualified buyers (meeting management/planners) are invited to an extensive, one-of-a-kind gathering. IMEX covers the buyer’s travel and accommodations, and the buyer commits to booking and attending a certain number of exhibitor appointments. The show also offers creative, relevant educational sessions and amazing networking opportunities. It’s all about promoting and doing business in the meeting and events industry.
In fall 2011, the IMEX Group launched IMEX America in Las Vegas. The idea was to have the U.S. show follow the sustainable practices used in Frankfurt as much as possible. The concern was whether Las Vegas could do this. The cities are very different, particularly in culture and reputation, city infrastructure, transportation options, and food-and-beverage options and processes.
Culture and reputation
Germany has a reputation of being a sustainable-minded culture. German meeting professionals generally don’t promote their sustainable attributes because these are such a part of their culture and mindset. They don’t think they’re doing anything special. Energy is more expensive in Germany, so it makes sense that Germans are more energy-efficient.
Las Vegas isn’t necessarily considered a sustainable destination. Until the past few years, it was hard to find venues with any sustainability practices in place. But the city has come a long way, particularly the property at which IMEX America is held. The diversion rate at the Sands for IMEX America improved from 68 percent in 2011 to 87 percent last year. While more and more properties operate sustainably and continue to improve, Las Vegas still wants to maintain its core reputation as a place to play with abandon.
Neither city seems interested in promoting its sustainable attributes, albeit for different reasons.
Frankfurt efficiently manages its waste stream, averaging a 82 percent to 85 percent diversion rate. Energy-efficiency practices at IMEX include maximizing the natural light on the Messe Frankfurt show floor.
Las Vegas has a much more complicated waste-stream infrastructure, with separate recycling and composting facilities and landfill waste options. In Germany, landfills were closed several years ago and efficient waste-diversion facilities are standard. In Las Vegas, venues can choose to recycle or not, compost or not, or send everything to a landfill.
Fortunately, the IMEX America venue has an extensive waste-management process and continually improves its diversion rates.
Food & beverage
The two cities handle F&B in fundamentally different ways. Messe Frankfurt offers catering, but exhibitors can bring in their own food and beverage without paying a fee. This lets exhibitors bring or ship food from their region of the world. When catering services are used, much of the F&B comes from within the 100- to 200-mile radius often defined as local in the United States.
As most of you realize, U.S. venues, like those used in Las Vegas, do not allow outside F&B without significant additional fees. Exhibitors must order from in-house catering and getting local F&B in Las Vegas’ desert location is limited and difficult, especially within the 100- to 200-mile radius. So for IMEX America’s caterers, local is defined as anything within a 400-mile radius.
Both cities have numerous direct-flight options. Both venues are a short ride from the airport. Both offer taxi services. IMEX supplies transportation for hosted buyers from the airport in both cities.
Frankfurt, however, has more public transportation. Attendees can take the train into or around the city. Not so in Las Vegas. Attendees there only have access to the monorail service or sightseeing buses.
Most Vegas attendees do stay within the Venetian/Palazzo/Sands complex, and the headquarters hotel and expo center are connected. IMEX doesn’t have to supply the number of shuttle buses it does in Frankfurt.
Someone could do the math to calculate all this and determine that one city has a carbon benefit over the other in this regard. Until then, transportation trade-offs between the two seem comparable.
So, how does the tale end? While Frankfurt and Las Vegas differ in culture, reputation, infrastructure, F&B and transportation options, they both in their own way, help IMEX produce sustainable shows.
Amy Spatrisano, CMP, will speak on sustainability issues at IMEX in Frankfurt. Note: This column comes from her perspective and experience. Any inaccuracies are unintentional and not to be considered irrefutable facts.