Exhibitors, Planners Optimistic at HSMAI’s Affordable Meetings® Mid-America

  • 04.20.09
Feedback at the Ninth Annual Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International’s (HSMAI) Affordable Meetings® Mid-America Exhibition and Conference at Chicago’s Navy Pier April 1-2 was upbeat despite the current economic climate.

“We heard from both exhibitors and meeting planners that there was a lot of quality business conducted on the show floor,” said Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHA, president and CEO of HSMAI. “It’s no secret that the travel community has been hit particularly hard during the current economic downturn. But we had a very positive show, and our attendees are hopeful that a turnaround is coming soon.”

Planners representing corporate, association and independent sectors visited 250 exhibitors representing hotels, resorts, CVBs, convention centers, airlines, conference centers, transportation companies, trade publications, DMC companies, unique meeting sites, software providers, entertainment companies, event rental companies, audio visual companies and other suppliers who service the industry.

“This year we scanned more people in one day than we did in two days last year,” said Jill Brown of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater. “We have qualified leads and we reconnected with some old clients as well.”

“Attendees have been much more serious in this economy,” said Kevin Baker with the Westin Resort on Hilton Head Island. “People aren’t just walking around looking for free pens; they want to come in and get information and do business.”

The estimated 800 meeting planners that attended were still looking for reliable and affordable partners to help them produce high-quality events while working with smaller budgets. Many were searching for partners that could help them be more efficient in their own operations while seeking venues that offered value to their clients and delivered on customer service.

Attendees also benefited from the 25 educational sessions, many of which focused on budgeting issues, such as, “Champagne on a Beer Budget: Food and Beverage Cost Cutting Techniques” or “Negotiating in Turbulent Times.”

In addition, all attendees were treated to a surprise appearance by Chicago Barack Obama impersonator Reggie Brown, who walked into Festival Hall to the tune of “Hail to the Chief” in the last few minutes of the networking luncheon Wednesday and then strolled the show floor meeting and greeting exhibitors.

As in years past, HSMAI also honored exhibitors with Affordable Meetings’ Booth Awards:

Best Booth Overall (for the outstanding creation of an effective, attractive environment that communicates their message) included:

  • Peoria Area CVB – Best Single Booth
  • Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater – Best Multiple Booth

Best On-site Booth Promotion/Marketing (for original and effective promotional and marketing materials) included:

  • Arlington Park Racecourse – Best Single Booth
  • Hilton Head Island Visitor and Convention Bureau – Best Multiple Booth

Other HSMAI Affordable Meetings for 2009 include HSMAI’s Affordable Meetings West, scheduled for June 10-11 at San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, Calif., and HSMAI’s Affordable Meetings National and Event Technology Expo, set for Sept. 9-10 at Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

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