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Hosted Buyers42 / ConferenCe & Meetings World / issUe 65Return on hosted buyers?over 3,600 hosted bUyers noW attend eUrope's leading Meeting indUstry trade shoWs, eibtM and iMeX, and other indUstry shoWs are folloWing sUit. CMW eXaMines hoW the idea evolved and hoW it Works for all ConCernedhere is a special meetings industry breed of VIP that struts its stuff around the aisles and corridors of our leading trade shows. Feted by suppliers and exhibitors, paid for by organisers, these kings and queens of the meetings industry confex have access all areas and their numbers often provide the barometer for a show's success.They are the famous hosted buyers. But where did it all start? IMEX trade show Chairman Ray Bloom is credited with being the architect of the hosted buyer programme. While running EIBTM in 1988 in Geneva Bloom says he realised that seven months out from the show the level of buyers being attracted was a concern. So an offer was made through newspapers and the trade press to pay for top buyers to come to the show. The only hotel group involved then was Sheraton."We brought in 650 that first year and 1,000 in the second, growing the figure thereafter," says Bloom."Now," he says, "the hotel sector supplies over half the hosted buyer numbers, although trade associations, trade press and agencies are also important."Words PAUL COLSTON below: Hosted buyers at bay, EIBTM 2010T

Hosted BuyersISSUE 65 / ConfErEnCE & MEEtIngS World / 43The hosted buyer is a future client, not a commodity paul kennedy, mbe, kennedy consultingfrom the top: Hosted buyer meisters Ray Bloom, Paul Kennedy and Jonny SullensToday the hosted buyer is typically an agency, association or corporate buyer of accommodation, meetings space and events. Hosted buyer programmes, whether they are part of a trade show programme, a destination fam trip or a hosted site inspection, are one of the most effective elements of any business development strategy for the meetings industry. That is certainly the view of Paul Kennedy, MBE, who oversaw the Reed Travel Exhibitions hosted buyer programmes for many years. "Hosted programmes are the cornerstone of the most successful trade shows such as IMEX and the Reed 'IBTM' portfolio with EIBTM as its cornerstone," says Kennedy, who advises the Slovenian Tourism Board on the most appropriate strategy for its young MICE industry show (Conventa) which targets south-east Europe. "Small shows such as Conventa (250 international buyers) are evolving their more modest programmes to include full catering and fam trips for all who request them AND pass specific qualifying criteria," says Kennedy, who stresses the cost of these programmes can be high. "But," he says, "the potential return on investment (ROI) is much, much higher."Generally they include travel, four- or five-star accommodation, ground transfers, some business networking sessions (in some cases these are mandatory) or receptions and parties. "In exchange for this degree of hosting, which for some long haul events includes Business Class travel, buyers generally have to undertake a minimum number of pre-scheduled appointments. The issue of mandating the appointments is one of the more controversial aspects of some schemes but the harsh reality is that without some form of penalty, history shows that compliance to pre-scheduled appointments is relatively low, with as many as 33 per cent no-shows." The planner perspective can be quite different."Some senior planners believe they should be hosted without any pre-requisites, while the majority are content to do a reasonable number of appointments while having sufficient time to explore the show," says Kennedy."Some events require seven or eight 15-minute appointments per day chosen by the buyer. The reality is that, even allowing for walking between appointments, this only commits buyers to three hours of the day. I believe this is a fair balance, exchanging professional time for the not insignificant cost of hosting."Bloom says eight meetings each for buyers is a a minimum requirement at IMEX, which has a system of both group appointments and 50,000 individual, buyer-driven appointments. "It is a two-way dialogue," Bloom stresses, and notes there are also pre-show marketing opportunities for the exhibitors to reach the buyers. SMS marketing and buyer webinars are other technology driven methods of matching buyers with exhibitors.Bloom emphasises that for all the checking no system is foolproof, but says that buyers who don't conform to the minimum requirements are simply not asked again.The back office systems to deal with such a body of very demanding professionals is obviously of critical importance. Gone are the days when the appointment scheduling is done manually.Kennedy advocates using professional recruiters, hotel groups, and research companies to ensure the screening process is as good as it can be. "Some form of qualifying panel or specialist company is one of the most important elements of the whole programme," he adds. "It amazes me that the traditional bag ladies/men and the well known freeloaders still