Reflecting on the biggest AIME in a decade

Thousands of business professionals converged on Melbourne in February for the 2024 Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME), with the trade show heralded as one of the biggest and best in its 31-year history.

AIME 2024 was held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, and the event welcomed people from around the world for a show that was a whopping 65 per cent bigger than in 2023.

With the business events industry bouncing back from COVID-19, the vibe on the show floor was overwhelmingly positive with a groundswell of activity and collective future focus.

This sentiment is supported by numbers, with the blockbuster AIME 2024 being the biggest instalment in a decade. More than 4000 people attended, and business traded between exhibitors and buyers during the week is estimated to be worth more than $330 million for the next 12 months.

The bustling show floor at AIME 2024. Photo: Talk2 Media.

There were more than 570 exhibitors, 595 hosted buyers and 17,000 meetings occurring on the show floor across the two days, with more than 89,500 connections being made.

The success of AIME 2024 is more remarkable given it was held at the same time Taylor Swift mania was sweeping Melbourne, with the US pop superstar performing her colossal MCG shows on the same weekend international buyers arrived in town on the eve of the event.

“Fortunately, we were locked in first [before Swift’s ‘Eras’ tour was announced],” AIME 2024 event director Silke Calder tells Spice. “When hotel prices go up from $250 to $800 a night, it has a big impact on us.

“Luckily, everybody got in early with accommodation. But my learning is to lock in hotels for next year straight away because we don’t know who could be coming.”

Spice editor Gavin Dennett with Lorelle Chittick, general manager, tourism, business and major events, Brisbane Economic Development Agency. Photo: BEDA.

Other key outcomes from post-show analysis reveals: 

  • More than 90 per cent of exhibitors were satisfied with their attendance at AIME, which puts it in the top 10 per cent of trade shows around the world for visitor satisfaction.
  • Almost one in two visitors were first-time AIME attendees.
  • More than 85 per cent of visitors report their objectives for attending AIME were met.
  • More than nine in 10 exhibitors are likely to return next year.

“The growth of AIME 2024 was phenomenal, and we are thrilled these post-show results confirm that success,” says Calder of her third AIME delivered with her team from Talk2 Media and Events, on behalf of Melbourne Convention Bureau. 

“AIME’s winning formula comes down to the unmatched lengths we go to vet our hosted buyers, together with pre-qualified appointments exhibitors receive through our AI-powered meeting matching platform.

“AIME wouldn’t be the success it is without the great support of the global business events industry and, of course, our incredible sponsors who help us deliver an outstanding event.

“So many of our exhibitors have reserved their space again for next year so they don’t miss out on the connection-building that AIME’s unique Australian flavour facilitates. We cannot wait to welcome everyone back for 2025.”

Ideas Academy presented by Spice. Photo: Talk2 Media.

AIME’s appeal to international exhibitors is on the rise, with 2024 seeing 63 per cent growth in this area from 2023. Exhibitors came from countries including the US, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, UK, Ireland, India and Canada. In total, 33 countries were represented.

“International buyers took the longest to trust the market here again [after COVID-19] and flights are still expensive, but our international reach is very pleasing,” says Calder.

“I would love more buyers from China, for example, so hopefully that is something we can increase once flight prices are more stable.

“When I look back three years, the event was so different. I really feel we are back, people are spending more money on their stands and making an effort, and buyers are impressed.

“But our goal is not to double and triple every year. It is all about the quality of the show. We have to deliver the right buyers to the right visitors, but feedback we have is that exhibitors feel they have to be here.”

On the show floor across the two days of AIME 2024, the Ideas Academy presented by Spice was a roaring success. Across 10 keynote speaker sessions and panel discussions – delivered silently via headphones from the events industry’s thought leaders – expert information and knowledge sharing was well received by attendees, with most slots at capacity.

Each session delivered high-quality, informative content with practical takeaways for attendees to implement in their businesses. Topics covered included event marketing, sustainability, food and beverage, entertainment, team building, First Nations culture and wellness.

Neon Carnival welcome event for AIME 2024 at Grazeland. Photo: Talk2 Media.

On the day prior to AIME 2024’s show floor opening, 1850 people attended AIME’s Knowledge Program at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. With a theme of “The 4 Ps of Glocalisation”, attendees enjoyed plenary sessions and educational workshops.

The day was capped by the spectacular “Neon Carnival” welcome event at foodie playground Grazeland, west of the city. The venue turned it on with vendors serving up cuisine and drinks at a fun-filled, colourful and vibrant party.

Curated by Fernando Barraza and his team at Cirkus Bizurkus, the welcome event featured performers in incredible costumes, brilliant designs and an unforgettable performance by Discovery, Melbourne’s tribute to French dance music superstars Daft Punk, to which attendees danced the night away.

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