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IMEX Returns and Flourishes during 2021 Pandemic

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

IMEX America returned in 2021 after a COVID-19 (C19) spoiled absence last year. If you didn’t make it this year, here’s a little of what you missed.


IMEX required attendees to upload vaccination records prior to attending. I don’t know how or if the records were confirmed or verified. Attendees were required to download and create an account in the Clear Health app. Then, after you answered the app health questionnaire one time, you would show your “green” status and be allowed to enter the show, at which point staff put a narrow, hi-glow green cotton wristband on you.

As a covid compliance officer (CCO), I would have preferred if the app required attendees to refresh it each day of the event and for staff to put on a new wrist band, of a different color, as you entered the event each day.

The band turned out to be a point of contention for many attendees because it frayed, sprouting long strands of green cotton dangling in your food, drink, and getting stuck in your name badge, watch, or other personal belongings. After three days, it was like wearing a sticky, germ-riddled animal tail

The hotels required masks in all public areas. On the show flow, masks were optional.

Las Vegas

I’m not a Vegas fan. To me, 36 hours is all you need in the city where “what happens here stays here.” The lights, noise, labyrinth casino floors, and large crowds are just too much to consume. Staying here for three or more days can feel like punishment.

But Vegas is Vegas. It’s an adult playground and everything seemed to have returned to pre-C19 commonness. There were lots of shows, buffets, and gambling. And people. Lots and lots of people.

It was also surprisingly expensive. A glass of wine was $22. Some hotels charged a $75 fee to check in to your room before 4 p.m. And if you wanted to get cash out of an ATM, the “surcharge” was nearly $10. Even on the IMEX show floor, a ham and cheese sandwich ate up more than $20. Are these ways we'll pay for Covid-19?

One other exhaustive element in Vegas: the lines. There were long lines for everything -- taxi cabs, coffee shops, bell desks, front desks, slot machines, gaming tables. The only place I didn’t see a line was the restroom. And the lines moved at a snail’s pace. At one, small Starbucks, they had four staffers behind the counter and it still took 10 minutes to get a venti coffee to go. Maybe it’s rustiness from the C19 shut down or perhaps the crowds were larger than expected. Whatever it was, of the five days I spent in Vegas, I think I stood in line for three of them.


IMEX was good. There were no lines to get in and the show floor was a buzz with activity. I don’t know how much business was conducted, but the attitude was all big smiles and friendly outlooks. It was great to see people face to face and reconnect since being down and out since March of 2020. Of the exhibitors I spoke to, all said the show was productive. As one supplier put it, it felt like normal.

I suppose in the end, that was the best thing to come out of IMEX.

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