Championing the best in class
Professionals from across the global business events industry were honoured at the IMEX Frankfurt Gala Dinner Awards at the Alte Oper Frankfurt last night.
As part of IMEX Frankfurt taking place this week, the awards brought together meeting and event professionals in a glittering gathering to celebrate the achievements, innovation and passion of individuals within the industry.
Destinations International President and CEO Don Welsh was warmly welcomed on stage to present the Global Ambassador Award to Yrjötapio Kivisaari, CEO of Visit Oulu. Yrjötapio’s commitment to developing a global community and providing leadership on sustainability has led to the city being crowned European Capital of Culture for 2026.
The roll of honour continued with the IAEE International Excellence Award, presented by IAEE’s Director of Global Business Development Karen Gonzales to the Macao Trade & Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM). IPIM works directly with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade as IAEE's Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM) Learning Program partner in China and, thanks to the success of the programme, Macao is one of the CEM Learning Program’s top performing regions.
IAPCO’s Driving Excellence – Innovation Award celebrates those at the forefront of innovation and Audrey Alloul, chief digital officer of Kenes, was a fitting winner. Audrey developed Unlok, an AI-powered video library of content to enable knowledge exchange. IAPCO President Sarah Markey-Hamm presented the award.
Isabel Bardinet, CEO of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), added the ICCA Global Influencer Award to her impressive roll call of awards. ICCA President Marta Gomes presented the award, which celebrates an outstanding contribution to the association meetings industry. Isabel’s wide-ranging 35-year career has seen her move from organising governmental congresses in Paris to being named as one of the ‘25 most influential people in the meetings industry.’ She’s held many senior positions including director at Palais des Congrès, CEO of the European Society of Cardiology and president of the AC Forum.
JMIC President James Rees presided over the JMIC Unity Award, given to Pier Paolo Mariotti, certified meeting manager at Eurac Research. Pier Paolo has been involved in the meetings industry for almost 40 years and has made a significant contribution to its growth and development. Among others, Pier Paolo played a crucial role in the CityDNA Summer School for 15 years, educating and upskilling close to 1,000 newcomers in Europe and South Africa.
Next, the awards looked ahead to the event professionals of the future: Kewalin Suraphanpirosh from Thammasat University in Thailand won the MPI Foundation Student Scholarship Award, which celebrates and supports the next generation of meeting planners as part of the IMEX-MPI-MCI Future Leaders Forum International University Challenge. It was fitting that MPI President and CEO Paul Van Deventer presented the award, with MPI leading the charge in supporting young talent.
One of our industry’s most valued skills is the ability to motivate, and it was the duty of SITE CEO Annette Gregg to hand over the Jane E. Schuldt SITE Master Motivator Award to Michael Freedman, vice president, Meetings & Events at Amstar DMC. During Michael’s almost 15 years with the company, Amstar DMC has grown to become a go-to solution across the many destinations it serves, picking up two prestigious SITE Crystal Awards at SITE’s recent global conference in New York City.
The IMEX EIC Innovation in Sustainability Award shines the light on sustainability success achieved through a deliberate focus on innovation and creative thinking. Destination Canada won the hotly contested award, presented by EIC’s CEO Amy Calvert to Virginie De Visscher, senior director of Business Events at Destination Canada, for its Canadian Business Events Sustainability Plan. This first of its kind national programme embodies SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals) and is paving the way toward economic, social and environmental sustainability for tourism and business events.
The Paul Flackett IMEX Academy Awards, named in tribute to the former IMEX managing director, were a fitting climax to the dinner. Four outstanding individuals were recognised for their long-term commitment to the industry and for pushing boundaries around innovation.
The 2023 roll call is:
- Ulrike Von Arnold, deputy director, Vienna Convention Bureau
- David Kliman, founder and president, The Kliman Group
- Mary Casey, enterprise vice president, Sales and Marketing, Maritz Global Events
- Tatsuo Arai, managing director corporate office, MCI Japan - Japan Convention Services
“The amazing roster of Academy Award winners shows the sheer breadth of talent, innovation and professionalism that our industry is renowned for,” said Carina Bauer, IMEX Group CEO. “A huge congratulations to everyone championed at last night’s Gala Dinner and what a way to launch into the fourth and final day of IMEX Frankfurt.”
Gala dinner sponsors are Song Division (live music) and Cvent (event registration software provider).