Editor’s Note: This is part of a monthly series on the planning process for producing IMEX America, the 10th anniversary of the landmark industry gathering scheduled for Nov. 9-11 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

Six weeks out from the return of IMEX America to Las Vegas, the agenda is firming up and, thanks to a surprise announcement from the Biden Administration, prospects are good for international travel to the event. IMEX Group CEO Carina Bauer updated us on developments over the last month and what that means for attendees.

A Sudden Lifting of Travel Restrictions

Bauer was as surprised as everyone else when White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients announced on Monday that the U.S. would start allowing vaccinated travelers to enter the United States from 33 countries starting in “early November.”

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“There is no doubt the ban on international travel—particularly from the U.K., Europe and Brazil—was a significant issue,” she said. “We can still have the show without it, but we would much prefer to have it with the hundreds who are desperate to come in. It will make a big difference, not just to the size of the show, but the fact that we can bring the industry together. That will mean a lot.”

More than 3,000 hosted and attendee buyers, along with all the major destinations and hotel groups, have already registered. Bauer estimated a few hundred are from Europe. “There is a lot of pent-up demand internationally, so if borders do open in time, we think demand will be strong,” she said.

The news came just in time, as appointments go live in early October, a month before the opening.

Vaccine Verification in Place

Everyone will have to show they are fully vaccinated. Bauer announced in early September that to be admitted attendees will have to prove on entry they have had the final dose of a vaccine approved in their country of origin by Oct. 25. That means World Health Organization-approved, plus Sinovac-CoronaVac and Sputnik V vaccines.

U.S.-based attendees can use the Clear Health Pass app and show their green check mark at the entry to get their event-long bracelet. Others are encouraged to use Safe Expo and show their purple screen using a similar verification process. There will be limited on-site verification for those who bring ID and verification. Verification is also being required of salaried, front-facing staff working during the show.

Bauer explained the logic behind the decision after watching how other organizers and venues managed safety. “We talked to our exhibitors, and they made it clear they would feel more comfortable coming to the show and bringing clients if we had some kind of testing,” she said. “Our goal is to create the safest possible environment, and this seemed to be the route that worked the best for Allegiant Stadium and CES [annual trade show by Consumer Technology Association].”

Bauer plans to apply to the Nevada governor’s office for a license to be mask-optional but will decide closer to the show if she will ease that restriction based on local case numbers. She was comforted that while in Las Vegas for site inspections in September, mask-wearing was ubiquitous inside. “People were very respectful, there were signs everywhere,” she said.

She walked the venue, talked to the safety team about all the events they have been running and made small adjustments to the site map. “We really focused on the arrivals flow to make it as seamless as possible,” she said. “We want to avoid the crowds, even though usually we want to create the excitement of bringing lots of people together.” Exhibitors will enter by 9 a.m. and buyers will come in later so there is no crush.

The show floor will include lots of comfortable seating and food options, including healthy and alternative meat choices with a focus on sustainability. Plus, Mandalay Bay’s food court is right outside show floor.

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Education and a Cause

In addition to the action on the floor, the full education lineup has been released for 180 educational events over the four days, including Smart Monday powered by MPI. The highlight is Dr. Shimi Kang, an expert on the neuroscience of innovation, leadership and motivation. She will share tips for navigating 21st-century challenges.

The same day, a full roster of She Means Business sessions will focus on strategic goal setting, conscious living and focusing on purpose in career and life. Separate tracks for association and senior corporate planners will personalize education based on goals. Some sustainability classes will even be held outside.

The EventMB Event Innovation Lab will offer a master class for corporate and agency planners. And a tech area with massively enlarged spaces will highlight companies like Hopin, Swapcard, MeetingPlay, Vindow and ShowTec, plus will have a dedicated area for startups. Education showcases will help attendees see how each platform could work with their individual programs.

Behind the Scenes tours of Mandalay Bay, back of house, a solar panel tour into the desert, Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, and a Mystery Tour (experiences you haven’t seen before that will be revealed after you board the bus) will let attendees customize their Las Vegas trip.

It wouldn’t be IMEX without traditional after-hours fundraisers for some of the biggest foundations in the industry. SITE Nite will be at Resorts World Las Vegas nightclub Zouk. MPI Rendezvous returns to Drai’s Beachclub Las Vegas, and Events Industry Council will present its EIC Hall of Leaders awards.