by Alex Palmer | March 27, 2012
Sendai, Japan and El Salvador have been named this year's IMEX Wild Cards. The distinction allows the emerging destinations to exhibit at IMEX Frankfurt 2012 free of charge alongside more established destinations. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Wild Card award.

For the first time this year, winners will also receive a complimentary support package on how to get the most out of the trade show experience. This includes sales and press release training, a marketing review, and coaching on prescheduled appointments, all provided by events consultancy GainingEdge. 

“Being awarded a Wild Card space this year is extra special due to the added attention brought by this being IMEX in Frankfurt’s 10th anniversary plus GainingEdge’s involvement,” said Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group, in a statement. “We are delighted to be supporting these destinations in 2012.”

The Japanese city of Sendai is eager to demonstrate its safety and rich offerings as a meetings destination after last year’s devastating earthquake. Located on the country’s east coast, Sendai’s natural resources have earned it the nickname “City of Trees.”

While Bauer described the city as “starting as if from scratch” because of the earthquake, it nonetheless offers a wide variety of accommodations for meeting groups of all sizes, including the Sendai International Center. It also boasts a number of historic temples and shrines that can accommodate groups.

While the International Fair and Convention Center of El Salvador has been a staple of the events industry for decades, the country of El Salvador itself has never exhibited at an international meetings trade show before.  

“Despite El Salvador’s long history, it has remained largely hidden as a viable destination for the meetings industry and is now well placed to emerge from the shadows,” Bauer said.

To be eligible for the award, Wild Card entrants must prove their potential as a meetings and incentive travel destination or a new convention and conference center. They must also offer sufficient infrastructure and capabilities to succeed as a global meeting or incentive travel destination.  

Previous Wild Card winners have included Armenia, Western Siberia, the Hof Cultural Center in Iceland, The Cook Islands, and Senegal.