Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Jul 08, 2019

A call to action

Hard-working IPW helps fuel U.S. tourism recovery


(Photo above: IPW delegates took their first tentative rides on surf boards during a Day One excursion to Huntington Beach.)

America continues to struggle with slow-downs in tourism, but the IPW conference and travel trade market is doing its bit to reverse the trend.

During the most recent IPW in Anaheim CA, the U.S. Travel Association reported that IPW will generate US$5.5 billion in direct travel spending in the United States over the next three years. That was revised upward from the US$4.7 billion figure that the association has reported over the past few years.

Natasha Bedingfield performed on an outdoor stage for IPW delegates early in the IPW conference schedule.

But this news was set against a more sobering back drop, which defines U.S. tourism as lagging on the world stage.

“When we met last year, I told you that the U.S. is losing international travel market share. Unfortunately, that is still the case,” said U.S. Travel Association president Roger Dow, speaking to a packed room at the Anaheim Convention Centre.

Dow described how in late May, the U.S. Department of Commerce published figures showing that international travel to the U.S. grew 3.5% last year.

“That might sound pretty good – but not when you consider that, globally, long-haul travel grew by 7%. What that means is that the U.S. is still falling behind in the competition to attract international visitors,” he said.

Dow also shared the fact that America’s share of the global travel market dropped from 13.7% in 2015 to just 11.7% in 2018.

Brand USA On The Job

That’s where Brand USA – the tourism promotions organization for America – comes into the picture. It has just released a new return-on-investment study that demonstrates the high value of Brand USA in promoting the United States to the world.

Canadian product buyers and media gathered on the pool deck of the Anaheim Hilton on the evening of the first day of IPW 2019 in Anaheim for a special Canada reception to meet some U.S. suppliers. Amongst those attending were (l-r) Mark Sniderman, mgr. tourism and global partnerships for Air Canada; Tamy Martelli, U.S. and Canada regional director for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Bureau; and David McClung, president of Baxter Media.

For example, Brand USA’s 2018 marketing initiatives helped to welcome 1.13 million incremental visitors to the USA. Those visitors spent a record US$4.1 billion, generated a record US$8.9 billion for the U.S. economy, and supported more than 52,000 incremental U.S. jobs, according to a study by Oxford Economics.

Some of those attending the Canada suppliers reception at IPW were (l-r) Diane Zeppieri of the Avis Budget Group, Corey Marshall of Travel Oregon, Bronwen Ray of WestJet Vacations, and Dave Cecco of WestJet Vacations.

“The 2018 ROI study confirms the effectiveness of the creative and inspirational programs and campaigns Brand USA creates to increase international visitation,” said Christopher Thompson, president and CEO of Brand USA, who was a leading speaker at the giant IPW travel trade show in early June.

Bob Harris, the EVP of sales for the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce (l) and Kimberly Hartley, the Canadian account manager for the Myrtle Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, joined Stephen Fine of the Snowbird Advisor on the patio of the Anaheim Hilton during the Canada reception.

American music and the American wilderness continue to be key pillars of promotion for the land of Stars and Stripes, as confirmed during the Anaheim event.

Attendees learned that promotional campaigns based on these compelling qualities would continue under the direction of Brand USA. It confirmed that American music and the famous wilderness regions of America are effective travel motivators for tourists, delivering robust digital response numbers and ultimately more visitations.

In aid of this outlook, IPW organizers delivered a strong menu of live performance throughout the four-day event, including shows by California-based pop singer Natasha Bedingfield, chart-topping pop artist Jason Derulo and even the Beach Boys (with two original members), who entertained a lunch time crowd with their California surfer hits. Some delegates also attended a late night beach party, during which rebel celebrity Snoop Dog did deejay duty.

Last year was a similar story, when IPW host Denver presented music acts like the B52s, Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 and Colorado rockers OneRepublic. These shows were hits with delegates and reminders that American pop and rock music can be powerful tools for tourism.

Also last year, Brand USA unveiled “Hear the Music, Experience the USA,” an integrated marketing campaign that uses American music to promote international travel to the U.S.

That spawned the well-received large-format film, “America’s Musical Journey,” which explores America’s history through its distinctive music. The film debuted in 2018, and continues to be screened both domestically and in theatres around the world, including Austria, Australia, Canada, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, and more.

Exploring America’s Wilderness

The newest film project by Brand USA is now in the works for release early in 2020, and will capture a cross-country journey by trailblazers John Herrington, the first Native American astronaut, and Alaskan pilot Ariel Tweto. The story of their adventures, from scenic byways to little-known trails, has a working title of “Into America’s Wild,” and will premiere in Washington, D.C. in February 2020. It will be presented in partnership with Expedia Group.

Brand USA has prioritized this nature-based aspect of US tourism, and has lent a hand in marketing other nature-based projects. Making its debut at IPW this year was the new coast-to-coast Great American Rail Trail. It connects 125 rail-trails, using old railway corridors, plus greenways and multi-use pathways to connect Washington, D.C. with Washington state across nearly 6,400 km.

California’s abundant natural beauty was front and centre, as part of some pre- and post-conference fam trips that were offered to delegates.

These included a road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway to experience a surfer’s paradise, amazing wineries, coastal beach towns and ranches; a trip to California’s High Sierra region to explore lesser-known spectacular scenery, national parks and outdoor adventures; and a journey to California’s North Coast to hike through redwood forests, go kayaking, and taste local wines and brews, to name a few of the available trips.

And, if delegates were unable to schedule a fam, they could have experienced the natural beauty of California’s Pacific coast, with its famous surfing beaches, just 35 km west of Anaheim.

Some IPW delegates opted for a surfing excursion, as part of their first day (Sunday) at the conference, thus giving themselves a rare chance to experience an iconic California activity on the gentle waves of Huntington Beach. Cowabunga!

Getting Down To Work

Tanned and (hopefully) refreshed, IPW 2019 delegates thus started three hard working days at the Anaheim Convention Centre. There were about 6,200 of them in total, including 1,300 buyers from 70 countries who descended on Anaheim to meet tourism suppliers from across America.

The majority of attendees were the tourism product sellers/suppliers who came from more than 1,000 U.S. travel organizations across the country.

Between them, they took part in 110,000 20-minute appointments, which represented about US$4 billion worth of travel to America.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that IPW is the most beneficial trade show anywhere in the world,” said Jerry Nadal, the senior VP of Cirque du Soleil.

“Over three days, we will have over 200 appointments with our partners from around the globe. There is nothing that beats face-to-face communications,” said Ernest Wooden Jr., president of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.

“What happens on the trade show floor here at IPW effects the way that future travellers come to the United States, and what destinations they are going to visit,” said Malcolm Smith, the general manager of IPW.

Star Wars Exclusive

A trip to Anaheim wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the magic kingdom of Disney, and Disneyland had a special treat in store for IPW delegates.

The famous theme park had just opened its new attraction “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” and it set aside one night for attendees to take in the attraction on their own. “Galaxy’s Edge” had already made history as the largest single land expansion ever at a Disneyland Resort. Delegates got the opportunity to explore a Star Wars space outpost staffed with rogue traders and exotic creatures, then take the controls of the venerable Millennium Falcon in an interactive smuggler’s mission.

All of which only confirms that Anaheim did a stellar job of hosting the 2019 edition of IPW. One can’t help but wonder how next year’s city host will be able to meet or exceed these lofty standards.

But then again…. next year’s host city is Las Vegas. The entertainment capital of the world takes the helm for IPW from May 30 to June 3, 2020, and will no doubt have plenty in store for delegates.

Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association, was a keynote presenter at IPW 2019 in Anaheim early in June.

Colin Skerritt, the new Brand USA regional director for Canada, was on hand to meet delegates at IPW 2019.

Canadians at IPW

The Canadian delegates contacted by Canadian Travel Press have logged an impressive record of attendance at IPWs over the years, and know how effective the event is for generating more U.S. Tourism.

Elvi Cal, TravelBrands

For instance, Elvi Cal, the VP of product development at Travel Brands, said IPW was super productive and definitely a priority for his company. “It’s the premier U.S. destination buying show, and so to have all important vendors under one roof makes it easy and a definite must for my yearly business travel calendar,” said Cal, who has attended 26 IPWs to date.

Cal acknowledged that the allotted meeting times are a bit short in some cases, and that he definitely could have “used more time for other suppliers that we have a more in-depth partnership with.” Meetings with Sonoma, Washington, D.C., Texas, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico all showed promise, he said.

Visitor numbers to the U.S. may be down overall, but demand for American holidays is on the increase for some Canadian tour operators.

“Business to the U.S. for us is up, as we’ve expanded into cities and states that traditionally we’ve never ventured into. We’ve added a marketing push to Nevada, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Myrtle Beach, and we’ve done expansive campaigns with Visit Florida and Visit California, along with a continued presence into Hawaii, Orlando, Las Vegas and northern US cities.”

Susan Webb, VoX

IPW is also a priority date for Susan Webb, president of P.R. agency VoX International in Toronto, who was representing the Discover America Canada Committee at IPW.

“IPW is always a great opportunity to network with Canadian buyers and media, but also with our USA clients, Brand USA and U.S. Travel Association representatives,” said Webb, who has attended about 10 IPWs. She noted that the meetings are a good introduction to new suppliers, but that the post-IPW follow-ups “are the key to success.”

Webb appreciates the scale of IPW, noting that the 6,000-strong gathering of travel professionals from around the world has an impressive impact.

“Who else can say Disneyland closed down the park, so we could experience the new Star Wars attraction?? Priceless!”

Webb also observed that 2019 got off to a slow start for some U.S. destinations with regards to Canadian visitation, “but we are seeing an increase in Canadians travelling to the USA for the balance of 2019. It is really important that the marketing efforts by U.S. destinations and suppliers continue in Canada to keep the momentum going.”

Corey Marshall, Canuckiwi

“IPW is absolutely a priority for us, as we look to meet with key and vested Canadian travel trade partners, airlines and travel media and create a conduit between them and our destination clients Utah and Oregon,” says Corey Marshall, the director of Canuckiwi.

It is a chance to meet face to face, discuss marketing strategies, product development opportunities and pitch story ideas to the media, said Marshall, who has attended six IPW events. He also looks forward to the follow-ups that are generated from the short IPW market meetings and extended to longer discussions about itinerary development, marketing campaigns and consumer opportunities.

Visitor numbers to Utah from Canada fly in the face of negative trends, with the state welcoming a 5% increase in visitors from Canada over the last five years, said Marshall.

“Canada still remains the number one international market for both Oregon and Utah. It is a market that travels throughout the year and is not seasonal specific. This allows us to market to Canadians in the shoulder seasons as well.”

(Photo below: The Beach Boys performed for an enthusiastic lunch time crowd during IPW 2019 in Anaheim, CA recently.)