IPW 2023: This Is Where It’s At

While some sectors are rebounding more slowly than others, the accepted outlook for the post-pandemic travel economy in the U.S. is that it will be back to pre-COVID levels by 2025, said an American travel executive.

But Chris Thompson, the president and CEO of Brand USA, said that his prognosis is more optimistic, predicting a full rebound for the U.S. travel industry by 2024. “The motivations for travel haven’t changed, people still want to travel, broaden minds and connect cultures,” said Thompson, who addressed attendees at the recent IPW international travel marketplace in San Antonio.

A bright setting sun shone on the Alamo Church during the giant party to mark the end of IPW 2023. IPW participants streamed into the grounds of the famous Texas landmark during the finale.

He pointed to recent statistics as confirmation, saying that 43% of surveyed individuals said they are saving money for travel budgets, and that one in two of those are planning long haul trips. The sheer breadth of diversity available from a tourism experience in America is one of the most compelling reasons to plan a trip there, said Thompson.

“There’s no other destination like the United States. What sets the USA apart is the diversity of our geography, the diversity of our experiences, the diversity of our people, and our one-of-a-kind pop culture.”

Press Today’s Ted Davis was on hand for the presentation at IPW in San Antonio.

The Discover America reception for Canadian attendees to IPW took place on the first evening of the trade mart, and some in attendance were (l. to r.) Madelyn Tabor of Universal Destinations and Experiences, Madeleine Brydon of WestJet Vacations, and Tony Goodmann of Universal Destinations and Experiences.

Icons of American literature, film and music are some of the key motivators for many foreign visitors to explore the land of the free, home of the brave, he said. A few of those cultural inspirations include On The Road by Jack Kerouac, Walk The Line by Johnny Cash and Breakfast At Tiffany’s, said the CEO.

But spreading the message of tourism diversity remains a challenge for Brand USA, and to that end the organization has launched a new consumer campaign dubbed “This Is Where It’s At.” It comprises the distribution of two 30-second spots in 10 markets around the world – one that is focused on family travel, and the other on adventure tourism. These also help counter the image of America as an expensive destination, he said.

At the Discover America reception for Canadian travel professionals, event organizer Susan Webb, president of VoX Communications (l.), met with Tamy Martelli, the North America regional director for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, in anticipation of next year’s IPW in L.A.

More entrenched economic “head winds” continue to hinder the full growth of U.S. tourism, and these include inflation and a lack of energy security, said Thompson. He also noted that visa processing wait times continued to run at unacceptable levels, including for example, India with wait times of over 400 days, Brazil at over 500 days and Mexico at 600-plus days.

But opportunities and developments that generate tourism in the United States continue to flourish, and Thompson ran through a quick list of notable highlights to make his point.

Kauilani Robinson, director of public relations for Visit Seattle, at the Media Marketplace at IPW.

This includes the running of the first-ever Formula One race in Las Vegas, to take place this coming November. “This will draw more visitors to Las Vegas than the Super Bowl,” he said. On that note, Vegas will play host to the NFL Super Bowl in Feb. 2024.

Another sports tourism highlight will be the hosting of the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, which will take place in 11 cities across the nation in 2026. The U.S. will share match hosting duties with cities in Canada and Mexico.

Caroline Rohaly represented Rocky Mountaineer during the Media Marketplace at IPW.

Not a sports junkie?

No problem, there are plenty of other options, such as visiting America’s most recent national park, New River Gorge in West Virginia. Or how about booking a stay at one of the new auto camps that offer Airstream trailers in any of three national parks in Utah? And then there is the Instagram-ready photo op awaiting visitors at the famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, which turns 100 this year.

Also, worth considering — a road trip on legendary Route 66, which celebrates its first century in 2026. And don’t forget that the Summer Olympic Games are coming to Los Angeles in 2028.

Thompson also noted that 154,000 hotel rooms across the country are currently under construction and that 240,000 more are in the planning stage.

More big numbers are needed to sufficiently describe the IPW 2023, which took place during three hard-working days at the Henry B. González Convention Center in San Antonio.

Baxter Media president David McClung met with Joanne Scalamogna of Access Marketing, who is the Canadian rep for the Louisiana Office of Tourism (l.), and Maria Manzella, the tourism sales & marketing director for the Louisiana Office of Tourism, during the All Y’All country rock concert by Travel South USA, held at the Aztec Theatre in San Antonio.

Over 5,000 registered tourism professionals took part, including more than 1,400 international tourism product buyers from 60-plus countries. They met US tourism product reps in a tightly scripted schedule of over 90,000 timed business appointments.

The last day of IPW 2023 featured a press conference and presentation by reps of Los Angeles Tourism, who officially marked the start of “The Road to IPW 2024.” L.A. has been named as the host city of next year’s IPW, which will take place May 3 to 7.

Go to www.IPW.com for more.


Chris Thompson, the president/CEO of Brand USA, speaks to media attending IPW 2023