Travel Industry Gathers Together for IPW 2022

ORLANDO – The travel industry’s comeback continues to improve.

This much is clear as nearly 5,000 people from 60 countries gathered for IPW 2022 in Orlando, Florida. The energy and excitement here was high as it’s the first time back in the U.S. for many of those attending. There were 77,000 scheduled business appointments over the three-day event.

IPW is vital to the United States travel and tourism industry and brings nearly $5 billion in future travel to the United States, noted Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association President & CEO.

“IPW, for those people that don’t know, is the event where we bring the largest buyers of travel from all over the world to meet with the American sellers of travel – hotels, attractions, airlines – we had to cancel it in 2020 and this is the first [full] one back,” Dow told TravelPulse. “This is our 53rd IPW, but it’s the eighth time it’s been here [in Orlando], but the enthusiasm is phenomenal. We’re almost back to where we were in 2019. These people are here booking travel for 2023-2024 for like a year and a half, two years from now for their brochures that they put together around the world and then sell people come to America.”

Dow is set to step down from his role at the U.S. Travel Association this summer, ending his 17-year run leading the way and advocating on behalf of United States tourism. He received praise throughout the event this week from his peers in the industry, thanking him for all his hard work, noting that U.S. travel and tourism would not be where it is today if not for Dow.

While thousands of travel industry professionals gathered to network with fellow peers, attended learning sessions and made new connections, the pandemic kept it from being a record-setting attendance. This event has previously had over 6,000 attendees. Key markets from Asia are missing this year due to the pandemic.

The U.S travel and tourism industry is on a solid rebound from the pandemic; however, it is still hindered by the pre-departure testing rule. Had that not been in place, it’s believed many more industry buyers and sellers from around the world would have been here.

Dow told the media too that U.S. Travel Association will get aggressive in its pursuit to get the inbound testing rule removed. Many in the travel industry want it lifted, and Dow and his team have stayed on top of sending their message to the White House.

“Frankly, in the travel business, we’re really nice…but on this, we’re turning up the heat,” Dow told the media during his IPW press conference. “We will be more aggressive because it is causing so many people not to have jobs, so many to not come to America, and there’s no logic here. So, you’ll see us get more aggressive. We’ve been nice, but now it’s time to get this thing turned.”

New National Tourism Strategy and Forecast

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Brand USA President & CEO Chris Thompson was joined by Grant Harris, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Analysis, to unveil the new National Travel and Tourism Strategy for the United States.

“Travel tourism strategy has four pillars,” Harris said. “First, promote the United States as a travel destination; second, facilitate travel to and within the United States; third, ensure diverse, inclusive and accessible travel experiences; and fourth, foster resilient and sustainable tourism.”

The Department of Commerce and Brand USA are working together on the project to help increase inbound visitation to the United States.

Additionally, the U.S. Travel Association released an updated international travel forecast, which projects 65 million international arrivals in 2023 (82% of pre-pandemic levels). The forecast projects that international arrivals and spending will fully recover to 2019 levels by 2025, the U.S. Travel Association said.

Dow believes things will improve sooner than what the projections from economists are predicting.

“Many of the economists are saying that travel and tourism will not be back till 2024-2025. I’m not buying that for several reasons. One, I’m seeing the pent-up demand of people for leisure. Leisure travel in America has actually exceeded 2019 right now so that is back totally. Business travel is coming back as is meetings and conventions. About 60% of people that were meeting before are showing up. The big opportunity is international. Once we get rid of the day before requirement to be tested for COVID before you get on a flight coming to the United States – other countries aren’t doing it, the UK isn’t, the EU isn’t, Canada is not – once we change that, people are going to want to come here and droves because they’re afraid of a false positive and losing their airline ticket, losing their Disney tickets, losing their hotel room, so they’re holding back. 54% are saying until you change that we’re going to stay home.”

The United States could gain an additional 5.4 million visitors and $9 billion in spending by the end of 2022 if the pre-departure testing requirement were removed, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

The Travel Industry Comeback Story Kicks Off at IPW 2022

Travel professionals network on the trade show floor at IPW 2022 (photo by Eric Bowman)

Florida in the Spotlight and Thriving

Florida has no doubt been the most popular state for travel and tourism since the lockdowns ended. This is largely in part to the state having the highest domestic visitation it’s ever seen, said Dana Young, Visit Florida President & CEO, who noted how important it was to be hosting IPW in her state.

“Having IPW here in Orlando and in Florida is just a testament to how Florida views international tourism,” Young told TravelPulse. “It’s very, very important to our state where tourism is our number one industry, and we are thrilled to have the world back. With Florida having not ever closed during the pandemic, we feel like we’re a perfect place to hold IPW and showcase all that our state has to offer.

Young also shared that Florida is “significantly ahead of every other state in terms of our inbound market share. We just got those numbers and our market share for inbound international travel is up to 44.6%, that is massive as the highest ever was around 34% held by New York.”

For Orlando, being the host city meant a chance to highlight the plethora of experiences available in a region often referred to as the theme park capital of the world.

“IPW is an opportunity to bring the world to our own backyard and really showcase all the things there are to do and see in Orlando,” Casandra Matej, Visit Orlando President & CEO told TravelPulse. “This year it feels like pre pandemic times – the energy level, the interest in learning about the destination as well as all the new things that are happening [here].”

Making International Connections

Domestic travel numbers around the U.S. look good, sure, but to truly recover from the pandemic, United States tourism desperately needs international travelers to keep making trips to the country.

Adam Burke, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board told TravelPulse just how crucial international travelers are to his destination and that making the connections here this week will go a long way.

“Honestly, it is so good to be back and to see this level of participation,” Burke said.

“I think after the past few years being back in person, there’s nothing to replace this face to face, and for Los Angeles, International visitation is absolutely one of the most critical factors to our recovery. I think if you look back at 2019, we had 31 million overnight visitors and of those 31 million one in four was from the international marketplace. But if you take it a step further, even though they represented about 25% of the visitor volume it represented about 67% of all overnight visitor spending. It’s impossible to overstate without the full recovery of international visitation we won’t see full economic recovery in LA. Being back in person with this many participants it really shows that we’re starting our comeback story in a big way.”

Fletch Brunelle, Vice President of Marketing and Sales of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, echoed those same thoughts.

“When you think about Las Vegas and international visitors, pre-pandemic we had 5.7 million international visitors to the destination and that represented 13% of all visitation,” Brunelle told TravelPulse. “So, it’s a critical component to us to have that return to the destination.”

Matej noted how important international travel spending is to her destination.

“International market is so key and critical to Central Florida,” Matej said. “It’s one of our top markets and as we know the international traveler, they stay longer they spend more money, and they enjoy an entire region when they’re in the US, so it is absolutely key that we get that full recovery from the international market.”

The Importance of Travel Advisors

Another important message being shared here at IPW is just how crucial travel advisors are to the industry.

“This show is all about the travel trade,” Chris Thompson, Brand USA President & CEO, told TravelPulse. “This spring I will have been in this space for nearly 40 years, and I have a warm spot in my heart for the travel trade because they are always very critical to the process even for experienced travelers and certainly for new travelers. Now more than ever as we’re coming out of the pandemic, now when there’s still some uncertainty and now when people are just getting back to travel, I think the role that the travel trade can play in that process is as important as it’s ever been.”

“People are relying more on travel advisors than ever before because the pandemic showed that people wanted that security and the extra knowledge that travel advisors offer,” said Young.

“I have heard about the demise of the travel agent since I’ve been in this career, and I’ve been in this business for almost 50 years, and it’s never happened,” said Dow. “I think right now, the travel professional is going to be in more demand than ever because of the complexity of protocols of airfares and all that, so the travel agents that differentiate themselves on being experts and not just booking a single flight are going to flourish because people are all mixed up and they’re looking for a professional to help him through the process.”

The Travel Industry Comeback Story Kicks Off at IPW 2022

Marc Anderson, President & CEO of Visit San Antonio, talks to the media at IPW 2022 (photo by Eric Bowman)

Looking Ahead to IPW 2023

From May 20th through the 24th 2023, San Antonio, Texas will host IPW for the first time ever.

The U.S. Travel Association books IPW several years in advance because cities need to do a great deal of preparation and planning ahead of time. Cities bid by showcasing what they have to offer and how they would host.

San Antonio “came and bid to get it for 2023 and got it,” Dow said. “We went down to San Antonio, we saw all the exciting things, and it’s going to be a huge IPW because it’s never been there. San Antonio has a lot to show off beyond the Alamo and it’s going to be a big opportunity. The other thing about it being San Antonio is there’s going to be a lot of pre and post trips, so you can bet Travel Texas and Dallas, Fort Worth and all those people are going to be getting the people there early or later to show them what they have to offer.”

“IPW 2023 will arrive in San Antonio during an unprecedented time of change and growth for our city,” said Marc Anderson, President & CEO of Visit San Antonio. “We are a historic American destination with deep Texas roots, but exciting things are happening as we continue to evolve and look into the future. In every direction, San Antonio is bustling.”

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