- Which is the best to describe traffic on the trade show floor? A. Subdued. B. Low energy. C. Deceptively productive. Answer: All of the above. While the aisles at the Washington DC Convention Center seemed empty, the chairs in each of the booths were consistently occupied by buyers reuniting for their annual ritual with their USA contacts. The show has attained the rarified status of ITB or WTM where it’s the most convenient venue to meet to conduct old business and new.
- How many ways can we say, regardless of what you read, see and hear, “You Are Welcome ” to the USA? To counteract the symbolic messaging coming out of the Trump Administration, states, CVBs, Brand USA and US Travel were all parading their welcome messages in different forms—overt and subliminal. There were the messages such as “We Welcome the World.” There were “dog whistle” style messages such as “We love travelers no matter where they’re from” as well as the old standby, “we are open for business.”
- IPW 2017, at times, took on the feel of a Brand USA campaign rally –and just in time. The existential threat to Brand USA rendered much of the nit-picking about internal politics and staff exits that some of their stakeholders have expressed to INBOUND in private, seem trivial by comparison. As everyone realizes, without their efforts we are defenseless to counter any of the damage messaging that our political policies may communicate to the international community. At the very minimum, the boots-on-the-ground network that they have built throughout the world is our best defense where proposals and policies that can easily be lost in translation can be clarified.
- IPW continues to become a “Reunion Show”, where buyers and sellers reunite each year and reconnect. For new buyers tell us it’s difficult to connect as sellers prioritize existing contacts over those who are unproven and new products tend to get lost in the sea of exhibit booths.
- It’s also an international Media Show. The IPW International Media Marketplace on the first day of the show continues to be tremendously productive and an IPW highlight, as public relations is the only marketing that most suppliers and DMOs can afford. Once they get back to their booths on the trade show floor, however, many complained to us that theirs meetings with consumer and trade publications revolved around pay-to-play quid pro quo advertising to editorial options. Some suppliers and DMO’s said they were being strong-armed by tour operators selling them advertising in brochures in exchange for inclusion in next year’s programs.
- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross opened his Monday luncheon keynote by telling the audience that he was glad to appear before an audience that wouldn’t be heckling him. It was a good thing the conversational decibel level was high and the lights were dimmed so he could many members of the audience cackling as he announced the “America is open for business. America is open for travel. America is open for international travelers.” At the very moment Ross was speaking, President Trump was Tweeting: “That’s right. We need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people!”
At that point was clear that most of those heading for the exits early were not leaving due to calls of nature. They were expecting at least a scintilla of candor and were sorely disappointed to find nothing from the octogenarian billionaire by tired platitudes without a hint of authenticity.