Until the right model fed by the latest numbers from the key metrics are developed, measuring the real-time health and activity of the USA’s inbound tour and travel industry is going to remain a dynamic process of guessing and extrapolating, relying on data and measurements that seem to be right more often than they are not.
IPW is one of those measurements. And based on what the person who oversees the event—US Travel’s senior vice president of business development and general manager of IPW, Malcom Smith—told delegates NAJ’s RTO Summit last week in New York, some source markets are down and a few are up as it seems that operators are trying to put a disappointing 2017 and (so far) 2018 behind them, scrambling to find Visit USA products and experiences that will resonate with key customer segments back home.
One key datum is that of the number of delegates overall, reflecting interest and/or demand on the part of both U.S. travel suppliers and international buyers. It’s been ranging from 6,000 to 6,400 in recent years, Smith noted, indicating that the number this year is going to be about 6,200.
Another data set involves the markets which are sending the most buyers. The Top Ten list is familiar. Based on the number of buyers they’re sending, they are as follows:
Nearly Two-Thirds of Last Year’s IPW Buyers Said They Expected to Book New Destinations: Not counting the 2017 host city of Washington, DC, 64 percent of buyers surveyed at last year’s IPW said that they expected to book into new U.S. destinations because of IPW. Here’s a tally illustrating the finding.
Survey Question: Which of the following destinations (that you had never booked to before) are you planning to book trips to as a result of your activity at IPW (percentage of buyers)?
Five to Seven percent of said they were booking to Atlantic City, Birmingham (Ala.), Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cleveland, New Orleans, Raleigh, Cincinnati, Columbus, Detroit, Richmond (Va.)
Seven to Ten percent said they were booking to Charlotte, Long Island (N.Y.), Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Myrtle Beach, Jacksonville, Jersey Shore (N.J.), Oklahoma City, Sacramento
Ten to Fifteen percent said they were booking to Charleston (S.C.), Houston, San Diego, Savannah, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Baltimore, Seattle, Miami, San Antonio, Anaheim/Orange County, Ft. Lauderdale
More than Fifteen Percent said they were booking to Austin, Denver, Philadelphia, Dallas, Phoenix, Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, Boston, Portland
What’s New this Year? Here are some notes based on Smith’s presentation:
- With the exception of United, U.S. air carriers have stepped back from IPW in recent years. As such, airlines based in Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America have stepped up. This year, airlines exhibiting at IPW include: United, WOW, Norwegian, Etihad, Emirates, Avianc and Copa.
- U.S. professional sports teams are increasingly popular overseas. An effort is now underway to convert those fans into visitors to the USA. This year, 24 teams from the NFL, Major League Baseball and professional soccer will have a presence at IPW—either through their presence in a booth with a destination cluster, tours of the event or passes to stop by and view it.
- At this year’s Sixth Annual Chairman’s Circle Honors—an occasion marked by an elaborate Saturday night dinner, 8 of the 57 honorees will be receptive tour operators.
- Under consideration for coming years are themed locations for groups of suppliers with common themes or interests, such as Native Americans and Shopping Centers and Outlets.
- The challenge in the future will be: “How do we bring value to the show without changing its essence?”
Advice from Malcolm: Of the bits of advice Smith dished out when questioned by RTO Summit attendees, two stood out. First, IPW delegates should network with people in their aisle; when you know someone in your aisle, it is easier to make, send and receive referrals. Second, do your homework—do your research—on who you’re meeting with at IPW so you won’t spend a large part of your 20-minute appointment merely exchanging introductory information