INBOUND’s managing editor attended his first IPW in June 1986 in Phoenix. Over the years, the team at our publication has had various objectives in attending what is the most important business exchange and trade show for the U.S. inbound tourism industry as it continued to evolve—adding, disposing of, or changing different elements of the event through its 51st edition last year in Anaheim, California.
Now, however, the tour and travel industry in the USA and in the 70 nations which will send delegates to IPW on May 30-June 3 in Las Vegas are about to experience an expansion of activity, content and opportunity that delegates—especially U.S. suppliers—have never before known. This is INBOUND’s assessment following a recent, lengthy conversation and exchange of communications with the U.S. Travel Association’s Malcom Smith, senior vice president of business development and general manager of IPW.
“We want this event to be a vibrant tool for our participants,” said Smith, as he went on to outline a series of new or revised components to this year’s IPW, most of which are the result of meetings of and input from an industry task force, as well as focus-group sessions and in-person interviews. Following are some of the key changes and additions to IPW in Las Vegas:
• IPW Focus
Apparent to every IPW veteran entering the exhibit hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center will be IPW Focus, an educational program that will provide a free value add-on for delegates.
“The idea for this started a lot with hotels and attractions, who wanted more of an emphasis on education,” Smith explained. “Chief marketing officers in the discussions also wanted a place where their staff could take advantage of the experience. Open to everyone at IPW, including buyers and suppliers, Smith noted that delegates will have the option to participate in focus’ educational sessions on an array of topics—from technology and innovation to research and insights, presented by thought leaders and innovators from around the industry and beyond.
Held in IPW’s Marketing Pavilion, the focus sessions, said Smith, “will provide a great opportunity for delegates who want to watch and listen, but still don’t want to be taken from the show flow. Now, they’ll be able to learn about technology, distribution and education in 20-minute periods nearby.”
Also, Smith told us, IPW will be making available more information on research and market insights from speakers invited by U.S. Travel. And all of this will be a parallel event taking place at the same time as business sessions.
• Something for a DMO’s Smaller Members and for Smaller DMOs: Express Booths
This change will involve a new pavilion aimed at first-timers and DMOs who do not or cannot accommodate their members who are unable to have their own booth, but would still like to establish a brand presence rather than attend IPW in a booth-sharing arrangement. “We wanted to make it more accessible for these delegates.”
Hence, the Express Booth.
“It’s a quad, with four mini-stations, but still with a brand presence,” Smith noted. “A delegate will have 22 (out of 44) pre-scheduled appointments, but will have the opportunity to schedule another 22 manually prior to the event.” And an Express Booth space will be priced at one-third less than a regular booth.
Registration for Express Booths opens in February
• Pop-up Nevada
The experiment at IPW last year which included an outdoor “pop-up” California trade show that, located outside the Anaheim Convention Center featured destinations and themes from throughout the state, proved to be singularly popular with everyone, Smith told INBOUND, largely because “there is a huge appetite for networking off or outside the exhibit floor and IPW social functions.” (Below, the California Plaza outside the Anaheim Convention Center at last year’s IPW.)
Smith indicated that U.S. Travel is working with Visit Nevada with a goal of adding more attractions, as well as meeting space to the feature, which will be situated in a pavilion inside—not outside—the Las Vegas Convention Center. One objective is to create “a whole look and feel” of Nevada, which will include elements of the famous Burning Man Festival, which takes place every year in late summer in Black Rock City—about 90 miles north of Reno.
Western entertainment, artists and other attractions and travel experiences will also be featured, as U.S. Travel works at developing a model for states that help host IPW cities in the future.
• Less Noise, More Chat Time at Lunch
After the IPW task force, along with focus group results, made their recommendations, U.S. Travel decided to “ventilate” the schedule for luncheons and luncheon events. This year, explained Smith, “IPW is expanding the beginning of the luncheon program to allow attendees to meet in an environment that is conducive for networking, visiting and creating memorable moments.”
• A Tighter, More Compact Press Conference Schedule
INBOUND can attest to the fact that the schedule of IPW press conferences—an extremely popular venue for the communications staff of U.S. Travel members—had become, well, maybe a little too popular. As the photo below of Cathy Reynolds—she’s U.S. Travel’s manager, media relations and lead manager, IPW press operations—at last year’s IPW in Anaheim shows, the schedule sometimes is busy “wire-to-wire” with press conferences and presentations all day on Tuesday. Not much room to for one-on-one interaction with speakers and their staffs.
So, IPW is making its press conferences go faster, shortening their length to 20 minutes from 45 minutes (“Say it fresh and fast,” Smith said with a chuckle) and also allowing journalists to have access to the IPW exhibit hall on Tuesday and Wednesday. As of last year, journalists could not go on to the IPW exhibit floor until late Tuesday afternoon, after the 2:00 p.m. press conference.
• However, It’s Still about Business
“Selling the USA travel experience is still the Number One reason for IPW,” concluded Smith, “but delegates are seeking to get more out of it. They want to meet people outside their booth and they want to network.”