(IPW COVERAGE 3) What IPW Delegates Had to Say: Suddenly, there was a lot to talk about, and to do. In the wake of the news on Monday morning that the U.S. ban on inbound travel from the UK and most EU countries, booths were busier than anyone had anticipated.
INBOUND tried to get reactions from our booth holders and others—making sure not to interrupt business discussions, which were intense—when we could ask those who had more than a few seconds to do so what they thought about the lifting of the travel ban, but it was usually an epigrammatic reaction few in words but accented by a tone of relief and happiness. Some delegates, however, who had a minute or two, chatted economically.
And, sometimes, there was some group interaction, as when Christopher Heywood, executive vice president, global communications, for New York City & Company, who was nearing the conclusion of a news conference on what was new, said that “Broadway has returned to New York City.”
The room erupted into cheers and applause—something INBOUND had never witnessed in an information news conference. But it was like that in 2021 in Las Vegas. It seemed like everyone wanted a reason to cheer, as suggested by the sampler of reactions to the week’s news.
Meeting up on the IPW exhibit floor are Tom Garzilli, chief marketing officer of Brand USA; and Shari Bailey, vice president, Connect Travel. The news from the White House that travelers from the UK and most EU countries has created a spike in interest in the upcoming Brand USA Travel Week Oct. 25-28 in London. Meanwhile, Bailey is already experience in next year’s series of Connect Travel RTO Summits in Southern California, New York and Florida.
“We’re very excited with the change,” said Greg Brennan, deputy director, Alabama Tourism Department, noting that the action changes the environment for doing business, adding, “now we can look forward to some actual business. Brennan was enthusiastic about the prospect for the quadrennial World Games next July in Birmingham. The World Games showcase sports and games not featured in the Olympic Games, such as tumbling, sumo and power lifting.
Carylann Assante, CEO of SYTA (Student & Youth Travel Association), told us that the pandemic has resulting in an interesting development: overseas families are beginning to look for family tour-and-student-oriented products in the USA.
Margaret Fuqua, director of sales, Tennessee Department of Tourism, was decidedly upbeat about the prospect of European and British visitors coming to her state, explaining that “it’s going to help everyone.”
“It’s great. It’s going to help everyone!”—Dawn Hopper, director of tour and travel, Dutchess Tourism.
Familiar faces from Pennsylvania: Audrey Bialas, director of sales, Visit Hershey & Harrisburg, and Julie Payne, group sales consultant for Hershey. Both reported increased interest from international buyers—both at IPW and in calls and e-mails. Payne pointed out that her company was able to use the pandemic to take a close look at the strengths of the Hershey brand, which is known globally.
Toni Bastian, group tour manager for Richmond Region Tourism in Virginia, suggested that, in addition to being a benefit to everyone in U.S. travel and tourism, the lifting of travel restrictions will help her destination because it features both a blend of an urban experience plus less populated areas and open spaces for visitors to enjoy.
(No. 20) From her perspective, Estela Martinez-Stuart, director of tourism for Visit Fort Worth, her destination will benefit from interest in a considerable expansion of Fort Worth’s tourism infrastructure. “Tour operators are very excited about it. We’re already receiving phone calls from them.”
Lilliana Rivera, senior director of tourism for Visit Dallas, sounded very much her colleague in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, as she spoke of the enthusiasm that is shared by everyone in the destination. Yes, she told us, it the change in restrictions on travel to the USA will benefit everyone in their region.
julie p. heizer, deputy director of the U.S. National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO), has been attending IPW for more than 30 years. She is joined her by Christina Gay, a policy analyst at the agency. heizer told INBOUND that it was important that federal agencies show up and “fly the flag” at IPW in order to show international delegates that the U.S. industry has both private and public sector support.
Question: “Are you pleased with the news that travelers from the UK and the EU will soon be able to visit the United States?” Answer, from Lenni Neimeyer, longtime (17 years) for Branson Missouri—a popular domestic and international U.S. destination: “Oh my God, yes! I’m excited about it!”
Jonathan Elkoubi, chief commercial officer/co-founder at Places., had this to say: “IPW 2021 in Las Vegas wasn’t perfect, but somehow it still felt right: it was an excellent opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones. The organizers worked extremely hard to insure the safety of everyone in attendance and it showed.”