It’s less than two months until the kickoff of business at the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW June 4-8 at the Orlando Convention Center in Florida. This year is the eighth time that Orlando is hosting the event—more than any other destination—but this opening will be different. You’ll have to wait and see “just one of the many changes” for this year’s edition, Senior Vice President of Business Development and General Manager of IPW Malcolm Smith told INBOUND in our recent conversation in order to update to us on the latest developments of the global trade show.
One significant change that everyone working on IPW, especially Smith, can point to, is the level of enthusiasm on the part of delegates who will come to Orlando. He explained that last year’s IPW was held under trying conditions that affected everyone: “It was so challenging for people to make it to IPW 2021 last year,” with the absence of buyers from key overseas country markets and, for those who could make it—health and safety protocols in place that made it difficult for the special dynamic created through live, face-to-face discussions at a booth.
Also, there was still a ban on nonessential travel to the United States in effect, as well as bans to and from the USA in other parts of the globe. It was not until September that the U.S. government announced a Nov. 8 lifting of its ban from most EU nations and other markets. (The key markets of China and Japan still have strict limits on international travel.)
The Way Back—Filled with Buyers: The level of enthusiasm reaching US Travel now is contagious, and it is reflected in the numbers. Some of them include the following which Smith pointed out to INBOUND:
● As we spoke, the number of international delegates had reached a level that doubled in size compared to last year’s IPW.
● As of the end of March, 728 international buyers and 377 media from 62 countries have registered to attend IPW.
● There are also be 280 domestic buyers and 70 domestic media; more than 1,400 international and domestic buyers and media are registered for IPW 2022.
● Nations sending the largest international delegations in 2022 are the United Kingdom, Brazil and Canada.
● Excluding the challenged markets of China and Japan (two of the USA’s top three overseas country markets), the number of international delegates had already reached 89 percent of what it was three years ago in Anaheim.
● Markets starved for Visit USA product are pushing never-before-seen levels of delegates—Australia, for instance, is positioned to having the seventh-largest number of operators and journalists.
● The US Travel registration numbers come in the wake of another U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office finding that, in February International visitors spent $9.5 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States, an increase of 98 percent compared to February 2021.
● “The message these numbers tell us is: The travel world is ready to return to the United States,” said Smith. “If the recovery of international visitation is at all important to your destination or business, do not miss this year’s IPW.”
● Key to the changes that were implemented at last year’s IPW in Las Vegas was the expansion of additional networking time—before and after the business appointment schedules.
● The 8-30 AM -to-10-AM and 4:15 PM-to-5:00-PM networking element has been popular, were made possible largely by shortening business appointments. Though appointments are slightly reduced, there are still 42 of them, each with sufficient time for buyers to contact or visit sellers.
|With its format creating more networking time at both ends of the IPW schedule, Malcolm Smith says, “The worst thing you could do is stay in your hotel room and send e-mails.”|
● A survey indicated that 75 percent of those who participated like the new format.
● The IPW Focus—the live educational component of the event—will actually be held on the exhibit floor. At IPW last year, health and safety protocols didn’t allow for certain numbers of people to be gathered in such fashion, so delegates who took part in the program had to go outside the exhibit floor.
● Delegates will be able to listen to the program content using headsets.
● The pre-marketplace orientation session that usually targets first-time IPW delegates is expected attract experienced IPW delegates as well, due to the changes made to the program content and procedures since 2019, which was the occasion of the last full IPW agenda.
● Something new: For the first time ever, Disney’s Epcot will be the backdrop/location of a major function.
● Something new No. 2: Visit Orlando and Visit Florida are staking out an Engagement Zone called The Orange Grove in the public concourse outside the Convention Center.
● Something new No. 3: Visit Orlando has put together an optional event—Destination Downtown Orlando —on Tuesday evening. Buses will be available to take delegates to and from the downtown Orlando event.
● And of course, there is more; the above is merely a sampler.
For the complete “Who-What-When-Where-How” information on IPW, visit your www.ipw.com website. Also, check out this earlier article on IPW with highlights on what other officials from US Travel, Visit Orlando, and Brand USA discussed the upcoming event: IPWUpdate.
Joining Smith in the webinar presentation and discussion were: Michael Martin, manager, international marketing, IPW; Cathy Reynolds, lead manager, IPW press operations; Phil White, travel industry sales director, Visit Orlando; and Aaron Wodin-Schwartz, senior vice president, public affairs, Brand USA.
More than just a few years ago, INBOUND had the opportunity to see how Malcom Smith handles a tense situation—that is, a moment or more that measures someone’s ability to remain cool and calm midst extreme tension, or grace under pressure.
For Malcolm Smith, as far as INBOUND is concerned, that moment came at about 10:17 a.m. on the morning of May 6, 2015 when he was about half-way through a symposium presentation on what was new for the upcoming IPW (It was held May 30-June 3 in Orlando that year) during a day-long educational seminar that was part of the two-day RTO Summit East which was held at the Wyndham New Yorker hotel in New York City, right around the block from one of the main entrances to Penn Station, one of the busiest railroad stations in the world.
Suddenly, there was a thunderous “BOOM!” that caused the large windows of the rattle in the Crystal Ballroom of the hotel, where the Symposium was taking place. The sound and the vibrations (and, according to some in the room, there was also a bright flash) were frightful enough to stop everyone from taking notes or checking our smartphones.
Smith stopped speaking and stood comfortably in place, looking back and forth almost nonchalantly. He glanced at his notes, I thought, making sure that he would not lose his place. After a pause during which others went to the windows to get a better look in the direction of the apparent explosion, nothing more happened.
Smith then continued his presentation for about a minute … and then, “BOOM!” This one made most nearly everyone antsy and squirming, looking toward the windows or looking about. (Later, I learned that some people were understandably nervous about an explosion not that far from Penn Station … is the busiest railway station in North America, with 1,000 passengers alighting and departing there every 90 seconds …)
Sometime in the next 30 to 60 seconds, a hotel official stood in front of the nervous crowd and instructed everyone to go down a floor to the hotel lobby and wait for further word on what to do. This included Malcolm.
Murmuring minutes led to more minutes and the hotel official finally announced that the “BOOMs” we had heard just outside the hotel were the result of gas explosions beneath the street (8th Street) outside that blew off a couple of manhole covers. Things like that rattle people.
There was more, but gradually, the nervous tension eased, and attendees were back in the Crystal Ballroom. Malcom, who remained calm and reassuring—almost pleasant about the whole matter—did not get to finish his presentation. But I wanted to tell him what I neglected to do that morning almost seven years ago in Manhattan: Thank you for staying calm and collected when it mattered. It turned out to be a good sign for one who was going to endure a bundle of challenges in the years ahead.
IPW’s leadership is in good hands.