In an unprecedented gathering of industry professionals, the 54th annual IPW event in San Antonio, Texas, proved to be a monumental success, setting the stage for a promising future of inbound travel growth to the United States. With over 5,000 attendees from more than 60 countries, this prestigious international marketplace has solidified its position as the largest generator of inbound travel to the U.S. The remarkable turnout at the event served as a resounding testament to the resurging demand for travel experiences within the United States.
Geoff Freeman, the esteemed President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association expressed his delight at the overwhelming response, stating, “The thousands of attendees we welcomed this week is indicative of the strong demand we are seeing for inbound travel to the U.S.” The IPW event successfully brought together domestic travel professionals, international tour operators, buyers, and wholesalers under one roof: the illustrious Henry B. González Convention Center. Over the course of three action-packed days, an impressive 90,000 scheduled business appointments took place, forging partnerships and fostering opportunities that will undoubtedly draw an influx of travel and tourism business to the U.S.
The significance of IPW was further amplified by the presence of nearly 500 members of the international and domestic media. These reporters not only covered the event itself but also engaged with travel business and destination leaders at the Media Marketplace, generating valuable reporting on travel to the U.S. This media exposure is expected to fuel interest and enthusiasm among potential travellers, ultimately leading to a surge in inbound tourism.
During a press conference held on Tuesday, Geoff Freeman addressed the efforts undertaken by the U.S. Travel Association to overcome barriers impeding international inbound travel growth. Freeman, who took the helm of the association in September 2022, articulated the need for the country to remain competitive and adapt to the evolving demands of the travel industry. “We need to be constantly evolving to meet new demands and to ensure our entry process is not only secure, but simple and welcoming,” he emphasized passionately.
Freeman outlined four key areas where the U.S. federal government can make significant improvements to enhance and increase inbound travel. Firstly, he stressed the need to reduce visitor visa interview wait times, which currently average over 500 days in the top 10 visa-requiring markets worldwide (excluding China). Countries such as Brazil, India, and Mexico are experiencing average wait times of 527 days, 406 days, and 647 days, respectively. Addressing these lengthy waiting periods is crucial to facilitating a smoother entry process for prospective travellers.
Secondly, Freeman highlighted the importance of tackling entry delays at U.S. Customs. Recent data reveals that international visitors at major U.S. airports frequently encountered average wait times exceeding an hour. Streamlining these processes will enhance the traveller experience and bolster the country’s reputation as a welcoming destination.
Thirdly, Freeman advocated developing a comprehensive 10-year strategic vision to improve the air travel experience. By investing in infrastructure, technology, and innovation, the U.S. can elevate its aviation sector to new heights, providing travellers with a seamless and enjoyable journey.
Lastly, Freeman emphasized the significance of increasing competitiveness in the global travel market. With countries worldwide vying for tourists’ attention, the United States must proactively promote its unique offerings and attractions. A focused marketing strategy, coupled with initiatives to improve accessibility and affordability, will ensure the U.S. maintains its position as a top travel destination.
This momentous IPW event marked the first time San Antonio had the honour of hosting and the first time a Texas city had held the event since 2000 in Dallas. The strong partnership between the U.S. Travel Association and premier sponsor Brand USA played a pivotal role in the event’s success. American Express, as the official card of the U.S. Travel Association, further reinforced its commitment to the industry.
Looking ahead, the 55th annual IPW is scheduled to occur from May 3-7, 2024, in the vibrant city of Los Angeles. Anticipation is already building as industry professionals and travel enthusiasts eagerly await the next chapter in this extraordinary event. With each passing year, IPW continues to reshape and redefine the future of inbound travel, propelling the United States as a premier global destination for tourists far and wide.
Written by: Matthew Thomas on location at IPW
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