Unconventional Conference

IPW 2016 comes to New Orleans and promises long-term impact

A critical event to grow future tourism in New Orleans has been underway for the past few days, and we should feel its ripple effects for years to come.

IPW 2016 is the U.S. Travel Association’s 48th annual convention and is hosted this year by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Louisiana Office of Tourism. IPW was last in New Orleans in 2002.

Unlike many trade shows, IPW sets itself apart as a premier international marketplace and touts itself as being the largest generator of travel to the United States. They accomplish this by hosting more than 1,000 U.S. travel organizations. And unlike many trade shows where attendees roam booths organically and try to network haphazardly, IPW uses a system of pre-scheduled business appointments to accommodate the more than 1,400 international and domestic travel buyers from 73 countries.

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IPW reports that during their five-day itinerary in New Orleans, more than 100,000 of these appointments will occur and collectively generate more than $4.7 billion in future travel to the U.S. And to cover all of this, more than 500 media members from both the domestic and international press were invited to participate in IPW as well.

While all of this is great for the American economy in general, the direct impact on New Orleans will be tremendous. IPW’s research estimates that over the next three years a ripple effect will take hold as more than 6,400 travel buyers will work to send their clients to New Orleans after having experienced our city and region during the conference. The direct economic impact on the Greater New Orleans economy is estimated to be more than $1.7 billion, with 1 million international visitors by 2018. On the heels of the announcement of the new direct flight on Condor Airlines between New Orleans and Frankfurt, the timing of IPW couldn’t be more perfect.

New Orleans is really on a roll when it comes to tourism. Our 2015 numbers showed a 3.5% increase in visitor spending, up to $7.05 billion dollars. And our total number of visitors increased as well to 9.78 million visitors. With the Tricentenial around the corner, it does seem plausible that we will receive more than 13 million visitors in 2018, as city officials hope we do.

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If many of these visitors are international, we can also anticipate that they will stay for a longer duration and spend more money while they are here. They are also more likely to stay in traditional hotels as opposed to short-term rentals like Airbnb.

This is all very exciting. The economic impact could be palpable, and I hope the city officials use this new income to improve both facilities for visitors and invest in quality of life projects for our citizens.

A word to the wise from having worked in the hospitality industry… maybe some PSAs in those hotel rooms about the American practice of tipping could help our international visitors learn about our culture? 

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