This year, IPW is celebrating 50 years in Mile High City [Denver, Colorado], welcoming more than 6,000 buyers, suppliers and media from nearly 70 countries for several days of networking to conduct business and further solidify professional relationships.
The message from IPW and Brand USA was loud and clear: despite current U.S. administration, America is open for business, and ready to welcome visitors from all over the world with open arms.
Richard W. Scharf, president & CEO, Visit Denver, The Convention & Visitors Bureau; Michael Hancock, Mayor of Denver, Colorado; Roger Dow, CEO, U.S. Travel Association; Chris Thompson, president & CEO, Brand USA. Photo: Brian Walski
Day one of IPW opened with remarks from Roger Dow, president & CEO, U.S. Travel Association, and Chris Thompson, president & CEO, Brand USA. Dow emphasized the importance of the partnership IPW has with Brand USA for the sake of America’s tourism sector, now more so than ever. Both Dow and Thompson also touched on key issues like the Travel Promotion Act and ESTA fee, and how they affect Brand USA's efforts on the ground.
Brand USA: "It just makes sense"
"It’s [The Travel Promotion Act] passed by Congress, and then the ESTA fee is set up, and that’s how Brand USA is funded,” Dow explained. “Of course, the travel industry has to put matching funds in there.”
Brand USA is currently in the process of being reauthorized, and as Dow explained, current administrative policies have changed things.
Attendees pose at IPW's press brunch
The Travel Promotion Act and its associated ESTA fee first came to light under George W. Bush’s administration, but it didn’t pass the Senate due to the financial crisis America experienced at that time, Dow explained. The bill was passed through the Senate once more when Obama came into the White House, and was authorized for five years. In 2015, it was reauthorized a year early, which was helpful for destinations who plan their budgets one year in advance.
“The ESTA funds have been approved through 2027, which is huge, because the funding mechanisms for Brand USA is in place for another 10 years, but when the Trump administration was putting the budget together, the tax cuts and a whole lot of other things were put in a basket to offset that budget,” Dow said. “Right now, when Brand USA reaches its present authorization, money will shift to the general fund, which isn’t good. Now, we’re working to correct the mistake, and we have lots of support in Congress to correct that mistake. It’s important that we get Brand USA reauthorized earlier rather than later, because it impacts the funding mechanism. We will get there, because brand USA is here to stay. It just makes too much sense, it’s too logical, it provides too many jobs around the country.”
Media Marketplace. Photo: Brian Walski
Thompson delved into the evolution of Brand USA has evolved significantly since its inception, now encompassing more than 800 partners deployed worldwide in more than 40 international markets influencing 90 per cent of all inbound travel to the USA.
“Back when Brand USA was brought into existence the Travel Promotion Act also created the National Travel Inclusion Office within the Department of Congress, and they’re the lead agency across all federal government,” Thompson said, as he thanked and recognized the efforts of the federal government. “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without our federal government and the assets that they have, and that is also very critical to our success. By law, we must promote the entirety of the destination, all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia, and to communicate accurate and timely visa policy, which is critical in our role of welcoming and inviting people into the United States.”
Official ribbon cutting ceremony. Photo: Brian Walski
Dow continued: “I think what Brand USA really does is that it gives the opportunity to showcase the diversity of our travel product throughout America, because there are some destinations with monster budgets, but then there are also smaller destinations where people really want to go, but they don’t have the budgets. Brand USA levels the playing fields and allows people to pick and choose markets that are important to them, so that they may market to those places.”
Travel to the U.S.: Reality vs. perception
As Thompson continued, he pointed out the issue that the current administration is focusing on efforts that could disrupt travel. “Our job is to make sure that we continue to focus on real changes, and we focus on our experiences and our people every day to clear up any misconceptions about travel to the U.S. so that we stay on message,” Thompson said. “Our partnerships around the country and the world have influenced 5.4 million visitors, who collectively, have spent 17.7 billion dollars, and when you churn that through the economy, through direct and indirect induced impact, that’s more than 38 billion dollars, supporting on average, 51,000 jobs a year, five billion in local state sales tax, and this would not be possible without the support of IPW, and we’re very proud of those results.”
Integrated marketing: America on screen
IPW uses owned, paid, and earned marketing techniques to inspire travel to the United States to friends and visitors around the world. Using effective storytelling to promote destinations, experiences, and people throughout the United States, IPW is able to influence travel to the U.S., mainly through mainstream movies and music.
In February 2018, IPW launched its second big screen promotional film called ‘America’s Musical Journey’. “Music is a universal language, and this is the story of the sights and sounds of the individual destinations that define our country,” Thompson said. “One of the newest and most exciting things we’ve brought to the table is Go USA TV which allows us to aggregate content we’ve created with our partners on a channel that’s 24/7, 365 days a year, that allows people to go on this channel when they seek inspiration on what to do in the United States. When we launched it, we had short and long-form content, and we continue to be excited about that opportunity.”
Show floor, Media Marketplace. Photo: Brian Walski
This year is the year of music, and Brand USA introduced the concept of a new program called America Sound, which is a celebration of the music and genres in distinct U.S. destinations, focusing on rock n’ roll, jazz, soul, and hip-hop that tells the story of America’s cities.
Wander to the Rhythm has also been launched as an app for America’s Chinese consumers, which features Chinese musical artists as guides so visitors can take photos and digitally engage in new experiences in landmarks around the United States.
The importance of the trade
The first IPW gathering was in 1969 when just 67 buyers from 10 European countries met with 69 domestic suppliers in a New York City hotel ballroom.
“Our relationship with the travel trade is still critically important, in both existing and emerging markets,” Thompson said. “We recently launched a travel trade website that you can find at www.visittheusa.com/traveltrade. It’s a one-stop shop for our travel trade partners to know everything there is to promoting the USA, and helps them grow as professionals with access to real-time resources, itineraries, and platforms, including a Brand USA trip kit and other relevant marketing tools.
Stay tuned for more IPW coverage this week as PAX reports live from Denver, Colorado!