From a boat-float parade along its famous River Walk to a closing night gala at The Alamo, delegates will long remember this year’s IPW in San Antonio as US travel officially emerged from the pandemic.
More than 5,000 attendees from 60 nations, including over 100 travel buyers, agents, and media from Canada helped the annual travel trade show return to pre pandemic levels.
Indeed, Canada, along with Mexico boasted registrations close to 35% above 2019 levels.
And those who attended experienced one of the most memorable conferences of recent years, with one Canadian delegate issuing the ultimate compliment: “the vibe reminds me of New Orleans.”
More than just a trade conference, IPW is a showcase for its host city, and colourful San Antonio pulled out all the stops, including the second-night “Festival Del Rio” boat parade, which is usually reserved for Christmas and Fiesta, along the amazing River Walk.
Media, including Travel Industry Today, were treated to the customary press breakfast at the impressive Witte Museum, home to an extensive T.rex exhibit that stars a “Canadian” inhabitant, Scotty.
Other highlights included opening night gala at La Villita historic arts village, featuring outdoor pavilions representing the city’s cultural diversity, though mostly 65% Mexican population roots, and a special presentation of the spectacular nightly sound and light show “The Saga” on the facade of the San Fernando cathedral.
And, of course, the finale at The Alamo, providing attendees the first glimpse of the iconic attraction’s new Palisade exhibit, a newly constructed representation of the Spanish mission’s fence-like fortification, completed that day just in time for the party, and part of an ongoing US$400 enhancement and expansion of the UNESCO site.
At the trade show, luncheon events featured performances by The Counting Crows, country start Dierks Bentley, and the always anticipated annual NYC Tourism-sponsored Broadway extravaganza, which presents live performances with original actors from the latest shows – this year featuring MJ (Michael Jackson), Moulin Rouge!, A Beautiful Noise, & Juliet, Once Upon a One More Time (Britney Spears), and Back to the Future, all courtesy of Broadway Inbound.
With IPW returning for the first time to pre pandemic attendance numbers, US Travel president and CEO Geoff Freeman declared of the 54th annual event: “This show is better than ever – the energy, the enthusiasm. This is fantastic! It’s so great to see the history, the culture, and the soul that makes San Antonio so special.”
Visit San Antonio CEO Mark Anderson hailed the event as representative of the return of international travel to the US and also as a “historic moment” for the first-time host city – and first Texas location since Dallas in 2000.
“At this year’s IPW, there is one item I hope you will remember,” he told delegates. “That San Antonio is a hidden gem among the world’s most majestic locations and that it is growing and evolving faster than any city in the United States of America.
“Our city is over 300 years old, but with an intentionally preserved history that embodies some of America’s most historical landmarks, including 17th century Spanish missions,” he continued, while also noting that the city has been named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy (one of two in the US).
And it is, he maintained, a city where the “spirit of Fiesta” is celebrated year-round.
If IPW was any indication, Anderson is not wrong.
First published at Travel Industry Today