IPW is an acronym adding “International” to the word Pow-Wow, the annual socio-cultural gathering of Native American tribes to claim their traditions. Today, IPW is the only official meeting of the US tourist offer systematically targeting both the national and the international tourist demand. The winning formula is its being itinerant since the very beginning, each time largely anticipating the city hosting the further edition.
Edition number 49, held in Washington DC from June 3 to 7, was exciting. The location was perfect, considering the leit motiv of the possible restriction of US entry policies by the new administration.
The organization was as impeccable as the logistics of the wonderful congress centre of the capital. The many side events for tour operators and journalists were very nice; we reporters benefited from a visit to Washington directly led by Mayor Muriel Bowser, who had been providing guided tours to support his College years. The welcome concert in the district between the Senate and the White House was gorgeous, with the area under the stage entirely devoted to IPW delegates and emerging star Aloe Blacc attending the exhibition for the entire weekend.
At the welcome press conference, clever President and CEO of Brand USA, Christhoper L. Thompson, tried to reassure journalists from over 70 different countries, clearly worried by the perceived route change over tourism policies. His main argument: a safe country for citizens is a safe country for tourists and without safety there is no tourism.
There were about 1,300 booths, all very colourful, set up in the meeting area. A reproduction of the Oval Studio, with Secret Service agents as well, represented Washington D.C., while Virginia organized a scenic oysters and champagne tasting, all in a 100% business to business environment.
I would point out that the general feeling since arriving at New York Airport was to be welcome as usual and that the country gives the perception of a steadily moving economy. This was confirmed by the impressive figures gathered from the many press conferences: Bill Talbert, histrionic President of Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, detailed the huge private investments made by his city and leading, among other things, to the renewal of the congress centre as well as to the High Speed Rail Link in Florida. Even Fred Dixon, President of New York & Company, updated the attentive audience about all the new features scheduled in the coming years, with dates and figures. A whole new area of the city, complete with skyscrapers and monuments, will be ready over the next two years! Let’s remind, however, that the Empire State Building, inaugurated in 1931, was built in just over one year.
Among press conferences and pre-scheduled sessions, there was also time for a couple of lunches from more than 2,500 people sitting at the table, with live concerts.
At the US Travel Association conference, brilliant President Roger Dow has kindly and promptly answered to the journalists’ questions, reassuring the audience with first-quarter data about the incoming to the US, which show no contractions at all. To underline the distance between what is perceived by the overwhelming newspapers’ titles and reality, he concluded by quoting an aphorism of baseball player Yogi Berra, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded“. Geoff Ballotti, on the other hand, strongly criticized the by now classic structural shortcomings of the US airports and stressed the need to immediately improve air traffic and passenger handling.
The slogan of the new Brand U.S.A. campaign launched by a nice video at IPW is “One big welcome“. All the Americans, travel agents and common citizens, seemed to me sincerely happy to receive tourists from abroad and always available to socialize. In a particular period like the one we are all experiencing, it is important that this feeling is as widespread as possible, with the further hope that President Trump will be soon reiterating his invitation to visit the United States.
It would be nice to transfer to Italy a touch of the American pragmatism as well as of their programming and management of public and private funds. If I can easily compare the organization of IPW with that of companies performing similar events in Italy, with some masochism I get to compare the many projects that are already in progress and executive in the main American cities with the absolute immobility of Bagnoli, in the former industrial area of Naples (Italsider), waiting for over 25 years to be re-converted into a tourist resort area.
I take inspiration from IPW and consider the objective difficulties of coordinating private investment in Italy, with clear laws and a constant policy that would ensure well-being and jobs, two indispensable things for the growth of a nation.