Travel, tourism trade show feeling ‘the Las Vegas effect’
It's been a record-breaking IPW so far, and if Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter has his way, all the records set this year will be shattered again in 2020.
The Washington-based association is spreading the show around with stops in Chicago, Orlando, Miami, Washington, Denver and Anaheim, Calif., in future years before returning here, even though this year's show has broken records for attendance and for the number of pre-scheduled meetings.
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said 6,400 people are attending the event from 74 countries and 90,000 meetings were scheduled for the three-day gathering. The event also has 1,300 buyers and booths, the most in a decade. Earlier in the week, Dow said he thought "the Las Vegas effect" was responsible for the record-breaking numbers.
Ralenkotter wraps up his two-year term as chairman of the organization when the show closes Wednesday. He also has served on the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, which takes recommendations to the Commerce Department, which relays them to the president.
Through the years, the organization has rallied to support tourism as a form of public diplomacy.
It has backed the private-public partnership that led to the development of the Travel Promotion Act that formed Brand USA, the United States' first international marketing initiative.
The organization also has worked with the State Department and the Commerce Department to ease burdens on potential foreign travelers using the visa application process. Tourism leaders, including Las Vegas marketers, have identified China, India and Brazil as important emerging markets with growing numbers of citizens who have the means and desire to travel abroad.
Potential travelers were discouraged by an application process that took 100 to 150 days to get an appointment for what often was a five-minute meeting. But the association has lobbied for additional employees and video-conferencing technology to speed up the process. Dow said the wait is now down to two to three days in those countries.
The organization also has worked to add to the list of visa-waiver countries — those with agreements with the United States enabling free travel without visas for 90 days. This list now includes 37 countries, with Taiwan the most recent addition last year. Dow said when South Korea was included in the visa waiver program, travel by Koreans to the United States increased by 49 percent in the first year. He said Chile has been nominated for inclusion in the program.
Ralenkotter said the association also is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to boost next-generation navigation technology to support air travel and it has supported policy for the integrity of corporate meetings.
Nevada's congressional delegation last month introduced legislation making it illegal to blacklist destinations that host conventions and meetings.
Ralenkotter said one of his last leadership contributions will be to help organize the first Connecting America Through Travel conference in Washington in November. The purpose of the event is to encourage the development of the nation's transportation infrastructure to encourage travel. Ralenkotter said the nation's top experts would meet to discuss policy for all forms of transportation and intermodal connectivity.