This year's enormous U.S. Travel Association confab, International Pow Wow, isn't set to take place until next month in Orlando, Florida, but already organizers are beavering away, planning next year's gathering in San Francisco. Along with the World Travel Mart in London and the annual global travel industry version of Woodstock in Berlin, Pow Wow ranks among the leading travel biz meetings on the planet. So, it takes a lot of planning.
Why should you care? Well, with more than 400 international journalists set to cover it, Pow Wow, which includes media tours, news conferences and networking opportunities galore, will go a long way toward shaping the stories you see, read and hear in the next year about traveling to and within the United States. And the sales opportunities that all that face-time - the event lasts five days - affords to people who run hotels, airlines, tourist boards, tour companies, cruise-ship lines and the like will help determine what those people put on offer for travelers.
Travel-biz people from more than 70 countries are expected to attend the Orlando edition of Pow Wow. There will be some 1,100 information booths in South Hall at Orlando's Orange County Convention Center and 5,000 travel biz types on hand to visit them.
For the host city, the event, which changes venues every year, is a big deal.
Next year's International Pow Wow will be held at San Francisco's Moscone Center, and tourism people in the northern California city are even as we speak drawing up to-do lists, planning social and business networking events and anticipating receipts.
According to numbers-crunchers at the nonprofit San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.onlyinsanfrancisco.com), the host organization for the 2011 Pow Wow, to be held next May 21-25, the big travel show will generate $4.5 million in event-related spending (hotel rooms, labor, convention center food and beverage sales) and $2 million in spending by individual attendees (restaurant meals, shopping, taxis). In the long term, all those journalists parachuting into San Francisco are expected to write 300 to 400 articles about the city; the stories will appear in media outlets with a combined circulation estimated at 100 million. By the SFCVB's reckoning, that worldwide exposure is equal to spending $5.3 million on advertising to promote the city.
So, yes, travel is big business.
U.S. Travel, Pow Wow's sponsoring umbrella organization, was for years known as the Travel Industry Association of America, till it changed its name recently. U.S. Travel (www.ustravel.org) doesn't yet know where it will hold Pow Wow in 2012, but the host city for 2013 has already been selected: It's Las Vegas, baby.
Come 2013, what happens in Vegas will presumably NOT stay in Vegas.