Monday, June 6, 2011

Putting the Wow in International Pow Wow

International Pow Wow is a big travel show held annually with the intention of sparking more leisure and business travel to and all around the United States. Every year the gathering - which brings international and U.S. media together with tourist boards, tour operators, hoteliers, airlines and the like - is held in a different U.S. city. This year, it rolled out over five days in San Francisco, the first time Pow Wow has been in the city by the Bay since 1992.

It takes a real city - diverse, dynamic, with layers of culture, entertainment and history - to put the wow in Pow Wow; a mere convention center surrounded by tract homes or desert sands won't do it. San Francisco did it. Although San Francisco, in all candor, can be smugly self-regarding, it delivers on most of its promises to travelers. In fact, San Francisco courts travelers. And no wonder - travel and tourism generates $8 billion in annual revenue, making it the biggest business in the city by revenue. The San Francisco Travel Association - the renamed former convention and visitors bureau - says the travel biz accounts for about 67,000 jobs in the city, directly or indirectly. That includes hotel workers, airline employees, cabbies, bartenders, staff at the city's esteemed restaurants and others.

Like all conventions, Pow Wow is mostly about speeches and meetings. Organizers claimed that the 5,000 attendees - mostly from Europe, Asia and the U.S., itself - held some 70,000 meetings, including a good many one-on-ones. I was in a few of them. Typically, journalists drift over to tables staffed in a big ballroom in the convention center - Moscone Center, in San Francisco's case - for short conversations and the exchange of business cards, as media explain to travel vendors what they are interested in covering, and vendors tout what they have to offer. If you've ever wondered how the seemingly bottomless demand for content is generated in newspapers, magazines, Web sites and elsewhere, this is how: It comes out of structured and unstructured networking.

San Francisco has been a popular destination for years, but not even popular places can stand still. Some of the wow factor is always there, but some is built and newly introduced, such as the beautiful, extensively renovated terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport (, which reopened in April after being closed for 10 years. Other travel-themed attractions are in the pipeline, including:

* A $56 million USD touch-up of Moscone Center, set for next year.
* The 34th America's Cup finals, in 2013 (
* The relocation of the innovative, hands-on childrens' science museum the Exploratorium ( to Embarcadero Piers 15-17, also in 2013.
* A long-promised new cruiseship terminal, scheduled to open at Pier 27 in 2014 (

Also coming:

* In 2016, the completely rebuilt downtown Transbay Transit Center opens, replacing a delapidated, recently demolished facility built in the 1930s.
* In 2016, the downtown San Francisco Museum of Modern Art plans to triple its gallery space (
* The long-term renovation of Treasure Island, a big, manmade island in San Francisco Bay in the shadow of the Bay Bridge is scheduled to be completed, with new hotels, restaurants, housing and a marina, also in the busy, busy year 2016.

Finally, in 2018, a new central subway will connect San Francisco's long-struggling southeastern neighborhoods with a direct light-rail connection to mainstays such as Chinatown, Moscone Center and Union Square.

Thanks to San Francisco Travel for the information.

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