Making News at IPW
By: Bridgett Hebert, U.S. Travel Association
Top destinations shared big news with global media during Wednesday’s press conferences.
The final full day of IPW 2023 provided lots of opportunities for attendees to connect. International and domestic media, for example, attended a series of press conferences to get the scoop on what’s new at five top leisure travel destinations. Read below for highlights and brief recaps from each.
Tom Noonan, President and CEO of Visit Austin kicked off the press conference on what’s new and developing in the 10th largest city in the United States. Recognized as the unrivaled "music capital of the world," Austin boasts an extraordinary array of venues and performers, with a staggering 240 music venues hosting captivating live performances every single night of the week. Yet Austin's allure extends far beyond its vibrant music scene. The city plays host to unique experiences like SXSW and the awe-inspiring Commerce Street Bridge Bats. Picture this: an enchanting spectacle of 1.5 million bats emerging from beneath the bridge, creating an ethereal cloud that gracefully sweeps across the city's skyline.
Adding to Austin's multifaceted appeal, Andy Loughnane, the esteemed President and CEO of Austin FC, took the stage to share the wonders of the city's one and only Major League team. The MLS team has found a home at Q2 Stadium, becoming a unifying force for the entire community. Rounding off the press conference, Brady Closson, the accomplished President and CEO of the Fredericksburg CVB, proudly highlighted the remarkable features of the majestic Texas Hill Country. Only a short distance away, this gem of a destination dazzles visitors with its farm-to-table culinary delights and unparalleled stargazing experiences. In support of this thriving region, Austin is actively investing in new travel infrastructure. The heart of the city already boasts over 50,000 hotel rooms, with an additional 3,000 currently under construction. Looking ahead, Austin is forging ahead with plans to transform its airport into a major transportation hub, with aspirations to add 40 new gates by 2030. Furthermore, the city offers an impressive range of international flights, with convenient direct connections, and most notably, Copa Airlines is set to launch a new flight on July 6, fostering stronger ties between Austin and Latin America.
Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, shared the latest developments from the Golden State, highlighting new theme park experiences, cultural attractions, museums and luxurious resorts. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, California's tourism industry has shown remarkable resilience and is currently thriving. It remains the top travel destination in the United States and is projected to fully recover this year. Taking advantage of the pandemic-induced slowdown, California has embarked on a remarkable building renaissance, resulting in the development of numerous new accommodations. Since January 2022, an impressive 127 hotels have already opened their doors and an additional 89 are slated to open within the next year. Visit California has introduced a range of exciting promotional initiatives to attract visitors, such as the family fun promotion, which recognizes the growing importance of Millennial travelers and the international audience. In addition, they have launched Road Trip Republic, a comprehensive road trip guide, and the Visit Native California campaign, which encourages tourism in the state's native communities. To enhance tourism planning, the organization has initiated a process to develop 12 tourism plans, each tailored to one of California's diverse regions. Notably, Beteta announced the highly anticipated return of California Plaza to IPW 2024, an event scheduled to be held in Los Angeles. These efforts have yielded significant results, as California recorded an impressive $134.4 billion in travel spending in 2022, amounting to 93 percent of the record high achieved in 2019. Predictions indicate that this year will witness even greater success for the state's tourism industry.
Elliott Ferguson, President and CEO of Destination DC took center stage to unveil the captivating blend of culture, arts, culinary delights and the great outdoors that define the nation's capital. Washington, D.C. pulses with a vibrant arts and cultural scene, boasting an impressive 25 museums, with 17 of them belonging to the iconic Smithsonian institution. Notably, the National Asian Art Museum is commemorating its 100th anniversary, while exciting renovations are breathing new life into the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the National Gallery of Art’s East Building. Last year, the Smithsonian offered a sneak peek of the Molina Family Latino Gallery, a captivating preview of the forthcoming Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino. Paired with a number of signature events such as the DC Jazz Fest, World Pride in 2025, the National Cherry Blossom Festival and other activities––there is something for everyone. There is an amazing culinary experience in Washington, D.C., which includes over 25 rooftop culinary experiences. D.C. is one of the greenest cities in the U.S.—and was ranked the first Leed Platinum City in the world. In addition, the District has 16 new hotels and 3,681 rooms in the pipeline through 2028. In 2022 alone, eight new hotels and brands opened, including the Waldorf Astoria Washington D.C. Among the properties slated to open is the Royal Sonesta Washington, which opens this summer. With a growing budget––the Tourism Recovery District is raising an additional $20.7 annually to promote overnight visitation, enabling Destination DC to be more impactful in marketing the city in different markets.
Discover Los Angeles
Los Angeles Tourismhas a lot to look forward to. The organization used this year’s IPW to kick off “The Road to IPW 2024,” which promotes the city’s upcoming role as host of the nation’s leading international inbound travel trade show. And in 2028, Los Angeles will host the Olympic Games––another opportunity to showcase what is new and exciting in the city. There has been so much change in the ‘city of angels’ that Los Angeles Tourism is calling it LA 2.0. There was significant investment in the city during the pandemic. In one example, the LAX airport went through a $15 billion transformation and next year will welcome an automated people mover with direct service to downtown Los Angeles. The city added 5,000 hotel rooms to their inventory over the last two years with options at every price point. There has been a boutique hotel boom in LA, including the Venice V Hotel, The Shay and Short Stories. Los Angeles has established itself as a global dining capital with 26 restaurants receiving Michelin stars and 10 debuting on the Bib Gourmand list. The event closed with a “lights, camera, action” display of Los Angeles video footage displayed across a life-size Hollywood sign. In fact, the city is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Hollywood sign with different events throughout the year. The press conference also highlighted the destination’s positive year-end figures for 2022, including 46.2 million visitors and $34.5 billion in total business sales, reaching 91% of 2019’s record-setting levels.
Casandra Matej President and CEO of Visit Orlando shared positive growth in their city––making history with 74 million annual visitors in 2022, representing a 25% increase
over the previous year and 98% of 2019 visitation numbers. This impressive surge comes with the organization’s Unbelievably Real brand launch, which debuted in May 2022 for the domestic market and later rolled out in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru. This year, Orlando continues its positive momentum with a variety of memorable new experiences—including the new eco-friendly Brightline rail service, which links Orlando with Miami, a diverse mix of award-winning and Michelin star restaurants and food festivals, as well as new theme park attractions including Walt Disney World’s TRON––a high-speed rollercoaster and Guardians of the Galaxy––a family thrill attraction, Minion Land at Universal Orlando Resort and Pipeline, which is billed as the world’s first surf coaster, at SeaWorld Orlando. Often attractions in and of themselves, Orlando is having continuous hotel growth—announcing that there are more than 490 hotels, resorts and vacation homes across the city. Shawn Welcome, poet laureate, shared his talents during the press conference with a poem on the beautiful city of Orlando that is ‘unbelievably real.’