Home DESTINATIONSAMERICAS Why IPW Los Angeles is USA’s largest travel trade show

Why IPW Los Angeles is USA’s largest travel trade show

by Fiona Harper
California | USA

All the news from IPW Los Angeles, USA's biggest travel trade show

Fiona Harper joins the Australian delegation of travel media at IPW in Los Angeles. IPW is the leading inbound tourism trade show in the USA, whose purpose is to drive tourism from international markets such as Australia

The USA’ travel trade show known as IPW, (IPW Los Angeles in 2024), ended with a farewell party not to be missed (yes, Universal Studios Hollywood we’re looking at you). After five days of meetings, networking and seeing some of LA’s famed attractions, it’s fair to say tourism is well and truly thriving, not only in the Golden State of California, but across the USA.

The inbound travel trade show is hosted by a different city each year.  IPW San Antonio in 2023 was epic and IPW Chicago in 2025 looks like raising the bar still further.

What we'll be covering

IPW Los Angeles is a generous host for IPW 2024

IPW is managed by the US Travel Association and is supported by Brand USA. All US states along with tourism operators, cruise companies and other tourism-related business are represented and exhibit at the inbound travel trade show which attracts buyers, travel wholesalers and media from around the world. 

A delegation of 35 Australian travel media, journalists and photographers attended as part of 600-strong travel media attending from across the globe.

IPW Los Angeles 2024 attracted over 5,700 delegates from 70 countries with thousands of official meetings taking place. Unofficial meetings and networking opportunities are limitless.

Brand USA is the official destination marketing organisation for the United States and is premier sponsor of the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW. The inbound trade show celebrates a productive week of partner appointments, trade meetings, and media engagements, all aimed at increasing inbound international visitation.  

IPW Los Angeles is a serious networking event for the travel trade

While meetings and networking are at the heart of IPW, the entertainment, parties and press tours and famils are equally important. For Australian travel media, IPW represents a treasured opportunity to explore the host city while also learn about story ideas from across the USA.

Opening night party at IPW Los Angeles featured the legendary Diana Ross who lit up the stage at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a venue which will host the opening ceremony of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. The Olympic flame burns bright over the stadium entrance.

At other events, NYC’s Broadway stars put on an exciting show, Ziggy Marley got the crowd rocking and Keanu Reeves’ band Dogstar entertained over lunches. The impressive Getty Museum was the venue for a press brunch while Universal Studios Hollywood was commandeered for exclusive use for closing night celebrations that won’t be easily forgotten.

Where else can you gain that sort of exclusive privilege to ride the roller coasters of Universal Studios without the crowds?

Press conferences kept media engaged with San Antonio (last year’s IPW host) making a party out of it,  Tennessee whose tag line Sounds Perfect really does entice me to visit, along with Chicago  (next years IPW host city), which turned the conference into a house party with famed DJs providing the tunes.

Plus, there were multiple VIP parties across downtown Los Angeles, sometimes as many as four each night with generous hosting by tourism organisations, meaning IPW socialisaing is not for the faint-hearted. My liver is still reeling from the deluge of margaritas it was asked to filter.

USA's travel industry has rebounded post-pandemic

As the USA’s international inbound travel industry continues to demonstrate remarkable resilience, Brand USA is poised to further elevate the United States’ position as a premier travel destination. 

Despite the strength of the USD making the USA an expensive destination for Australians, Aussies continue to flock to the country.

“There is a clear resurgence in travel enthusiasm with the United States continuing to lead the world in long-haul travel arrivals,” said Chris Thompson, outgoing president and CEO of Brand USA. “And while retiring is bittersweet for me personally, the industry is strong, and Brand USA is well positioned.”

Last year, the USA welcomed nearly 67 million visitors who spent USD213 billion on travel and tourism-related activities within the United States—representing a 28 percent increase over the prior year. Inbound visitation from India has already surpassed 2019 visitation levels, and Australia is one of seven countries set to surpass previous visitation numbers to the USA in 2025. 

IPW is a great trade show for networking

IPW prides itself on its networking opportunities, with 15 minute prearranged meetings facilitated across three full days. There’s one whole day dedicated to the Media Marketplace where travel journalists have one-on-one meetings with tourism boards and operators. It’s a terrific opportunity to learn about story ideas and to set up press trip (famils) opportunities for the coming year.

IPW provides exceptional networking with travel industry peers, colleagues and friends from around the globe. Alongside the official meetings and functions, there’s tours and free time to explore Los Angeles during IPW. Additionally, for those who stay on after IPW or arrive early,  explorations across California at pre and post-IPW famil trips are hosted by Visit California.

In Los Angeles I particularly enjoyed an evening at Santa Monica Pier where we rode the ferris wheel and rollercoaster like kids.  The beachfront pier is daggy and kitschy but is a whole lot of fun and definitely exudes the California beachfront vibe.

At PECLA (Porsche Experience Centre Los Angeles), where more than 100 Porsches are at our disposal, no-one said “drive it like you stole it”. But that didn’t stop me wanting to. Flying down the race track straight at almost 200km per hour was an exhilarating thrill. Those Porsches sure know how to hug the asphalt.

Universal Studios Hollywood was the venue for the closing party which provided crowd-free access to ride the roller coasters and the parks iconic characters without the crowds. With exclusive use of the entire park for three hours, the staff treated our mob of 6,000 IPW funlovers like celebrities.

My hot tip: don’t do the behind-the-scenes Studio Tour after dark. You’ll see a lot of parking lots and purportedly “beautiful painted murals” which are not lit up at night.

The USA has plenty of issues to address for inbound travellers

Despite the positive forecasts, the USA admits it has some rather pressing challenges it needs to resolve.

At a media press conference, the challenges were addressed by Geoff Freeman, President and CEO of the US Travel Association. 

Freeman admits the USA has ” serious problems,” noting that there are a handful of issues of major concern that US Travel Association has on its radar.

The first is that entering the USA should be made easier for foreign travellers. Visa interview wait times are extraordinary, particularly for nationals of Columbia (600 days), Mexico (800 days) and India (200 days).

The inability of aircraft to fly over regions at conflict, such as Russian airspace, which is important for travelers from Asia.

Another issue is  the strength of the greenback.

The USA is ridiculously expensive for Aussie travellers. An Uber from LAX to downtown will cost in excess of USD50 (AUD90). A coffee costs AUD11, a bowl of fries close to AUD18. Plus there is the ‘pretty much’ mandatory 20% gratuity which applies to almost every purchase or service. There’s very few occasions where a tip is not expected, which always confounds Aussie travellers.

In my opinion, it’s a poor business model where operators expect their customers to contribute to the income of staff. I’ll never get used to that warped situation, no matter how much time I spend in the USA.

Next year’s IPW is to be held in Chicago, a city which promises to provide an exciting line up of networking and tourism adventures.  Start planning your trip to the USA with a visit to Choose Chicago for a taster of what we’ll get up to next year.

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