After a 14-year drought, the Super Bowl of conventions is returning to New Orleans.
IPW, the U.S. Travel Association’s annual trade show, is set to return to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center from June 18-22. The convention is expected to draw more than 6,000 attendees from 73 countries, including more than 1,300 international and domestic travel buyers and hundreds of travel writers who local tourism officials hope to later spread the gospel of the city’s charm.
New Orleans last hosted the convention in 2002. It brings together international and domestic travel buyers and representatives of hotels, destinations, attractions and museums and other businesses aiming to market themselves to an international audience. International travelers are an appealing draw for local tourism leaders because they tend to stay longer — typically as long as 18 days — and spend more during their visit. They’re also planning tours ahead of the city’s tricentennial in 2018.
Event organizers and tourism officials say the convention can provide a major financial lift: Travel initiated from the 2013 convention in Las Vegas was projected to draw more than 1 million international passengers over three years, adding an extra $1.6 billion in spending and creating a direct economic impact to the city’s economy of $891 million.
While representatives from other cities convene in New Orleans to sell international buyers on their destinations, they’ll likely break bread at local restaurants and attractions, offering them a firsthand look at the city’s finer destinations.
International tour operators and wholesalers ultimately are looking to buy in bulk and repackage the vacations to sell to tourists, who tend to rely more on travel agencies for booking trips.
“This is kind of a showcase for us,” said Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s really worth its weight in gold.”
Kyle Edmiston, an assistant secretary in the Louisiana Office of Tourism, described the event as a “once in a 20-, once in a 25-year opportunity for Louisiana.”
About $4.5 million in incentives were offered to host the convention, including $1.5 million from the state’s tourism office and $2.5 million from the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Tourism officials hope to turn that investment into several hundred million dollars’ worth of spending by new international tourists, a choice target demographic. Along with staying longer and spending more money, international visitors tend to stay during the early part of the week, when it’s typically more difficult to draw visitors.
The city attracts about 675,000 international travelers each year, and tourism officials hope to grow that figure to about 1 million in coming years. “When we get that number of visitors up, it’s going to be a huge infusion into the local economy,” Perry said.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.