U.S. Travel Association, the same folks who brought us the Discover America Daily Getaways for discount hotel loyalty points and car rentals last month, organizes the annual International Pow Wow. The 43rd International Pow Wow is currently being held in San Francisco from May 21-25, 2011. The convention objective is to market the U.S. as a travel destination for international visitors.
This is the marketplace showcase for international tourism to the U.S. generating $3.5 billion in sales. Over 5,500 delegates from 70 countries meet with U.S. travel suppliers during several days of greetings, meetings and parties. All the major hotel chains have representatives here.
Several hundred regional and state tourism boards make contact with travel buyer representatives who sell U.S. travel packages in countries across the globe.
Travel journalists play a significant role in this convention. Over 400 international travel writers are here in San Francisco for the Pow Wow. The objective for bringing international journalists to San Francisco for Pow Wow is to provide U.S. regional tourism information and story ideas for influential writers and media in the travel world. Journalists create the stories informing travelers about U.S. tourism destinations and generate desire among international tourists to visit the U.S.
There was a two hour window for meeting journalists and only 20 tables of more than 200 were occupied by US travel writers.
Wowed by International Pow Wow
San Francisco as the host city has opened wide the Golden Gate City for delegates.
Sunday morning was a media reception at the Ferry Building plying journalists with coffee, alcohol and food at 9am. Most people were drinking from the wine selections of local vineyards, but yours truly is a beer connoisseur and I took advantage of the local microbrew selection including Thirsty Bear Brewery and 21st Amendment brewery imperial stout.
The day was not all dining and drinks, although the majority of my day was consumption oriented. There were many options for press tours to various parts of San Francisco such as historical tours, a movie location tour to see some of the settings for films shot in the city, a music history tour to reminisce about Haight Ashbury in the 60s and the punk venues of the late 70s, early 80s.
I lived through much of that history as a local regularly visiting my grandparents who lived in San Francisco from the 1920s. I was an active spectator from Monterey in the punk music scene of the late 70s, so I wanted to try something I had never done – Bike the Golden Gate Bridge.
Three outfits provide bike rentals and guided tours of San Francisco. Bike and Roll, Blazing Saddles and Bay City Bike guided small groups of delegates on a seven mile ride to the Golden Gate Bridge. The wind was fierce and the path crowded on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Alcatraz Islandwas reserved exclusively for Pow Wow delegates Sunday afternoon. That might seem unusual except for the fact that the National Parks Service is a major sponsor of the International Pow Wow. I was there in December and I needed to check into the InterContinental San Francisco, so I passed on that excursion.
Sunday night the Pier 39 entertainment and dining complex in the Fisherman’s Wharf area of San Francisco was open exclusively for the Pow Wow guests. Every restaurant on Pier 39 provided complimentary buffet selections and drinks. Live music was playing in multiple places with everything from string quartet to steel drum to a cappella quartet and the Cal Berkeley Marching Band. Doors were open from the merry-go-round to the Aquarium of the Bay.
Neptune’s Palace Seafood Restaurant and Hard Rock Cafe held my attention much of the evening as I met delegates from Chile, Australia, Germany, Nicaragua, Honduras, Kuwait, China and the U.S.
Monday morning the formal industry contacts began and I met with representatives from Hilton, Hyatt, Kimpton, Marriott, Starwood, Best Western and tourism boards around the country in a whirlwind travel industry equivalent of speed dating. With over 1,000 U.S. tourism representatives in attendance, the International Pow Wow allows three days for meeting delegates at booths and nights for making informal contacts.