Being Wowed at International Pow Wow 2011 San Francisco

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.

Best Western booth at International Pow Wow 2011 San Francisco

Several hundred regional and state tourism boards make contact with travel buyer representatives who sell U.S. travel packages in countries across the globe.

California Central Coast Tourism Council booth at International Pow Wow 2011

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.

Bike the Bridge Tour

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.

Hard Rock Cafe San Francisco at Pier 39

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.

Yesterday afternoon I spent time with other travel bloggers including Jennifer Miner of The Vacation Gals and Chris Gray Faust of Chris Around the World blogs.

Time to get back to the meetings. Today I will be tweeting more about the International Pow Wow. Follow Loyalty Traveler and search #ipw11 for more information.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. Interesting, but I don’t quite get iniatives like DiscoverAmerica. The goal apparently is to attract international visitors, yet all these promotions could only be purchased by US residents. Is this the same scheme as “impose an ESTA fee to attract more tourists”?

  2. @Ralf – Responding to this rather belatedly. Decided to see how I perceived the SF Pow Wow event in 2011 today in this blog post. is Brand USA. I guess they want to encourage U.S. tourism domestically and internationally. I have some research topics now when I attend Pow Wow April 2012 in Los Angeles.

    I was born in the USA. That is my experience and perhaps yours, but maybe not. My wife was born in California too and she works in an elementary school in a community filled with many Silicon Valley highly educated workers and international citizens from all over the world. They are residents of the USA now, even if working on visas.

    I picture many people buying the DiscoverAmerica Daily Getaways deals in 2010, 2011, and in another week 2012 are getting points and hotels and travel discounts they will be sharing with family coming from places all over the world.

    The goal truly is Discover America and it is a global initiative including people in the USA.

    I would travel all over the USA all the time if I could. Well, actually I can, but my wife wouldn’t like that too much. There are better things than travel. At least that is what I repeat to myself when I am at home.

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