From The Floor At Pow Wow: Tuesday May 19th

 NAJ Report From The Floor At Pow Wow: Tuesday, May 19th, Day 2

● ATI’s Fitzpatrick Calls for “Swine Flu Guarantee.” Responding to the impact of the Swine Flu scare on travel to the U.S., especially from China where cancellations have been devastating, Michael Fitzpatrick, president of AmericanTours International,  told us, “What USTA should do, instead of charging a further, very sad, $10 admission fee on visitors to the USA (such a fee is called for in the U.S. Travel Association-backed Travel Promotion Act in order to help fund the travel promotion corporation that the act would set up)is to fully cover the costs of any visitor’s holiday in the USA in case of contracting the Swine Flu as a result of their visit to the USA, within a period of 7 days, of their return home.”

 ● Opening Night Party—Rate it Eight: Pow Wow opened on Sunday night with a spectacular beach party in which a two-block stretch at the foot of South Beach that was completely closed off to the public, while Pow Wow attendees frolicked barefooted in the sandy atmosphere.  Although the entertainment and a fireworks display were both among the best in recent memory for a Pow Wow, what stood out most for many attendees was that the event was organized in such a way that there were no lines for food—always a common complaint when trying to feed 5000 people within 60 minutes.  On a scale of 1-10, this event was an 8.

● Traffic The First Day—quiet.  Traffic during the first day seemed subdued and quite sparse, even in the high demand booth areas of New York, Florida and California. Shows take on a rhythm of their own with a first day generating a great deal of buzz, while the latter days taper off as buyers  lose energy and realize that they want to spend more time enjoying the destination.  With fewer operators from the UK and Asia this year, many delegates commented on the sluggish atmosphere, but others told NAJ that, while traffic was down, the number of quality meetings was encouraging.

● Enough Already with the Flu Inquiries! While speaking with a Mexican tour operator on the floor, it was clear that he was exhausted from being asked about Swine Flu.  He pointed out that the cratered global and Mexican economy has affected arrivals to the U.S. far more than the Swine flu.

● Virtual Ft. Lauderdale Featured: It’s a multi-sensory experience in the Ft. Lauderdale and the Beaches CVB booth.  At the Ft. Lauderdale booth buyers were invited to step into what looks like an upright tanning machine for a three-minute, four-dimensional experience of the destination that includes odors of the ocean, a breeze and an Imax visual experience.

● Scottsdale creates “Taste of Pow Wow” Video for its members.   Deanne Boynton, vice president of tourism for the Scottsdale CVB was filming the show floor, the parties and the media marketplace, as well as  interviewing clients and international media for a podcast for that would be sent to member hotels and attractions who could not attend on their own.

 ● Tequila, New Mexico: The Albuquerque CVB hosted a tequila tasting session at its booth on Monday afternoon. It was a great attention grabber as operators and media who slowly began to sip and sample in the booth, and learn the provenance of several New Mexico brands, really enjoyed the expert advice on making the best Margarita. 

● Atlanta Braves Take the Field at … Pow Wow? The senior group sales director for the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team, Tom Patterson, was in the Atlanta CVB booth to showcase the team’s newly signed Japanese star player, pitcher Kenshin Kawakami, and proactively help the bureau promote tourism.  Patterson was brought out of the Pow Wow bullpen for every Japanese operator meeting, presenting them with a souvenir Atlanta Braves hat.

 ● Obama Factor a Factor: The positive impact of the election of Barack Obama as U.S. President on international travel to America, first evident at last November’s World Travel Market in London and in international travel and trade shows since then, is quite in evidence in conversation—Keynote speaker Eric Danziger, president and CEO, Wyndham Hotel Group, alluded to it in his remarks—and on the show floor itself. As NAJ was asking a reporter for the BBC on Monday about the “Obama Factor,” he told us that his film crew was, at that moment, out on the floor at the Madame Tussauds (New York) booth, getting footage of a stunning likeness of President Obama that is on display.  The likeness of Obama could also found at  the Washington D.C. booth and, of course, in  Chicago. 

 ● Chinese Are a No Show at Media Marketplace: Buoyed by all the discussion of the promise of the Chinese leisure market, U.S. supplier reps were understandably disappointed when almost none of the Chinese journalists showed up for their turn in Monday’s Media Marketplace (it replicates the open appointment scheduling process for operators and suppliers, with suppliers staffing tables during the first session and journalists at the tables during the second session). Of the 14 Chinese journalists listed on the roster of attendees, only one was there—a reporter for the Xinhua News Agency. The Swine Flu scare had nothing to do with the absence, it turns out. NAJ learned that the Chinese, who generally operate in groups, are simply not accustomed to talking one-on-one and chose to forego the session.   

 ● Dine Around Soaks  Pow Wow Attendees: Common to many trade shows, conventions and conferences, the dine around—or at least a variation of it—made its way to the Pow Wow calendar on Monday night, previously an evening for a single-site event. Delegates had a choice of dining at a predetermined list of restaurants in either Coconut Grove or Coral Gables. The long lines in front of the hotels waiting for shuttle buses were a trial for some (and it was exacerbated by one of those flyover rainstorms for which Miami is famous that wreaked havoc with transportation). In front of the Loews Hotel, it was a 45 minute-wait. Everyone was given a $35 debit card to use at the restaurants. For the flexibility it allowed delegates/diners, it proved to be a great idea.

 

Flat is the New “Up” in the UK: The situation was best summed up by a journalist who told us that, in the UK , compared to last year, “If your business is flat, you’re doing well.” A receptive tour operator added, “We just hope the slide slows down.”

  Staying out of the E-Zone: From conversations on Monday with international tour operators, receptive operators and others, come the following points regarding the UK.

–One company has taken a negative 25 percent hit from year-to-year (2008-2009 booking season to 2009-2010) simply because of the change in the exchange rate between the pound and the dollar.

–At last year’s Pow Wow, a pound was worth nearly $2.00. Today, it is just above $1.50.

–UK travelers still consider the holiday sacrosanct, and they’ll still travel, but will stay out of the expensive eurozone in droves, except for Spain and Portugal. They are also beginning to book closer to the last minute, waiting for bargain prices.

  UK Numbers—a Recap: Here are the latest available data on UK arrivals since the global economic recession sunk its teeth into the British economy last fall.

Month UK Arrivals in U.S. % Change Year-over-Year
October 2008 435,349 -5%
November 2008 327,551 -14%
December 2008 356,221 -14%
January 2009 199,739 -20%
February 2009 244,810 -24%

Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, International Trade Administration, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries

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