WASHINGTON: The US Travel Association has brought on Wagstaff Worldwide to promote the economic benefits of the IPW trade show this April in Chicago to city residents.
The travel industry exhibition costs its host city from $3 million to $5 million every year, so its coordinators want to make sure the return on investment is clearly explained to Chicagoans, said Malcolm Smith, VP of business development and GM of IPW. Travel and tourism is a major economic generator in the city, and he wants residents to understand the impact travel buyers will have, he added.
Smith said IPW will launch its largest marketing effort to date this year, working with hundreds of local, national, and international media. Part of the strategy will include sharing its message by inviting local journalists to cover stories with a focus on a recently released economic impact study. According to the research, IPW yields years of dividends for the host city's local economy, as well as the nation.
“We really want to direct the message a lot more clearly about the economic impact,” said Smith. “We'd like to see camera crews going through IPW, experiencing the negotiations that are going on.”
IPW is different from many other trade shows in that the host city organizes sightseeing tours on the weekend, press outings for the media, and opening and closing events, which Smith called a “showcase of the city.”
The study concluded that the economic impact of IPW is comparable to that of the Super Bowl, and Smith said that research was largely the impetus for taking on a firm. The benefit of hiring Wagstaff is that it focuses specifically on the hospitality and travel industry, said Cathy Keefe, US Travel Association media relations manager, who added that its staffers “know it inside and out.”
“There are some major Chicago travel-based companies that are also our board members – Hyatt Hotels, Orbitz, United Airlines – that are all part of IPW every year no matter where it is,” Smith explained. “Now that it's in their hometown, the PR firm can probably [produce] some really good stories that can relate to the consumers there.”
IPW brings together more than 6,000 travel buyers, media, and suppliers from 70-plus countries to participate in three days of an event with the goal of promoting travel and tourism in the US.
Keefe added that the agency will also build excitement before the exhibition, noting it will need 800 to 1,000 volunteers.
“It's building up the media interest before, during, and probably right after the show, getting the crews to come out,” she said. “You have to explain to people that this isn't a consumer show. We kind of take over the city.”
While the US Travel Association is the entity directing the messaging, Keefe said Wagstaff is its “army on the ground,” because the firm knows the local market.