San Antonio's role as an IPW host city expected to boost tourism


The U.S. Travel Association held its annual conference in San Antonio for the first time in the group’s 54-year history May 20-24.

Why it matters: The IPW conference, which draws nearly 5,000 tour operators, wholesalers and media members from more than 60 countries, typically lifts a host city’s inbound international travel.

By the numbers: Over the next three years, San Antonio is expected to gain 395,000 guests and $614 million in visitor spending as a result of being a host city, according to a Rockport Analytics study.

Flashback: San Antonio was selected in 2015 to host the travel event — long before the pandemic collapsed international travel.

Between the lines: The major travel show came to San Antonio as improvements to the airport and Alamo are underway and global tourism rebounds.

  • “I don’t think there’s been a better time in San Antonio’s history to host the U.S. Travel Association’s IPW,” Marc Anderson, CEO of Visit San Antonio, tells Axios.

The IPW finale featured a drone light show. Photo: Courtesy of Erica Benken

What they found: U.S. Travel Association CEO Geoff Freeman tells Axios the city’s blending of cultures surprised him. He said that he had the best bratwurst he’s ever tasted while in town.

  • The Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center hosted IPW, but attendees were able to learn about local cultures and sample local cuisine at the Witte Museum and restaurants like Clementine.

Zoom out: Global travelers may think of tourism destinations like New York City or Orlando first, but may also want authentic experiences that will expose them to American culture while feeling welcomed.

What they’re saying: “There’s a desire among these buyers — show me something different, show me something that really is the heart of the U.S., and San Antonio has really shown it. That undiscovered nature of San Antonio, the ability to make a first impression for a lot of people — and it’s made one hell of a first impression,” Freeman says.

  • “This will pay dividends for years to come. You will see an increase in international travel to San Antonio, you’ll see tremendous media coverage coming out of it, and it’s something that will leave the city with a great deal of pride,” Freeman adds.

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