Published on Tuesday, June 20, 2017

DC's 'elephant in room' casts shadow over IPW17

The last of the delegates will now be home from IPW (International Pow Wow) 2017.

For the first time, the huge US travel event was held in the nation's capital Washington DC and, as usual, it was a scheduling and entertainment success.

Part of the return on investment for the host destination is having 6,000-plus travel professionals in their backyard and this year I would think that the ROI would be high.

A very much underestimated and undervalued city destination, DC has many highlights, such as the numerous high-quality museums that are on offer.

The famous Smithsonian institutes are of course fantastic, and free. In addition, this year saw a new entrant into the list of must-see venues: the NEWSeum.

Celebrating the power of the media to not only report things but also to change the course of history it is extremely interesting, well laid-out and in many cases very interactive.

Charting the course of not only domestic historic events, it also covers international proceedings with detail, artefacts and a huge gallery of images gleaned from pre-digital days.

Of course, museums are not the only thing on offer. Historic monuments, restaurants, theatre and an entire range of activities such as walking, cycling, kayaking and the new rage for me -  Segway tours - are all on the list.

From a business aspect, the show was its normal very efficient self. It is one of, if not the best conferences that I attend and I attend a lot.

The strict 10-15 minute slots for the media and 20 on the show floor allow for enough chat, exchange of ideas and a promise to keep in touch before moving onto the next one.

From my personal aspect though, it was a very strange show. For a Brit at the show - once again Brits and the Irish were the largest delegation - one could hardly ignore the events of the past 12 months and compare with how we were at the end of IPW16 in New Orleans.

As we flew off to Louisiana last year Great Britain had not voted to leave the European community, the pound was hovering round the $1.45 level, the UK had been terrorist-free for many months and we were enjoying the benefits of a strong and stable government .

Here we are some 365 days later and all has changed. Added to that, the largest elephant in DC had entered the room.

If one thing or one person dominated IPW17 it was President Trump. His travel ban efforts, his stated intent to get rid of Brand USA and his ability to tweet at the most inappropriate times (like a matter of hours after the London Bridge incident) does absolutely nothing to encourage visitors to the USA.


Reassurances from the powers that be, including Secretary of Commerce Ross, that the USA wanted strong and secure borders to keep individuals with evil intent out, while at the same time being the most accommodating nation on earth, fell on sceptical stony ground. And a new welcome video that will play while you queue at immigration did nothing to sway opinion.

Will people still travel to the USA? Of course, they will but the numbers may not improve until November 2020

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