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Report from IPW: Day One

As US Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow cut the ribbon that officially declared IPW 2021, the news came filtering through: the Biden Administration had just announced that it was going to lift the travel ban on fully vaccinated travellers from Europe, parts of South America and the Middle East.

There’d been rumours since before dawn – and a flurry of text messages between delegates and media.

Once it was confirmed, you could feel a huge weight being lifted: at Sunday’s media brunch, Roger Dow had struck a defiant note and labelled the continued travel ban as “illogical.”

We all knew it would be lifted eventually, but until an actual announcement was made every meeting, every conversation, every encounter at IPW between sellers, suppliers and the international delegates still existed as an abstract notion.

Once it was confirmed, you could feel a silent cheer go up throughout the convention centre!

Media Marketplace

Monday’s session was the media marketplace, and the good news filtered through the room and made us all forget for a moment that this year’s IPW was smaller, less spectacular and slightly more cumbersome: mask mandates are being enforced in all enclosed spaces, which means that one-to-one meetings include a lot of “excuse me?” and repetition as people struggled to hear each other through the masks and over the din of the air conditioning and the piped music in the room.

But these are minor observations rather than complaints: more than anything it is apparent to the media and buyers who did make it to IPW that they are very much in the fortunate minority.

This year’s edition has around 2,000 delegates – roughly a quarter of what could be expected in any other year.

Very few Brits & Irish

The combined crew of Brits & Irish have long been a stalwart of IPW – and I would argue are responsible for an oversized percentage of the fun that being at IPW can generate.

This year their absence is very much noted – as much by our US hosts as by the Brits and Irish who did manage to make it but are missing their pals in the media and trade.

There’ll be no Brits & Irish reception this year, which is something of a relief as if there was one there might only be a handful of people there, and virtually none of them Irish!

The Irish contingent, normally a strong and vocal presence at IPW, is reduced to three – total.

Media Marketplace at IPW

A Privilege to Be Here

However, for me it is a privilege to be here.

It’s my tenth IPW, and the most important.

I am – in a strictly unofficial capacity – doing my best to represent Ireland.

Which means greeting old friends and colleagues on behalf of everyone that couldn’t be here, while also making sure to remind everyone that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Of course many of those who aren’t here in person will be conducting virtual meetings with sellers and suppliers – the business of travel continues regardless – but as anyone who has attended IPW knows, much of the important work is done face to face, across a table or sitting on bar stools when the meetings are done for the day.

The overriding message – for everyone else as much as for us – is that we will be back.


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