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Attracting International Attendees to the United States

U.S. Travel Association president and CEO makes recommendations at IPW

By Amy Durham

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman | | Courtesy of U.S. Travel Association

U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Geoff Freeman addressed the nearly 500 domestic and international media guests in attendance at a press conference during the 54th annual IPW in San Antonio on May 23. This year’s conference was Freeman’s first IPW appearance since assuming leadership of the association in September 2022. In his remarks, he emphasized the efforts of U.S. Travel in tackling barriers that impede the growth of international inbound, a primary concern for corporate meeting planners.

CEO of US Travel Association speaks from a stage at the IPW media breakfast with reporters seated
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman speaks at the IPW media breakfast on May 23, 2023. | | Courtesy of U.S. Travel Association

“As a country, we need to stay competitive; to see around the corners and anticipate challenges that weren’t on our radar five or 10 years ago,” Freeman says. “We need to be constantly evolving to meet new demands and to ensure our entry process is not only secure, but simple and welcoming.”

Freeman highlighted opportunities to bolster and enrich the sector and outlined four key ideas illustrating how the U.S. federal government could expand inbound travel:

  1. Streamlining visitor visa interview wait times, particularly in the top 10 visa-requiring markets worldwide for first-time applicants: At present, the average wait times are 527 days in Brazil, 406 days in India, and 647 days in Mexico.
  2. Reducing delays encountered during entry processes at U.S. Customs, where visitors often experience wait times exceeding one hour.
  3. Enhancing the air travel experience through the implementation of a comprehensive 10-year strategic vision.
  4. Augmenting competitiveness in the global travel market with a goal to position the United States as an attractive and desirable destination.

expo hall filled with booths for the IPW conference by U.S. Travel Association
The 54th annual IPW expo | | Courtesy of Visit San Antonio

The 2023 IPW drew nearly 5,000 participants from over 60 countries to the conference and expo. Held from May 20-24, the event provided a platform for domestic travel professionals, international tour operators, buyers, and wholesalers from around the globe to convene and forge connections. The event took place at the Henry B. González Convention Center and included over 90,000 scheduled business appointments. This marked the first occasion that San Antonio served as the host city for IPW, and it had been twenty-four years since a Texas city, Dallas, welcomed the event in 2000. Looking ahead, the 55th annual IPW has been scheduled to take place from May 3-7, 2024, in Los Angeles, California.