The tradition of the US Travel Association’s annual Pow Wow event continues to wow international delegates, with an even stronger MICE focus. Los Angeles, the City of Angels, spread its mighty wings in 2012.

BY BEV MALZARD

As far as events go, Pow Wow, held every year in the USA is the greatest show on earth. Up to 6000 buyers from around the world attend the event where Americans and American product sell their hearts out.
Los Angeles was the host city (for the second time) and the mighty Los Angeles Convention Centre the home for three days of Pow Wow. The amazing event of Pow Wow began in 1969 in New York City. It was the beginning of a travel trade tradition that is one of the most desirable ‘just have to attend’ events in the world.
America selling America to the world has developed and grown to staggering proportions. Each year the event is held in a different city around the country with one important criteria. It must be held in a city that has a venue that will seat 6000 for lunch!
The Australian contingent that hit LA in 2012 consisted of 27 buyer delegates: 17 media and five first-time MICE buyers.
They might have been Pow Wow virgins but the Australian MICE contingent held their own and became stitched into the great Pow Wow fabric within minutes of hitting the exhibition halls. The MICE gang were: Justine Abood from ci events, Sydney; Judy Sheehan, Quintessentially, Sydney; Susan Brandie, Simply Great Ideas, Queensland; Joanne Smythe, The Mayo Group, Sydney; and Julia Barnard, This Space Events Studio.
As guests of Visit USA Organisation Australia these first-time visitors were exposed to exhibitors brandishing their wares which included accommodation, attractions, festivals and events, transport, packaged experiences, and much more.
“The value for me to attend Pow Wow was to see what is new in the USA marketplace and then to share all the information with my work colleagues,” said Justine Abood, events director at ci events.
“As you know it was my first time at Pow Wow and I enjoyed visiting many of the tourism authorities of the various states to see what makes their state different/unique for us to consider sending a group there. Needless to say my brain was overloaded with product knowledge. It was a jam-packed four days with amazing evening events!”
Julia Barnard, creative director at This Space Events Studio, said the second and third day of Pow Wow was better than the first day, primarily due to who she saw on days two and three.
“As a first time attendee to Pow Wow I was surprised at the number of destinations exhibiting and [was] pleasantly surprised at the way tourism boards, accommodation and experience hosts worked together to set apart their unique offering,” she said.
“While Pow Wow has inherently been tailored towards the leisure market with only having MICE buyers attend for the last two years, I can see that the US Travel Association is keen to grow the MICE market and are focusing on showcasing the US in a unique way that will appeal to the MICE sector,” she said.
“The events each evening were extremely well executed, each having an individual focus on LA as a destination. I look forward to attending in the future to see the growth of this important sector for the US.”
And the perception of Australian groups coming to the US?
“Although we were welcomed as ‘buyers’ into the USA market, not all exhibitors had an understanding about the groups market,” said Susan Brandie, director of Simply Great Ideas.
“Some hadn’t heard of `MICE’ before. After some explanation they were extremely eager to assist with any of our needs. Since returning, I have had very positive follow-up from most exhibitors I met.”
Joanne Smythe, executive assistant to The Mayo Group CEO said she was especially taken by the food.
“The food at the functions, catered by Wolfgang Puck, was sensational,” she said.
“The venues were outstanding – imagine having the entire Universal Studios to ourselves, a private performance by Cirque de Soleil and to be entertained by Earth, Wind and Fire! Everything was organised to an exceptional level of professionalism.
“The entire event was a wonderful opportunity to expand my knowledge of the US and my expectations were more than met with the numbers of suppliers that I was able to meet with.”
Geoffrey Hutton, President, Visit USA Organisation Australia was the driving force behind the number of Australians who attended Pow Wow this year and he’s pleased as punch with the results. “This is the second year that MICE companies have been invited to attend Pow Wow, a slightly larger group than last year – and we hope numbers will grow in the future,” he said.
“As guests of Visit USA Organisation Australia and Hawaiian Airlines (the second year that the airline has hosted the MICE delegates), the first-time MICE visitors were exposed to a host of exhibitors brandishing their wares which included accommodation, attractions, festivals and events, transport, packaged experiences and much more.
“For future planning we will include more MICE-targeted activities beyond International Pow Wow and look to 2013 for the Las Vegas event to expand the delegation. We would be interested to hear from more companies who would like to attend.”

Australian arrivals into the United States skyrocketed past the million mark in 2011, with 1,038,000 visiting America, a 40 per cent jump on the 720,000 that visited in 2009, and there’s more to come.
The milestone has pushed Australia into the top 10 nations for visitors to the United States and the growth is paying significant dividends for operators across America, in particular number one city New York (53 per cent of all Australian visitors in 2010) and state, California (55 per cent of all visitors from Australia in 2010).
Australia has set arrival records for each of the last seven years and of the top 15 inbound nations, Australia has the third highest growth rate (15 per cent in 2011 over 2010).
Visit USA Organisation Australia’s President Geoffrey Hutton said hitting the million mark was significant and further growth is on the radar.
“While it may take some time to hit two million, we’re still looking at growth of 11-12 per cent annually over the next few years,” he says.