International Pow Wow puts ‘wow’ in SF 

International Pow Wow, produced by the U.S. Travel Association, is the American tourism industry’s largest marketplace. Held since 1969, Pow Wow promotes the host city as well as international travel to the U.S. by providing participants a venue in which to showcase and sell their U.S. travel products and services to premier international buyers.

Tomorrow it’s our turn.

From Saturday through Wednesday, San Francisco is the host city for Pow Wow. This is the first time in 19 years that the event has been held here. The San Francisco Travel Association and The City’s hospitality community have spent years planning for this special week.

To San Francisco’s enormous credit, attendance at this annual event is approaching a record-breaking high, not realized since May 2001 — before the events of Sept. 11, 2001, had such a profound effect on the travel industry. More than 5,500 delegates from 70 countries are expected. International attendance is up 24 percent over last year’s event in Orlando, Fla.

While the focus will be on San Francisco, Pow Wow also has the support of many Northern California destination marketing organizations and the California Travel and Tourism Commission.

Moscone Center will be an über-land of business activity; more than 70,000 prescheduled business appointments have been booked with U.S. suppliers. Local bookings should generate an additional $350 million to San Francisco in the next three years.

More than 300 volunteers have been recruited — many of them from our local high schools, community colleges and universities — to meet, greet and assist these delegates.

And while our guests will visit some of our top attractions while here including Alcatraz, Civic Center, Fisherman’s Wharf and Golden Gate Park during a series of planned evening events, we are also ensuring that they see many of our neighborhoods. Twenty-eight educational tours have been developed for delegates; an additional
15 tours have been created expressly for the almost 500 travel journalists here for Pow Wow as well. So if you find that your “off the beaten path” neighborhood park or favorite bistro is suddenly not so “off the beaten path,” please take it in stride. On Tuesday, many of the delegates will be on their own or attending private, corporate events.

One of the goals of our organization is to ensure the firms that book group travel to San Francisco are continually surprised by the diversity of new things to do and new areas to explore. The addition of even a few hours to a planned itinerary can have a significant impact on our visitor-industry revenue, especially when we consider that international travelers account for 30 percent of our visitor base. So, if you see a Pow Wow delegate on the street or in one of our fantastic restaurants, welcome them and thank them for coming to our city.

In October 1911 when President William Howard Taft arrived in San Francisco to break the ceremonial ground for the World’s Fair marking the future opening of the Panama Canal, he toasted San Francisco as “the city that knows how.” Decades later, the much-revered Herb Caen, longtime columnist, quoted restaurateur “Trader Vic” Bergeron, who took a few liberties with Taft’s toast, declaring “San Francisco, the city that knows chow.”

Let me just say this, San Francisco is the city that knows “wow,” too.


Joe D’Alessandro is president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association. He also serves on the California Travel and Tourism Commission and U.S. Travel Association board.

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