Convention center overhaul forcing travel trade show out of Miami Beach

A major travel industry trade show that was scheduled to come to Miami-Dade in 2016 will head to New Orleans instead because scheduled renovations will limit space at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

The U.S. Travel Association’s IPW, formerly known as International Pow Wow, brings tour operators, wholesalers and press from around the world to a different U.S. city each year to meet with travel industry representatives.

About 6,000 people attend the show, which claims to deliver huge benefits to the destinations that host it. According to data from Rockport Analytics, business that takes place at IPW brings nearly 1 million extra international visitors and $1.7 billion in international tourism spending to the host cities.

Miami last hosted the event in 2009. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau has been promoting the return of IPW since Miami was chosen for the 2016 show four years ago.

But the bureau has been pushing for renovations to the outdated convention center for even longer.

“It is mixed feelings, but we’ve been waiting 13 years,” said William Talbert III, president and CEO of the bureau. “The top priority is to get [the renovation] done.”

The $500 million project is scheduled to start sometime after Art Basel Miami Beach wraps up in December 2015 and last a maximum of 36 months.

Talbert said the IPW event is so large that it requires all four of the convention center’s halls; the renovations will make two halls unavailable at a time.

Another complication is that as part of IPW, organizers hold luncheons for thousands of people — an impossible feat during construction.

“We tried every which way from Sunday to get it to work,” Talbert said. “But the lunch is really what makes it impossible.”

Conversations about moving the event have been ongoing for two months, he said.

In a press release, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said Miami’s decision to invest in its convention center was wise.

“The fiscal benefits of that decision will return to the city many times over, and in the meantime, we will have another top-shelf new facility to consider for a future IPW,” he said in the release.

IPW general manager Malcolm Smith said host cities are booked through 2020; the next step is to ask for proposals to host the event from 2021 until 2025.

Talbert said the bureau will respond to that request — with the expectation that a renovated convention center will give the destination added appeal.

“We’ll be able to showcase that facility with a headquarter hotel and all of the great things that are happening here,” he said.

Said Smith: “We very much look forward to coming back.”