It was a thrilling, yet daunting realization: the eyes of the world were about to be on San Antonio for U.S. Travel Association's IPW San Antonio, an international tradeshow that draws over 5,000 travel professionals looking to make billions of dollars’ worth of global business deals.
Appointed by the city’s DMO, Visit San Antonio, to be project managers for IPW 2023, our San Antonio DMC partner The CE Group eagerly embraced this challenge and used their incredibly successful May event week to showcase what talented, locally immersed DMCs do best.
Creating experiences you won’t find anywhere else
The CE Group touts themselves as a team that knows their destination better than anyone else given the organization’s 30+ years of history as a business and their status as the only accredited DMC in San Antonio.
Team members put their knowledge and connections to instant use, knowing they wanted every part of IPW to be “experience driven” and for every moment delegates spent in the city to create positive, lasting impressions.
CE Group worked diligently with the team at Visit San Antonio to tap small businesses and other local vendors to bring together experiential highlights throughout IPW that included:
An opening event where attendees journeyed across nine “zones” representing residents’ different cultures, all colorfully decorated with themed furniture and décor.
25 custom tours for buyers and media attendees, with guides and experiences carefully curated to share all kinds of compelling stories in immersive formats.
A twilight “Festival del Rio” parade on the San Antonio River Walk, with 12 custom floats that represented citywide festivals that the city hosts each year.
A closing night “Let’s Texas” celebration at the historic Alamo — a venue with huge significance for the city and its people.
A welcoming lighting initiative that illuminated over 35 of the city’s downtown buildings specifically for the conference and included a culminating drone light show.
Emphasizing top local talent
Of course, putting together a strong event is not just about shaping incredible experiences for attendees. Even more important is shining a light on the immensely talented individuals who bring those experiences to life.
During each day of IPW, the CE Group worked with Visit San Antonio to call upon a wide range of local experts to populate a “Real and True Plaza” at the convention center that buyers journeyed across each morning and afternoon.
The plaza hosted a broad range of local experts throughout the week, including zoologists from the San Antonio Zoo, nature guides from the San Antonio River Authority, rope-toutin’ rodeo professionals (and actual steers!) from San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, and representation from the San Antonio Spurs.
Growing a true “Team Texas”
An event like IPW is near-impossible to pull off without authentic city partnership, the CE team is quick to point out. One of the impacts they’re most proud of from IPW is how their team continued strengthening their decades-long relationships with Visit San Antonio, the City of San Antonio, and all key hospitality and destination partners.
In fact, says the team, IPW represented the first time all of these groups worked together in such an integrated, unified way — coordinated by the CE Group, with members of the DMC integrating into different partners’ teams over the course of planning for IPW.
This excited “Team Texas” leaned into IPW as a great opportunity to work together so cohesively — and now have a blueprint the organizations can draw on for future events, too.
Celebrating spaces where everyone belongs
The CE Group knows: one of San Antonio’s strength, reflected right through their own DMC team, is the vibrant blend of cultures found throughout their city.
The team wanted to make sure this was reflected in IPW celebrations, ensuring that San Antonio’s cultural communities were represented authentically, appropriately, and in truly celebratory fashion. Each of the events the team put together — from the opening night, down to the finale — reflected the diversity that makes the city so special.
Enriching the destination for visitors and residents alike
Perhaps the best sign of a job well-done though came from the lasting legacy the CE Group’s IPW work has left on San Antonio itself.
When planning and coordinating project logistics, the CE team consciously identified ways to make sure their work was not one-off projects completed solely for the sake of IPW event, but would help beautify San Antonio’s downtown area and lead to improvements that residents would enjoy too, even after IPW ended.
From murals that were painted in advance of IPW, to thoughtful branded fencing added to shield ongoing construction work, to enhanced lighting projects the CE Group successfully partnered with the city on, the DMC has received comments from fellow residents appreciating the spruce their city received.
IPW was an exciting opportunity to work on an event that allowed the CE Group to tell some of the biggest, best stories of their destination — and to weave it all together through standout experiences that left immensely positive, unforgettable impressions and memories!