Denver leaders welcomed travel planners and travel writers from around the world to the Mile High City Sunday, offering them wares from six James-Beard-Award-nominated chefs, libations from a half-dozen breweries and an invitation to see all the area has to offer in the coming days.
Activities from sightseeing tours to a downtown-block-long press brunch greeted the roughly 6,000 attendees of the largest annual U.S. show for international tourism leaders — a show with the economic impact of the Super Bowl that has returned to Denver for the first time since 1991. While exhibitors and delegates began arriving as early as mid-day Friday — about 2,500 people signed up for the convention rode the A Line in from Denver International Airport on Friday and Saturday, according to Visit Denver officials — the first full day of activities began on Sunday, leading into the three days of one-on-one appointments Monday through Wednesday that are at the heart of the event.
Speaking to a group of some 500 travel writers gathered on Larimer Square for a press brunch, officials from the U.S. Travel Association and Brand USA lauded the welcoming efforts of Denver officials, while local leaders such as Visit Denver President/CEO Richard Scharf and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock exhorted the temporary city guests to get out and experience the surrounding sites, shops and local features.
“We’re a city that is full of surprises — and sure to keep your attention while you’re here,” Hancock said.
IPW, while little known by the public, may be one of the most important events Denver has hosted in recent years. While learning about locations throughout the United States, the travel planners and writers get a hands-on opportunity to experience Denver, creating an expected economic impact of some $1.6 billion over the next three years because of the vacations they book here and the stories that will appear in publications and websites across different continents.
To give attendees a feel for the improving culinary scene of the city, Visit Denver officials offered up a showcase of 14 local food purveyors plus nine drink makers, fueling them with unique event-focused dishes like sausage biscuits with jalapeño jelly to pineapple-upside-down-cake lollipops. And observers noted that chefs who floated well below the national radar just a few years ago now were surrounded by international fans asking to sample what they were serving.
“Denver’s really starting to get a name,” said Adam Schlegel, co-founder of Snooze an A.M. Eatery and former executive director of independent restaurant group EatDenver. “It’s important not just to have your restaurant out here. People want to see Jen (Jasinski, co-owner of restaurants like Rioja and Bistro Vendome). They want to meet Jen.”
While travel planners and other exhibitors got to hear talks from groups like the Visit USA Committee, writers hopped on buses taking them on adventures ranging from kayaking trips to Cherry Creek shopping excursions to visits to local breweries — including one such beer-maker tour led by this reporter.
Scharf said the early reaction he’s received from guests has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly in regard to the direct train connection from DIA to Denver Union Station, a travel experience reminiscent of many international hubs. Particularly for those officials who may not have been back to Denver since the vastly different 1991 convention, IPW is offering an opportunity for people who often look first to coastal U.S. destinations a chance to experience the vibrancy of this interior city and to rethink its place in the portfolio of American travel experiences that they will promote, he said.
“There are very few opportunities where you get to expose your city to the world,” Scharf said in between interviews with international writers Sunday. “We just know this will reap rewards.”
2018 Largest Denver-Area Meeting and Convention Facilities
Ranked by Total square feet of indoor/enclosed meeting space
Rank Business name Total square feet of indoor/enclosed meeting space 1 Colorado Convention Center 769,000 2 National Western Complex 259,270 3 Denver Mart 226,500 View This List