How Tourism’s Movers and Shakers View Broadway

Key Takeaways from the IPW Conference for Broadway Marketers

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Last week I attended IPW, the travel and tourism conference created by the US Travel Association held in Los Angeles. Between Diana Ross’s performance at the opening ceremony and the final event held at Universal Studios, it was a 3-day celebration of travel and tourism chock-full of meetings, conversations, and lots of coffee. Over 5,700 professionals attended the conference, with representation from destinations, tour operators, groups buyers, travel agents, OTAs, and media vendors. We gathered to discuss domestic and international travel to the US, major industry trends, and where tourism is headed. 

Thanks to hydration and caffeinated chocolate bars, I was fortunate enough to speak with nearly 50 travel professionals from all over the world. We discussed New York City tourism and how to get Broadway at the top of their must-do list.  

I flew back to New York full of ideas on how we can better reach tourists (along with plenty of swag!). Here are three key takeaways Broadway marketers should keep in mind:

1. Broadway tours are key to the industry’s success.

Our road colleagues are the heroes of Broadway’s future.

  • Many operators and agents who are Broadway’s strongest advocates to their clients have never seen a show on Broadway. Where does their passion come from? Broadway extends far beyond the 41 theaters and a few midtown blocks. To many domestic tourism operators, “Broadway” means their city’s local theatre venue and the immense power of the road and touring.  
  • With the Spring Road Conference coming up, my mind goes to the symbiotic relationship between Broadway and tours. Seeing Broadway in your hometown can be the gateway to making theater your reason to travel to New York.

2. The interest is there, but the education is not.

We need to educate tourists about the basics of Broadway.

  • Broadway industry folks, avid theater fans, and NYC-dwelling theatergoers know the ins and outs of Broadway. We know how to buy, where to buy, when to buy, what’s on stage, and where to look to choose what we see. However, the vast majority of tourists coming to New York don’t know any of this. As marketers, we need to ensure that our own familiarity with the Broadway market doesn’t alienate folks who are newer to it.
  • Many tourists know that Broadway is a must-do when visiting New York and are very interested in adding a Broadway show to their site-seeing agenda, but the process of selecting a show and purchasing a ticket can be daunting to inexperienced theatergoers. How can we as an industry better educate the already interested tourists on the ease and accessibility of seeing a show? This holds especially true for international buyers, particularly from areas that haven’t had international Broadway productions.

3. Tourists are comparing Broadway shows to other iconic NYC experiences.

Our competition is not just with each other but with every possible experience in New York.

  • This time of year we are all laser-focused on making our shows stand out in the Broadway marketplace, but to many tourists “because it won the Tony Award®” or “because this critic said so” is not a compelling argument. Ask most inbound domestic or foreign tourists about the Tony Awards and you’ll get a bit of a blank stare.
  • For tourists who aren’t theatre avids, choosing Broadway is on the same list as deciding which park to visit, which observation deck, which neighborhood to stroll around in, or which restaurant to try. We are all competing with the same casual traveler. To win these tourists over, the industry needs to make a compelling case for why Broadway, not just why this show.

One of the most inspirational things I heard at IPW was from Gavin Creel — who hosted the six shows performing during the Broadway luncheon. He said something that summed up the ethos of the conference so well. “The love of travel and tourism has no borders or boundaries.” Passion for travel and experiencing other cities and cultures is universal. Every traveler has a desire to experience the “must do” thing in the city they’re traveling to. Tourists are intrigued by Broadway — let’s work together as an industry to ingrain ourselves into the fabric of what makes a trip to New York special.

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