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Last Sunday, the first full day of IPW,* the international "Choose America" travel meeting hosted by Chicago this week at McCormick Place, we got a break: the sun came out.
"Thank God," was the most frequent comment I heard about that.
Not for the whole day, of course. But enough to work some magic on our dregs-of-winter environment while a busload of international journalists (500 media people came to town for this meeting) trundled north on Lake Shore Drive.
On their right, the lake—icy gray for so long—had turned beautiful aquamarine. On their left, the spectacular skyline gleamed. I heard "impressive." I heard "fantastic." And I heard, from the mouth of a Danish journalist, what we're up against: “When people go to the U.S., they go to three places: New York, Florida, and California.”
At the John Hancock building the journos were whisked up 94 floors to the Hancock Observatory, now known as 360 Chicago. Tilt, a dipping deck intended to give the Sears—um, Willis—Tower's Ledge some competition, is, unfortunately, still under construction there. But the views were awesome without the Tilt—the live jazz was mellow, the champagne was flowing, and there were delicious tidbits from the likes of Nightwood, Goosefoot, and Embeya.
The mayor put in an appearance, the travel officials spoke, and somewhere after noon the journalists were loaded back onto buses for small group tours organized around themes like food, fashion, sports, architecture, and museums. I took the Art-Centric Chicago tour, led by the personable Monique Meloche, who escorted us to her own gallery on W. Division as well as to the MCA and the home of collectors Jack and Sandra Guthman, where EXPO Chicago's Tony Karman talked up the fall show. "The place to be in September is Chicago," Karman said.
With Meloche promoting the invitation-only EXPO weekend event she founded (Gallery Weekend Chicago), and the MCA touting a David Bowie exhibit that’ll open at the same time, it turned out to be the "EXPO-Centric" tour.
After IPW concluded on Wednesday, the group behind it, the U.S. Travel Association, reported that it had attracted nearly 1,400 travel buyers (along with more than 4,000 suppliers), the largest number since the international market took a hit back in 2001. U.S. Travel Association president Roger Dow said it's also expected to provide "a one-of-a-kind boost to the host city."
*They almost never mention it, but IPW stands for International Pow Wow.