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One of the most iconic voices in a century officially opened the biggest travel event on the United States calendar at the weekend with Diana Ross performing at Los Angeles Coliseum to an intimate crowd of conference delegates and media.

Even local police took advantage of their viewing spot in a helicopter above the gig to take in the 80 year old’s performance.

The following morning, attendees were entertained by the band Dogstar, featuring Keanu Reeves.

The start of IPW was as entertaining as it was significant. It’s the last of the conferences to take place under the watch of Chris Thompson, president & CEO of Brand USA.

Speaking to the packed Los Angeles Convention Centre, Thompson said with  the U.S. international inbound travel industry continuing to demonstrate remarkable resilience, Brand USA is poised to further elevate the United States’ position as a premier travel destination. 

“There is a clear resurgence in travel enthusiasm with the United States continuing to lead the world in long-haul travel arrivals,” Thompson said.

“And while retiring is bittersweet for me personally, the industry is strong, and Brand USA is well positioned which gives me the confidence to step aside.” 

Last year, the United States welcomed nearly 67 million visitors who spent $213 billion on travel and tourism-related activities within the United States, that’s a 28 percent increase over the prior year. Inbound visitation from India has already surpassed 2019 visitation levels, and the same milestone will be set by Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom in 2025.

Brand USA’s recent research shows that the United States is the top aspirational destination, ranking first among likely international travellers in Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, and Mexico. 

Particularly noteworthy is the surge in intent to visit the USA among Chinese visitors, which began increasing towards the latter half of last year and reached its highest level in March 2024 at 55 percent.

The USA is set to welcome 90 million visitors who will spend $279 billion annually by 2027,  goals outlined in the 2022 National Travel and Tourism Strategy. The latest forecast by Tourism Economics shows that nearly 78 million visitors are expected to visit the USA by the end of 2024, and spending by international travellers is expected to grow by 74% between 2023 and 2027.

At the conclusion of the press conference,  Brand USA’s incoming president and CEO Fred Dixon was introduced.  Dixon currently serves as the CEO of New York City Tourism + Conventions, and will take the helm of Brand USA in July.