For this first episode in a special two-part Destination on the Left series, I’m joining you from the American Bus Association’s Annual Marketplace in Detroit. What stands out in my interviews with the following industry leaders is how positive everyone feels about 2023 and the future of the tour and travel sector. My guests share their golden nuggets about what they are most looking forward to, the changes they see in the market, how collaboration has helped them, and trends on the horizon that they are excited to be part of.
In this episode, you’ll hear from these extraordinary leaders:
Group Travel Insight from American Bus Association’s Annual Marketplace
The American Bus Association’s Annual Marketplace is an exceptional event that brings together motorcoach and tour operators, as well as industry suppliers, providing them with an opportunity to connect and establish new relationships to advance their businesses. Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing some of the distinguished attendees at the Annual Marketplace, where I gained insights into how building partnerships and actively seeking collaborations has transformed their industry in recent years. Join me as we delve deeper into the importance of collaboration in shaping the future of the motorcoach and tour operator industry.
Amy DeFrancesco- National Sales Executive at Drury Hotels
Amy shares the importance of collaboration in the hospitality industry. She notes the rebound from the pandemic and the return of international travelers as key areas of growth. She also dives into the issues of booking window shrinkage in the industry and discusses its pros and cons, including better market awareness and pressures on the operational team.
Amy also shares her pride that Drury Hotels has been awarded the highest guest satisfaction in the upper midscale chain for the 17th consecutive year. The recent opening of their largest hotel on Disney property in December 2022 is a testament to their continued growth. Amy emphasizes that what drew them to their partners is their shared values of high standards and integrity, which makes for great collaborations.
Ryan Sanders – Vice President of Operations and Sales for the Motorcoach Family of Brands
In the travel industry, attending events and trade shows is crucial for networking and staying up-to-date with industry changes. Ryan shares his experience of attending appointments and events at the ABA conference, where he was impressed with the resilience of the industry organizations, including ABA. Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, these organizations have managed to survive and support their members, ensuring that industry professionals can continue to connect and collaborate — which is why his word of the conference is “evolving.”
Chelsea Lerud – Executive Director of Iowa Travel Industry Partners
Chelsea shares that in terms of group travel, they’re seeing some exciting changes in the market. Specifically, in Iowa, they are noticing that travelers are using the state as a stopover on their way to their final destination. While Iowa may not be their ultimate goal, the team at Iowa Travel Industry Partners is excited to capture visitors at a few key locations. A strategy that encourages travelers to take a longer trip and explore more of what Iowa has to offer. She goes on to comment that “It’s exciting to see the evolution of group travel, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.”
Dagny Ashley – Director of Tourism at City of Quincy
Dagny, of Tourism at City of Quincy, is excited for 2023 and getting back to the business of travel. After a tough few years for both the hospitality industry and suppliers, her organization is looking forward to a positive outlook for the year ahead. With last year already showing signs of recovery, Dagny is confident that visitors are eager to hit the road again and start traveling. This sentiment has been echoed by others at the ABA event, with a shared sense of excitement for the year ahead and a feeling of returning to a new normal in the travel industry.
Gary Hahn – Vice President of Marketing and Communications National Comedy Center
Gary discusses how group travel is evolving and changing — according to Gary, they are seeing a broader demographic of visitors, including young people and students. They are also noticing more individuals from the over-50 crowd, which tends to be the motorcoach crowd that enjoys visiting museums. Gary is excited to see this change, as it presents new opportunities for engagement, especially given the technology present in their museum.
Gary shares details of an upcoming collaboration hosting of the Pennsylvania Bus Association’s annual conference in Chautauqua County. This is an exciting opportunity for the attraction, as it’s their first time bringing in the association for a conference.
Inna Cramer – Sales Director at Rocky Mountaineer
Inna, Director of Sales for Rocky Mountaineer, shared her insights on the evolving group travel industry in an interview. She mentioned that they are seeing smaller groups of families and friends wanting to travel together, as well as like-minded individuals wanting to connect and enjoy the train experience. When asked to describe ABA Marketplace in one word, Inna went for “connections.” She loves the word because it represents the opportunity to see old friends, establish new connections, and work together with industry partners to make an impact in the travel and tourism industry.
A Positive Future
After speaking with my industry expert guests, it is clear that the tour and travel sector is looking towards a positive future in 2023. My guests shared their thoughts on the changes they see in the market, trends they are keeping an eye on, and how collaboration has helped them to drive more sales, extend relationships, and build brand awareness. Niche travel, hidden gems, and a focus on remaining adaptive and agile in a constantly changing world were also discussed. Additionally, the guests had some great insights into the importance of collaboration and how it can help drive business growth.
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