On December 7, 2018, leaders of the motorcoach, tour and travel industry came together to discuss issues affecting all aspects of the industry and their respective members.
This was a rare opportunity for industry leaders to collaborate on collective issues facing their communities.
In attendance were Peter Pantuso, American Bus Association; Lisa Simon, International Inbound Travel Association; Bronwyn Wilson, International Motorcoach Group; Pam Inman, National Tour Association; Doug Switzer, Ontario Motor Coach Association; Carylann Assante, Student Youth Travel Association; Eva Hotard, Trailways Charter Bus Network; and Stacy Tetschner, United Motorcoach Association. Terry Dale of the United States Tour Operators Association, while unable to attend, has been active and engaged with the industry associations and supportive of the issues discussed.
"Every member of our respective associations is working to connect the traveling public with fantastic destinations and experiences—and to the people who can help make it happen—so it only makes sense that we work together to facilitate that goal," said Pam Inman, NTA president. "Even though we see each other regularly at events, this is the first time we sat around a table and discussed the issues that are important to us and to our members. I'm convinced that working collaboratively helps us all succeed."
Because of the commonality and shared memberships among industry groups, the leaders agreed the health and well-being of the industry affect each organization and its members. As a united group, they can accomplish more on common issues than they would working in silos.
"This was a great opportunity for all of us to come together and discuss issues we are working on separately or as part of small coalitions," said Peter Pantuso, president & CEO, American Bus Association. "To work collectively for the betterment of all our members and the industry at-large is always a win for everyone. I look forward to more of these meetings."
For example, the National Park Service (NPS) is raising fees for groups, requiring onerous record keeping by operators, mandating tour operators and (sometimes) motorcoach operators pay Commercial Use Authorization fees for each park visited, and adopting parking management programs at some parks that can limit visitors' access for groups. All the associations are working together on this issue and/or supporting the efforts of those organizations more directly involved. Joint meetings with NPS and the Interior Department will continue and each of the associations will share information as it is made available.
"We all communicate with each other normally, but this meeting was a great opportunity to focus solely on issues both within the industry and our government," said Doug Switzer, president & CEO, Ontario Motor Coach Association. "We're able to share our best practices with one another, which enables us all to be more efficient and work together."
The association leaders agreed that sharing issues and challenges that face their collective memberships will create a stronger industry lobbying presence, whether on Capitol Hill or at the federal and state agency level.
"This was an exciting opportunity to sit down with our industry colleagues for focused conversation on key issues impacting all of us," said Carylann Assante, executive director, Student Youth Travel Association (SYTA). "We attend each other's shows and support advocacy issues on the hill, but never have the time for one-on-one conversations. Many of our colleagues support student travel and see our members as a conduit to growing the next generation of travelers, as well as the work of the SYTA Youth Foundation. I also appreciated the support from the industry group for our future research projects and their focus on using data to drive decisions."
Finally, the organizations looked at future trends that will impact memberships and their respective events.
Because of the success of this inaugural meeting, the group will meet annually to assess, review, and work together on immediate and future issues involving their memberships.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Groups Today.