David Eaton, general manager of Conway Tours/Gray Line Rhode Island, has seen a lot of change throughout the twenty-two years he's been with the company. Although he didn't work in the tour and travel industry before coming to Conway, his love and passion for the industry took off immediately when he started as a representative selling group tours; it grew even more as he worked his way up to his current position. "This is an industry about building relationships," Eaton said. “Everyone is friendly and works together. You can build lifelong friendships through this industry. … It’s a great place to be.”
Conway Tours works with groups ranging from affinity and senior groups to young school groups. “No day is the same,” Eaton said. “One day we’ll be booking a tour, and another learning about a new place. There’s always something to look forward to.”
In 2005, Eaton became the chairman for the ABA Marketplace in Chicago. At the time, Conway Tours was a small charter bus company with about twenty coaches in its fleet. As Marketplace chair, he was put on the board of directors to learn more about what the association does to help companies such as Conway Tours. “I got involved so I could try to help give a voice for the small bus operators,” Eaton said. “Now that I’m a tour operator, I still maintain a position and have a voice for the tour operator industry.” While he jokes that he’s on the board to provide comedic relief, he knows how important it is to have associations and, as a company, how crucial it is to be aligned with them.
Reflecting on his experience as an ABA Marketplace chair, Eaton notes the tradeshows allow small companies and large suppliers a chance to really connect, one of the many benefits of being an association member. “Where else can you sit down and have 170 appointments in three days and attend seminars where you gain a wealth of knowledge, as well as have the ability to sit down and have a more in-depth conversation with someone?”
Since coming into the industry two decades ago, Eaton has learned there is an immense amount of knowledge out there. Yet all you can do is try to learn what you can, and be open to change as it comes. “Make sure to value everyone’s ideas and views,” he said, “and always be open to change and new things as this industry and the whole world changes.”
Written by: Chelsea Stoskopf, staff writer of Groups Today.